Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mark Chapter 12:35-44

This will conclude Chapter 12.

35 Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν διδάσκων ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, Πῶς λέγουσιν οἱ γραμματεῖς ὅτι ὁ Χριστὸς υἱὸς Δαυίδ ἐστιν;

And answering, Jesus said to the teachers in the Temple, “How (is it) the  Scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?”

35 Et respondens Iesus dicebat docens in templo: “ Quomodo dicunt scribae Christum filium esse David?

36 αὐτὸς Δαυὶδ εἶπεν ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ  ἁγίῳ, Εἶπεν κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου, Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν σου.

“For David himself said in (with) the holy spirit, ‘The lord, my lord, says sit at my right until I place your enemies under your feet'”.

36 Ipse David dixit in Spiritu Sancto:  / “Dixit Dominus Domino meo: Sede a dextris meis,

donec ponam inimicos tuos sub pedibus tuis”.

“The Holy Spirit”. We haven’t heard this in a long time; since early Chapter 1, I believe, since 1:10 to be exact, when the Holy Spirit came down as a dove when Jesus was baptized. Here is where we can clearly see that it is the holy spirit, more like the “sacred breath” than the Third Person of the Trinity. The sense here is the idea of inspiration,  which is Latin for “breathe into”. God–or the Muse–breathes the words into the writer, or psalmist.

37 αὐτὸς Δαυὶδ λέγει αὐτὸν κύριον, καὶ πόθεν αὐτοῦ ἐστιν υἱός; καὶ [ὁ] πολὺς ὄχλος ἤκουεν αὐτοῦ ἡδέως.

“David himself called him Lord, and (probably better rendered ‘so’) how is he (the lord) his (David’s) son?” And the great crowd heard this with pleasure.

More of Jesus’ verbal acrobatics, and he’s a real crowd pleaser on top of it. Now, is it me, or does Jesus remind you of the smart-aleck kid who sits in the back and nitpicks on the teacher? (I say thathaving been one of those obnoxious kids) More, the exchanges have the feel of being the sorts of conversations that are imagined by someone (like me) who always thinks of the perfect response–ten minutes too late. (Jerk store? Any Seinfeld fans?) They strike me as the sorts of things that someone dreamed up to make Jesus look witty, and three steps ahead of the Scribes. IOW, they feel made-up. This position is hardly unassailable from a logical perspective, but a proper examination of the text has to consider stylistic elements in addition to more substantial matters. 

37 Ipse David dicit eum Dominum, et unde est filius eius? ”. Et multa turba eum libenter audiebat.

38 Καὶ ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν, Βλέπετε ἀπὸ τῶν γραμματέων τῶν θελόντων ἐν στολαῖς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς

And he said about their teaching, “Watch out for the Scribes, wishing to walk about in robes and (wishing for) greetings in the agoras (marketplaces).

38 Et dicebat in doctrina sua: “ Cavete a scribis, qui volunt in stolis ambulare et salutari in foro

39 καὶ πρωτοκαθεδρίας ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ πρωτοκλισίας ἐν τοῖς δείπνοις:

“and (wishing for) to be front-seated (= wishing for the front seats) in the synagogues, and to be front-reclined (reclining in the best couches) in the dinner parties. 

Remember, dining was done while reclining on a couch, rather than sitting at a table as is the modern custom.

39 et in primis cathedris sedere in synagogis et primos discubitus in cenis;

40 οἱ κατεσθίοντες τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶν καὶ προφάσει μακρὰ προσευχόμενοι, οὗτοι λήμψονται περισσότερον κρίμα.

“They devour the homes of the widows, and pray much as a cloaks, they will receive a strong judgement.

Had to check the tense of the verb << λήμψονται >> to make sure I was reading it properly. It is future indicative where, at a careless glance, I wanted to read a subjunctive. [The root verb <<λαμβάνω>> is very irregular, so I have to check its various forms from time to time]. So Jesus is, to some extent, promising that they will be punished. The part about devouring widows’ homes is very interesting, referring back to that strain of social justice in Judaism that really comes out in Nehemiah. It wasn’t invented, as a lot of Christians would have you believe, by Jesus and the Christian Church. So, again, this is the sort of thing that was used to show how much more progressive Christianity was over Judaism, how it was more conscience-based, or whatever else. Really, though, it was in Judaism all along.

Having said that, we have to ask what this section is all about. superficially, at least, we can read this as the later Christians distancing themselves from the Jewish establishment that had recently revolted from, and been crushed by, Rome. I think that is legitimate. The other thing though, is that I’ve been re-reading the sections of Josephus that deal with the period leading up to Jesus. One thing that is striking is how closely the Jewish establishment and the Romans worked together, especially Herod and Archelaus, the son who immediately succeeded Herod. The impression Josephus gives is that a significant portion of the populace deeply resented the Hellenizing aspects of Herod’s rule and the foreign innovations that were introduced into Judea by Herod. So we might want to ask if this railing against the Scribes doesn’t reflect that resentment, at least to some extent. Josephus wrote about 20 years after Mark, so it’s possible they are both describing a similar phenomenon.

40 qui devorant domos viduarum et ostentant prolixas orationes. Hi accipient amplius iudicium”.

41 Καὶ καθίσας κατέναντι τοῦ γαζοφυλακίου ἐθεώρει πῶς ὁ ὄχλος βάλλει χαλκὸν εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον: καὶ πολλοὶ πλούσιοι ἔβαλλον πολλά:

And being seated outside the treasury they beheld how the crowd throws money to the treasury, and many wealthy threw in much.

This would be the treasury of the Temple, where offerings were made. Jesus & Co are watching as the donations were made.

41 Et sedens contra gazophylacium aspiciebat quomodo turba iactaret aes in gazophylacium; et multi divites iactabant multa.

42 καὶ ἐλθοῦσα μία χήρα πτωχὴ ἔβαλεν λεπτὰ δύο, ὅ ἐστιν κοδράντης.

And when a lone widow came, she threw in two “lepta”, which is a quarter.

The “lepta” are Jewish coins, the two together worth about 1/4 of a ‘as’, a small bronze Roman coin. IOW, this was a very small amount of money. Pocket change for most people.

42 Et cum venisset una vidua pauper, misit duo minuta, quod est quadrans.

43 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἡ χήρα αὕτη ἡ πτωχὴ πλεῖον πάντων ἔβαλεν τῶν βαλλόντων εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον:

And calling together the disciples of him he said to them, “Amen I say to you, that the poor widow most of all threw the stuff thrown (the offering) into the treasury.”

43 Et convocans discipulos suos ait illis: “ Amen dico vobis: Vidua haec pauper plus omnibus misit, qui miserunt in gazophylacium:

44 πάντες γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ περισσεύοντος αὐτοῖς ἔβαλον, αὕτη δὲ ἐκ τῆς ὑστερήσεως αὐτῆς πάντα ὅσα εἶχεν ἔβαλεν, ὅλον τὸν βίον αὐτῆς.

“For all threw from their excess, but she from the poverty of her threw in all so much (as) she had, the whole of her way of life.”

44 Omnes enim ex eo, quod abundabat illis, miserunt; haec vero de penuria sua omnia, quae habuit, misit, totum victum suum ”.

Overall, this is a variation on ‘the last shall be first’ theme that we’ve encountered a couple of times. Jesus is not impressed, and tells his disciples not to be impressed by the wealthy giving from their excess. Perhaps Bill Gates gives away a billion dollars, but he has billions more besides that. Not to pick on Mr Gates as an individual; he’s more generous than a lot of wealthy people, but that’s the gist of Jesus’ statement. It touches too, on the idea of poverty, and how the poor are often morally superior to the wealthy.  Interestingly, there has been surprisingly little of this message in Jesus’ teaching so far, but this does belong to the social justice tradition of Judaism.

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Mark Chapter 12:28-34

Chapter 12 continues.

28 Καὶ προσελθὼν εἷς τῶν γραμματέων ἀκούσας αὐτῶν συζητούντων, ἰδὼν ὅτι καλῶς ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς, ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτόν, Ποία ἐστὶν ἐντολὴ πρώτη πάντων;

And coming, one of the scribes having heard them discussing, seeing that he (Jesus) answered them well (lit = beautifully),  asked him, “Which of the commandments is first (i.e. most important, principal) of all?”

28 Et accessit unus de scribis, qui audierat illos conquirentes, videns quoniam bene illis responderit, interrogavit eum: “ Quod est primum omnium mandatum? ”.

29 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν, Ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν,

Answering, Jesus said that “The principal is, ‘Hear, Israel, the lord your God is one God,

29 Iesus respondit: “ Primum est: “Audi, Israel: Dominus Deus noster Dominus unus est,

30 καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.

“and love the lord your God out of your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole mind and from the whole of your strength’.

30 et diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex tota mente tua et ex tota virtute tua”.

31 δευτέρα αὕτη, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. μείζων τούτων ἄλλη ἐντολὴ οὐκ ἔστιν.

“The second is this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Greater than these there is not another commandment.”

Jesus is citing Deuteronomy 6:4 in his response. This is interesting because growing up in the Roman Rite, and attending a parochial school operated by a Dominican priest and nuns, this was a citation was never really mentioned, let alone stressed. In fact, this whole formulation was presented as the difference between Jesus and Judaism. The expression used was spirit of the law represented by Jesus, vs. the letter of the law, represented by the hidebound Scribes and Pharisees. And I don’t mean to pick on one particular religious order, or even a single version of Christianity; from what I’ve been reading about QHJ, this was the predominant attitude of Christian scholars towards Jesus. One of the biggest developments of Jesus scholarship, IMO, over the past two or three decades is the growing involvement of Jews in the conversation. This new stream of thought has deeply enriched the scholarship, providing a perspective and a level of context that was sadly and sorely lacking. 

Now, given that this is a citation, it is impossible to maintain that Jesus was in full revolt from ‘mainstream Judaism’, that his interpretation was a novel, more enlightened religious experience, as opposed to a religious practice. Religion in the ancient world was seen by scholars as a formalized ritual, external, lacking emotional impact. This then explained the appeal of “Eastern Mystery Religions”, such as the cults of Isis, or Magna Mater, or the Eleusynian  Mysteries of Athens, or, ultimately, Christianity. This then explained the ‘clearing of the Temple’ in the last chapter. However, we now know that this is a grossly oversimplified view, that certainly Judaism, and even the supposedly “empty” pagan rituals had a lot of emotional appeal for a lot of people–which is why a lot of pagans were not all that eager to convert. 

31 Secundum est illud: “Diliges proximum tuum tamquam teipsum”. Maius horum aliud mandatum non est ”.

32 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ γραμματεύς, Καλῶς, διδάσκαλε, ἐπ’ ἀληθείας εἶπες ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ:

And the scribe said, “That is well, Teacher, that you speak upon the truth that is one and that there is not another greater.”

32 Et ait illi scriba: “ Bene, Magister, in veritate dixisti: “Unus est, et non est alius praeter eum;

33 καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν αὐτὸν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς συνέσεως καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν τὸν πλησίον ὡς ἑαυτὸν περισσότερόν ἐστιν πάντων τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσιῶν.

“And the love out of the whole heart, and out of the whole of the mind, and out of the whole of the strength, and the love of the neighbor as oneself is the greater than of all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And right on cue: the scribe himself belittles the idea of burnt offerings and sacrifices. This is just what Jesus railed against when he ‘cleared the Temple’, and the implication of loving God and one’s neighbor as the most important commandments. Surely, this provides support for the idea that Jesus preached a religion of the heart, rather than a religion of external ritual?

Unfortunately, this little speech, I think, is a very late addition. With Mark, only Matthew tells this story; Luke and John omit it. More, only Mark has this little disclaimer about burnt offerings. As such, this could have been inserted a century or more after the first edition left the pen of Mark. This strikes me as belonging almost to the Third Century, when Christianity’s main opponents were pagans, rather than Jews.

And yes, I realize it’s terribly convenient to dismiss verses as ‘late additions’ when they don’t suit my purpose; my hope is that the reason for the rejection makes sense and carries weight. Part of the problem is that we are way too accustomed to the idea of a fixed book containing a fixed set of doctrines. This was not always the case. There is, for example, no real ‘official’ version of most Greek myths. The story may be told one way by Homer, somewhat differently by Theogenes, and differently again by one of the tragedians. So the idea that the words came off Mark’s pen, to be fixed indelibly thereafter is a fantasy; the textual notes on a decent Greek edition of the NT will disabuse anyone of that very quickly. These works were fluid for centuries; stuff got added in, or left out. For a scribe of the early First Century to downplay traditional Jewish sacrifice is possible, to be sure, but, on the whole, it feels anachronistic, which implies a later addition.

33 et diligere eum ex toto corde et ex toto intellectu et ex tota fortitudine” et: “Diligere proximum tamquam seipsum” maius est omnibus holocautomatibus et sacrificiis ”.

34 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἰδὼν[αὐτὸν] ὅτι νουν εχῶς ἀπεκρίθη εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Οὐ μακρὰν εἶ ἀπὸ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐκ έτι ἐτόλμα αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι.

And Jesus seeing (him) that he had sense (was sensible) said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And now no one dared to ask him anything.

34 Et Iesus videns quod sapienter respondisset, dixit illi: “ Non es longe a regno Dei ”. Et nemo iam audebat eum interrogare.

Interesting: the scribe is ‘not far from the kingdom of God’. Here again we get something of a tantalizing glimpse of what that might mean without being sure exactly. What is it that qualifies the man? That he agrees with Jesus? That he believes in loving God and neighbor? That he understands that these are the most important aspects of living a good and virtuous life? That he sees the value of the internal outlook over the external form? Probably some part of all of these.

But one thing: he is not far from the kingdom; but where does he stand with regard to ‘The Life’, or ‘The Life Eternal’? Are the two terms, kingdom of God and the Life synonymous? Interchangeable? Do they at least overlap? I don’t think we know. And I think this is a crucial question to be asking, and I’m sorry I haven’t been asking it right along. It’s much easier to find something when you know what it is you’re looking for. At some point it will be interesting to look at the compare & contrast between the concepts of the Kingdom and the Life.

Mark Chapter 12:18-27

We continue Chapter 12 with another attempt to trip up Jesus, the trap this time laid by some wily Sadducees.

18 Καὶ ἔρχονται Σαδδουκαῖοι πρὸς αὐτόν, οἵτινες λέγουσιν ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἶναι, καὶ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν λέγοντες,

And (some) Sadducees came to him, those who say that the resurrection (of the body) will not be, and they asked him, saying

18 Et veniunt ad eum sadducaei, qui dicunt resurrectionem non esse, et interrogabant eum dicentes:

19 Διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν ὅτι ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ καὶ καταλίπῃ γυναῖκα καὶ μὴ ἀφῇ τέκνον, ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ.

“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if the brother of someone should die and leave a wife, and if he doesn’t have children, that the brother should take the woman of him (the deceased) and raise up the seed (i.e. children) of  his brother.”

OK, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the body; the Pharisees, however, did. Ergo, Jesus’ interlocutors enter into this little game of ‘what if’ with ulterior motives.

Second, it’s interesting to note that the brother who marries the widow will be raising up the brother’s progeny, rather than his own. Perhaps this isn’t remarkable to anyone else, but I find it a bit odd. Has to do with some fairly ancient ways of looking at things, I suppose? 

19 “ Magister, Moyses nobis scripsit, ut si cuius frater mortuus fuerit et reliquerit uxorem et filium non reliquerit, accipiat frater eius uxorem et resuscitet semen fratri suo.

20 ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοὶ ἦσαν: καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἔλαβεν γυναῖκα, καὶ ἀποθνῄσκων οὐκ ἀφῆκεν σπέρμα:

“There were seven brothers, and the first left the woman behind (as a widow), and he died without leaving progeny.

20 Septem fratres erant: et primus accepit uxorem et moriens non reliquit semen;

21 καὶ ὁ δεύτερος ἔλαβεν αὐτήν, καὶ ἀπέθανεν μὴ κατα λιπὼν σπέρμα: καὶ ὁ τρίτος ὡσαύτως:

“And the second received (= married) her, and he died without leaving progeny, and the third in the same way.

21 et secundus accepit eam et mortuus est, non relicto semine; et tertius similiter;

22 καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ οὐκ ἀφῆκαν σπέρμα. ἔσχατον πάντων καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἀπέθανεν.

“And the seven did not leave progeny. Last of all and the woman died.

22 et septem non reliquerunt semen. Novissima omnium defuncta est et mulier.

23 ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει [,ὅταν ἀναστῶσιν,] τίνος αὐτῶν ἔσται γυνή; οἱ γὰρ ἑπτὰ ἔσχον αὐτὴν γυναῖκα.

“In the resurrection [when they rise ], to which of them will the woman be? For seven held the same woman”.

The bracketed words are doubtless interpolations in some mss traditions.

Well, now, isn’t this a puzzler? First, did this exchange–or anything vaguely similar–actually happen? You know, I think it’s just–but only just–possible. The subtext here is that the Sadducees are a bit clueless; they lack understanding; and why not? They don’t believe in the resurrection. As such, why not come up with something like this?  But, (un)likelihood aside, the point of this story is to make the Sadducees look foolish, and Jesus look wise, and that goal was certainly accomplished.

Because what we have to ask is when the idea of eternal life really took hold. Paul didn’t talk about it all that much; there was the bit in 1 Thess where Jesus will come down on the clouds with the angels (1 Thess 4:16). We were not explicitly told of what would happen after Jesus came down, but there is an implicit sense, at least, of an afterlife. Why would there be such concern about those who’ve already died, and why would Paul so concerned to reassure that the dead would rise, and precede the living up into the clouds? (Which are called ‘clouds”, and not ‘heaven’.)

So I believe we are justified in inferring that the message of life, some, perhaps unspecified, afterlife dates back to Paul (at least) in the tradition. That actually makes this exchange slightly more probable.

23 In resurrectione, cum resurrexerint, cuius de his erit uxor? Septem enim habuerunt eam uxorem ”.

24 ἔφη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐ διὰ τοῦτο πλανᾶσθε μὴ εἰδότες τὰς γραφὰς μηδὲ τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ θεοῦ;

Jesus said to them, “Is it not because of this you wander not seeing the writings nor the power of God?”

“To wander” = “to err”.  It transliterates as ‘planasthe, and it’s the root of  the word ‘planet’. The planets appear to ‘wander’ amongst the fixed stars.

24 Ait illis Iesus: “ Non ideo erratis, quia non scitis Scripturas neque virtutem Dei?

25 ὅταν γὰρ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῶσιν,οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται, ἀλλ’ εἰσὶν ὡς ἄγγελοι ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

“For when the resurrection of (the) dead (occurs), there will be neither marrying, nor being married, but (all) will be as the angels in the heavens.”

I really need to get off the whole ‘heaven/heavens’ thing, since ‘the sky’ was seen as the home of the gods since the days of Homer. But here, it’s plural: the heavens. Now again, this is not unknown in English: the heavens opened. But it’s just that the word ‘heaven’ is so fraught with connotations for us that it’s hard to look at the word with any kind of a neutral set of assumptions.

But beyond that, we have here a bit of content: the resurrection will not be exactly that of the physical body. That is hugely important. I do not know if or how this idea varies from the way the Pharisees thought of the matter. Our bodies, according to Jesus, will not be corporeal as they are, but like the bodies of angels, whatever exactly that means, or meant to Jesus and then Mark. Honestly, I tend to suspect (without solid evidence, admittedly), that Jesus’ position here goes beyond what the Pharisees believed. My sense is that the belief was more of a resurrection of the physical body. However, I could easily be wrong. [Note: a quick Google survey seems to indicate that there is a certain amount of uncertainty about what, exactly, the Pharisees believed. However, the resurrection of the physical body seemingly was the key for the Pharisees. ] 

25 Cum enim a mortuis resurrexerint, neque nubent neque nubentur, sed sunt sicut angeli in caelis.

26 περὶ δὲ τῶν νεκρῶν ὅτι ἐγείρονται οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ Μωϋσέως ἐπὶ τοῦ βάτου πῶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ θεὸς λέγων, Ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ [ὁ] θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ [ὁ] θεὸς Ἰακώβ;

“For regarding the dead that arise, was it not written in the book of Moses under the rubric, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” 

26 De mortuis autem quod resurgant, non legistis in libro Moysis super rubum, quomodo dixerit illi Deus inquiens: “Ego sum Deus Abraham et Deus Isaac et Deus Iacob”?

27 οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων: πολὺ πλανᾶσθε.

“For God is not (the God) of the dead, but of the living. You err much.”

27 Non est Deus mortuorum sed vivorum! Multum erratis ”.

Once again, very cleverly argued. Except it feels like we’re getting into angels on the head of a pin territory, where Jesus (more likely Mark) is really pulling a bit of a fast one here, extracting some meaning out of this sentence that I don’t think was intended. This is known as the logical fallacy of ambiguity, which means pretty much what you think it means: it’s when you play on an ambiguous word, or phrasing to extract a meaning that’s not really there, or that was likely not intended. 

Mark Chapter 12:13-17

This is a very short piece. Ideally, I would like to keep these to some kind of uniform length, but I believe it’s better to break by section and/or topic. On this one, since it’s all one story, I will save comment on the content until the end, and then comment on the entirety.

13 Καὶ ἀποστέλλουσιν πρὸς αὐτόν τινας τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ τῶν Ἡρῳδιανῶν ἵνα αὐτὸν ἀγρεύσωσιν λόγῳ.

And they sent some of the Pharisees to him, and (some) of the Herodians in order to catch him in speech.

‘They’ are the chief priests & C from 12:12. Such is the problem with breaking this into chunks in this manner; antecedents sometimes get lost. And note the conflation of Pharisees and Herodians, or perhaps the addition of the Herodians into the mix of those who wished Jesus ill. This is not exactly novel, but it’s significant.

13 Et mittunt ad eum quosdam ex pharisaeis et herodianis, ut eum caperent in verbo.

14 καὶ ἐλθόντες λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀληθὴς εἶ καὶ οὐ μέλει σοι περὶ οὐδενός, οὐ γὰρ βλέπεις εἰς πρόσωπον ἀνθρώπων, ἀλλ’ ἐπ’ ἀληθείας τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ διδάσκεις: ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ; δῶμεν ἢ μὴ δῶμεν;

And coming, they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true (=truthful) and that you do not care about anyone (are not concerned about the opinion of others), for nor do you look upon the face of men, but you teach upon the true road of God. Is it appropriate to give the census (head-tax) to Caesar or not? Should we give, or should we not give?”

The Greek here is very idiomatic: ‘you do not care about anyone’, and ‘you do not look upon the face of men’ are both metaphorical constructions, and I had a devil of a time working these out the first time I came into this passage. My initial rendering is the literal translation; the parenthetical inset is the more idiomatic version. “Face” here is a metaphor for general outward appearance, including especially status or position.

14 Qui venientes dicunt ei: “ Magister, scimus quia verax es et non curas quemquam; nec enim vides in faciem hominum, sed in veritate viam Dei doces. Licet dare tributum Caesari an non? Dabimus an non dabimus? ”.

15 ὁ δὲ εἰδὼς αὐτῶν τὴν ὑπόκρισιν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί με πειράζετε; φέρετέ μοι δηνάριον ἵνα ἴδω.

But he knowing the hypocrisy of them said to them, “Why do you test me? Bring to me a denarius so that I (can) see (it).”

A denarius was a small, bronze Roman coin.

15 Qui sciens versutiam eorum ait illis: “ Quid me tentatis? Afferte mihi denarium, ut videam ”.

16 οἱ δὲ  ἤνεγκαν. καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Καίσαρος.

So they brought (one). And he said to them, “Whose image is this, and what is written (on it)?”  They said to him, “Caesar’s’.

 Note the << δὲ…δὲ >>. This is what I was referring to before, using this word as a conjunction to show the connection of the ideas. This is how the word is most often used. When seeing it, look for its connection to the previous sentence, or clause.

16 At illi attulerunt. Et ait illis: “ Cuius est imago haec et inscriptio? ”. Illi autem dixerunt ei: “ Caesaris ”.

17 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τὰ Καίσαρος ἀπόδοτε Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ. καὶ ἐξεθαύμαζον ἐπ’ αὐτῷ.

And Jesus said to them, “The things of Caesar hand over to Caesar, and (the things) of  God to God.” And they were astounded by him.

17 Iesus autem dixit illis: “ Quae sunt Caesaris, reddite Caesari et, quae sunt Dei, Deo ”. Et mirabantur super eo.

I don’t think this requires a lot of comment as far as the content is concerned. Jesus here establishes the principle of the separation of church and state. However, this story is, IMO, completely spurious, and does not date back to Jesus. As with a number of other passages we’ve read of late, we’re seeing the later followers writing backwards to ascribe to Jesus the thoughts and perspectives of their own time. One thing I want to stress about this practice is that they would not really understand why we would have a problem with this.

And here’s where it’s so critical to remember that Mark & C were not writing history; nor were they especially writing hagiography; they were putting across Truth, and eternal Truth has no time boundaries. It’d sort of like the idea of “What Would Jesus Do?”, carried to either a new extreme, or in  a different direction, or both.

Now note how often over the past two chapters in particular I’ve had to stop and say, ‘well, this obviously does not dated back to Jesus; rather, it was added later’. I haven’t stopped to count–yet. Believe me, I’m going to now–exactly how many times, but it’s been a lot. The question is, how many, and, more importantly, how many more times than in the run-up to Chapter 9. Remember my thesis that the complete story actually ended with the Transfiguration: Jesus becoming the Christ.

Oh, now here’s an idea: two strands of Christian stories: one ending with the Transfiguration, and the strand that was handed down by Paul, in which Jesus became the Christ by rising from the dead. Now, what if these different traditions only came together in Mark’s writing? What if Mark was the first one to put these together?

Stay tuned on that one.

Mark Chapter 12:1-12

We now begin Chapter 12. We have now completed approximately 80% of the original text of Mark.

1 Καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖν, Ἀμπελῶνα ἄνθρωπος ἐφύτευσεν, καὶ περιέθηκεν φραγμὸν καὶ ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδετοαὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν.

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and he put a hedge around it, and he dug a wine vat, and built a tower, and leased it out to farmers and he journeyed away.

It appears that Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees & C as he was in the previous chapter. Jesus has just told them that he will not tell them by whose authority he does what he does, since they won’t say whether John was sent by men or by heaven. Now, I don’t know about you, but it strikes me as odd that in the middle of a semi-contentious conversation, he breaks into a parable.

So, we have to ask, did it happen this way? Hate to say it, but this really strikes me as a literary convention. Mark is trying to work this story into the narrative. and this how he figured out how best to do it. But if it didn’t happen like Mark describes, this has implications. Did it happen? Did Jesus tell this story? Did Jesus tell any of the stories or parables that we’ve read so far? 

IOW, what was it that got people to talk about Jesus after he died?

The assumption, or belief, or inference is that it was these stories that people remembered. This was what the Gospel of Q was supposedly contained: the oral tradition. The difference between Mark and Matthew/Luke are the stories, and the assumption is that Mark did not have access to Q, and Matthew & Luke did. But Luke has more stories than Matthew, who has more stories than Mark. There are things in Luke that aren’t in the other two. Does this mean Luke had access to a second source, one unknown to Matthew as well as Mark? Perhaps. However, we’re now going off on a tangent, and I believe this topic would be best left for a separate entry. I haven’t done one of those in a while.

The point is, if the context is suspicious, we should also be suspicious of the implications. We’ll get to those at the end of this section.

1 Et coepit illis in parabolis loqui: “ Vineam pastinavit homo et circumdedit saepem et fodit lacum et aedificavit turrim et locavit eam agricolis et peregre profectus est.

2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον, ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος:

“And he sent to the farmers (tenants) in the season a slave, so that from the tenants he (the slave) should receive from the fruit of the vineyard (= so they could pay the rent; in kind, in this case)

2 Et misit ad agricolas in tempore servum, ut ab agricolis acciperet de fructu vineae;

3 καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἔδειραν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν κενόν.

“And taking hold of him they beat him and they sent him away (having, = with) nothing.

3 qui apprehensum eum caeciderunt et dimiserunt vacuum.

4 καὶ πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἄλλον δοῦλον: κἀκεῖνον ἐκεφαλίωσαν καὶ ἠτίμασαν.

“And again he sent to them another slave; and this one they hit/beat/wounded on the head and dishonoured him.

<< ἐκεφαλίωσαν >>This word does not appear in Liddell and Scott; nor does it appear elsewhere in the NT. Ergo, it is difficult to be completely confident about the meaning of the word; however, it is safe to say that it relates in some way to the head <<κεφαλη >>

4 Et iterum misit ad illos alium servum; et illum in capite vulneraverunt et contumeliis affecerunt.

5 καὶ ἄλλον ἀπέστειλεν, κἀκεῖνον ἀπέκτειναν, καὶ πολλοὺς ἄλλους, οὓς μὲν δέροντες οὓς δὲ ἀποκτέννοντες.

“And he sent another, and that one they killed, and many others, some being beaten, others being killed.

Classic << μὲν … δὲ >> construction, showing contrast, often translated as << on the one hand…on the other >>. But it’s actually fairly rare to see both used like this.  The <<μὲν>> is generally omitted as being understood.  And I’ve often translated << δὲ >> as ‘but’, or even ‘and’, since it becomes, in effect, a conjunction. In fact, using both like this is so rare that I deeply suspect that the section of Josephus that discusses Jesus is a later insertion because it uses both of them, like the textbook says you should. It made me raise my eyebrows here, too. I did not realize how littered with possible interpolations this text was.

5 Et alium misit, et illum occiderunt, et plures alios, quosdam caedentes, alios vero occidentes.

6 ἔτι ἕνα εἶχεν, υἱὸν ἀγαπητόν: ἀπέστειλεν αὐτὸν ἔσχατον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων ὅτι Ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.

“Then he had one, a beloved son. He (the landlord) sent him (the son) finally to them, saying that ‘They will respect my son.’

6 Adhuc unum habebat, filium dilectum. Misit illum ad eos novissimum dicens: “Reverebuntur filium meum”.

7 ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οἱ γεωργοὶ πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς εἶπαν ὅτι Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος: δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἡμῶν ἔσται ἡ κληρονομία.

“But these farmers/tenants to themselves said that ‘This is the heir; Follow, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

Here, IMO, is the dead giveaway that this story does not go back to Jesus; rather, it was invented later. For here again we have the prediction of Jesus’ coming death. Given that this is an historical reading of the text, we have to assume that any such predictions were inserted after the fact. As such, this very much calls into question the authenticity of this entire sequence, to the point that, IMO, we have to doubt that the preceding discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees & C ever took place. As such, this really casts doubt on Mark’s attempt to suggest that Jesus was executed because the religious authorities felt threatened by Jesus.

Does this say anything about the ‘clearing/cleansing’ of the Temple? I’m not sure. Looking back on that now, it does seem like a bit of an insertion there, like there is a pretty noticeable seam around that episode. But I realize that I could be seeing that because I’m looking for it.

7 Coloni autem illi dixerunt ad invicem: “Hic est heres. Venite, occidamus eum, et nostra erit hereditas”.

8 καὶ λαβόντες ἀπέκτειναν αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξωτοῦ ἀμπελῶνος.

“And, seizing (him) they killed him, and they threw him outside the vineyard,

The single incidence of  <<αὐτόν>> neatly serves as the direct object (him) of both ‘seized’ and ‘killed’. Very economical.

8 Et apprehendentes eum occiderunt et eiecerunt extra vineam.

9 τί [οὖν] ποιήσει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος; ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργούς, καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις.

“What (then) will the lord of the vineyard do? He will come himself and destroy the the tenants, and he will give the vineyard to others.

This is very late. This comes at a time when Jews have stopped being the main source of converts to the nascent Christian movement. They, obviously, are the wicked tenants who will be destroyed so the vineyard can and will be given to others, the Gentiles.

9 Quid ergo faciet dominus vineae? Veniet et perdet colonos et dabit vineam aliis.

10 οὐδὲ τὴν γραφὴν ταύτην ἀνέγνωτε, Λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας:

“Are you not aware of this writing? ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner (cornerstone).’

10 Nec Scripturam hanc legistis: “Lapidem quem reprobaverunt aedificantes, / hic factus est in caput anguli;

 11 παρὰ κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη, καὶ ἔστιν θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν;

” ‘this has become by the lord, and is it (not) marvelous in our eyes?’.”

11 a Domino factum est istud / et est mirabile in oculis nostris”? ”.

 12 Καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν κρατῆσαι, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν ὄχλον, ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν εἶπεν. καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθον.

And they sought to take control (e.g., arrest) of him, and they feared the crowd,  for they knew that towards them the parable spoke. And leaving him they went away.

12 Et quaerebant eum tenere et timuerunt turbam; cognoverunt enim quoniam ad eos parabolam hanc dixerit. Et relicto eo abierunt.

Once again, this is Mark trying to use this as an argument that Jesus was killed because the authorities were  jealous or envious or threatened by Jesus; but I do not believe that we can trust this judgement, or this assessment of the situation. We have seen how this is clearly a later reconstruction, or interpretation, or explanation of the events leading to Jesus’ death. As such, there probably isn’t good cause to put a lot of faith in its accuracy. This was how Mark’s generation wanted to explain things, which is not at all the same thing as explaining things as they were.

As for the disruption of the vendors in the Temple, the episode is too quick, too concise, too lacking in detail, IMO, to have been anything of much significance. If this was the reason for Jesus’ execution, would it not have warranted a longer treatment? What I mean is, wouldn’t Mark have told a more complete story? In the case of the Gerasene demonaic, or John’s death, we have seen that Mark is capable of telling long, fairly complex stories in the context of his narrative. But he dashes off something potentially so momentous in a few lines, with a snarky quote at the end. 

Sorry, but I do not have a lot of faith in either of these as valid causes for Jesus’ explanation. I know that some members of the QHJ folks–going back to Albert Schweitzer IIRC–insist that Jesus’ death had to be attributable to some thing that Jesus either said or did. I don’t believe there is any such necessity. Jesus’ execution could have been for any number of petty reasons, or for no reason at all.

Summary Mark Chapter 11

With Chapter 11, we revert to a more classic, or standard line of story telling. The narrative is pretty much straightforward, with a fair bit of reported speech. And the central event, or series of events, revolves around Jesus’ “triumphal entry” and then the “cleansing of the Temple” and its aftermath.

The quotation marks around those two terms are, IMO, justified. Here we have, it would seem, a particularly pointed example of how ‘what everyone knows’ may not actually be in the text. A lot of ‘what everyone knows’ may be in the other three gospels, but it is not here in so many words. First, let’s take the triumphal entry into…where? Is it into Jerusalem? If you will notice, that is not stated explicitly. I did not bring this out during the commentary, but this could be Jesus traveling between Bethany and Jerusalem. Granted, he ends up in the Temple, which is obviously in Jerusalem. But note the wording of 11:11:

                              and they came into Jerusalem, into the Temple.

This could easily be read as it has been read, that Jesus entered into Jerusalem and processed to the Temple as he was riding on the colt. Or, it could be read that he rode the colt, surrounded as in a procession of his followers, until they got to Jerusalem. At which point the colt was abandoned and Jesus and his entourage walked to the Temple like everyone else. Because the end of the sentence says he went back to Bethany with the Twelve, and this could easily be read that the rest of the crowd had dispersed. That may or may not be the natural sense of the text; really, it’s ambiguous, it’s hard to tease out what, exactly, Mark has said. The verb tenses are no particular help; they are simply aorist, which is the most common tense for past action.

One detail that got lost in the shuffle is what the crowd was saying:

blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David.

Why not “the kingdom of God?” I wish I had caught this in the original commentary, because this seems important. I suspect that Jesus riding on the colt (a donkey colt, perhaps) and the allusion to the kingdom of David are meant to reinforce each other. The collective message here, I think, is that this is the Messiah, the heir and successor of David. This could have serious political overtones. This makes me very much doubt that this part is genuine. Perhaps the procession took place, but I have grave doubts about the messianic elements because they are simply so overt. And do not forget about the way this is interlaced with Jesus cursing the fig tree. This sounds like Mark, underscoring the fact that Jesus is no mere mortal.

In any case, the point is that this does not sound like the usual depiction, in which Jesus is riding the colt, his progress being a parade between throngs of worshipful people who lined the streets, who numbered in the thousands. There were people in front of him and behind him, which is why this reads more like a procession. Also, since Jesus was staying in Bethany, it’s likely he had connections there, so these are likely to be the people who processed with him, and possibly it was to some of these persons that the colt belonged. So this is Jesus with a network of friends or disciples, who acted as his support staff while he’s on his journey to Jerusalem for the Passover.

More important are the events surrounding what happened when Jesus went back to the Temple the day after the procession. This is when he turned over the tables of the money changers, and the chairs of those selling doves, and prevented those carrying vessels from crossing the Temple. A legitimate question is how big an incident was this? Given the size of the Temple precinct, the idea that he ‘cleared the Temple’ (which is not what our text says in any case) with a force of less than 50 or 100 (guesses, really) armed men is probably ludicrous. Plus, the next day the authorities seem annoyed, but not exactly outraged. So I will agree with some of the QHJ folks that this was amounted to, at most, a couple of the tables in a small area.

That’s assuming that anything like the incident actually happened. IMO, I think we are well-advised to consider the occurrence as unlikely, especially the way it’s described, with Jesus going back the next day and having this calm discussion with the authorities who come out looking like nincompoops in the exchange. As mentioned, this is the act that a lot of QHJ people believe got Jesus arrested, but that’s obviously not the case if the event never happened. And Mark’s account undercuts this, anyway. This strikes me as a bit of anti-Jewish propaganda, put out there after the Temple had been destroyed: See! We followers of Jesus don’t agree with Jewish authorities! See what Jesus did!

That leaves us with Mark’s other explanation: that Jesus was arrested because the authorities were afraid of his popularity. Well, maybe Jesus was popular out in the hinterlands, but there is no mention in Chapter 11 of Jesus attracting any crowds. Mark has been quick to point out when Jesus did this, in Galilee, or even the Dekapolis, but he hasn’t mentioned this so far now that Jesus is in Jerusalem. And if we discount the ‘triumphal entry’ as a bit overstated, then we really have nothing of the kind.

So why was Jesus arrested and executed? I’m not sure we have any idea what the reason was at this point. And this assumes there was a reason that went beyond whatever occurred in the moment of arrest. It also depends on who actually made the arrest. But these are topics for the coming narrative.

Overall, this was not the subtle masterpiece of rhetoric and implication that we saw in Chapter 10. As stated, it was more of a reversion to straight narrative; in fact, it is perhaps the most coherent and integrated piece of narrative we have encountered so far.

Mark Chapter 11:26-33

This will conclude Chapter 11. It’s a fairly short piece, so it shouldn’t take too long. Please note that most editions of this chapter do not have a Verse 26.

26 Καὶ 27 ἔρχονται πάλιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ περιπατοῦντος αὐτοῦ ἔρχονται πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι

And they came again to Jerusalem. And (while) he was walking about in the Temple the (=some) high priests came to him and so did the (=some) scribes and the (=some) elders.

(26) 27 Et veniunt rursus Hierosolymam. Et cum ambularet in templo, accedunt ad eum summi sacerdotes et scribae et seniores

28 καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ, Ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιεῖς; ἢ τίς σοι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἵνα ταῦτα ποιῇς;

And they said to him, “In (=with/under) what authority do you do these things? Or who has given to you that authority in order to do what you do?”

 28 et dicebant illi: “ In qua potestate haec facis? Vel quis tibi dedit hanc potestatem, ut ista facias?”.

29 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐπερωτήσω ὑμᾶς ἕνα λόγον, καὶ ἀποκρίθητέ μοι, καὶ ἐρῶ ὑμῖν ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ:

And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing, and if you answer me, I will say to you in what authority I do those things.”

OK, now it would seem very possible that the high priests and the others are asking Jesus about his ‘clearing’ the Temple on the previous day. However, this does not exactly sound like a confrontation that would lead to violence, such as Jesus being executed for it. This sounds like they are truly curious. Perhaps they’re peeved; no doubt they’re peeved and there is a certain level of snark in their question. But there are no accusations, no ‘how dare you, sir!”, or nothing like that. As such, it seems a bit hard to believe that Jesus had done anything serious on the previous day. Caused a ruckus, perhaps, but there’s no way it went much beyond that.

29 Iesus autem ait illis: “ Interrogabo vos unum verbum, et respondete mihi; et dicam vobis, in qua potestate haec faciam:

30 τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάννου ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἦν ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; ἀποκρίθητέ μοι.

“Was the Baptist John from heaven, or from men? Answer me that.”

Very shrewd.

30 Baptismum Ioannis de caelo erat an ex hominibus? Respondete mihi ”.

31 καὶ διελογίζοντο πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς λέγοντες, Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, ἐρεῖ, Διὰ τί [οὖν] οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ;

And they, having discussed amongst themselves, said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ you will say, ‘Through what (reason; =why) did you not believe him?’.”

31 At illi cogitabant secum dicentes: “ Si dixerimus: “De caelo”, dicet: “Quare ergo non credidistis ei?”;

32 ἀλλὰ εἴπωμεν, Ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; ἐφοβοῦντο τὸν ὄχλον, ἅπαντες γὰρ εἶχον τὸν Ἰωάννην ὄντως ὅτι προφήτης ἦν.

“But if we say, ‘From men’?” They feared the crowd, for all held (lit = ‘held’) John being that he was a prophet.

This is one of the most awkward sentences in Mark. Seems like there should be something between the two clauses.  But, aside from this, once again we have Mark emphasizing the link between Jesus and the Baptist. I have to conclude that this connection was a net-plus for the fledgling Christian movement.

 32 si autem dixerimus: “Ex hominibus?” ”. Timebant populum: omnes enim habebant Ioannem quia vere propheta esset.

33 καὶ ἀποκριθέντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγουσιν, Οὐκ οἴδαμεν. καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Οὐδὲ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ.

And they answered Jesus saying, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you in/by what authority I do those things I do.”

33 Et respondentes dicunt Iesu: “ Nescimus ”. Et Iesus ait illis: “ Neque ego dico vobis in qua potestate haec faciam”.

Argued like a true attorney. But once again,  I don’t get the sense that Jesus offence on the previous day had been anything particularly egregious. The other possibility is that Mark is more or less lying to us; that Jesus was executed for his actions in the Temple, but Mark went to great pains to fabricate an alternative story.

However, we’ll discuss that further as we go along. 

Mark Chapter 11:12-25

Chapter 11 continues.

12 Καὶ τῇ ἐπαύριον ἐξελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ Βηθανίας ἐπείνασεν.

And the next day, they coming from Bethany, he was hungry.

12 Et altera die cum exirent a Bethania, esuriit.

13 καὶ ἰδὼν συκῆν ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ἔχουσαν φύλλα ἦλθεν εἰ ἄρα τι εὑρήσει ἐν αὐτῇ, καὶ ἐλθὼν ἐπ’ αὐτὴν οὐδὲν εὗρεν εἰ μὴ φύλλα: ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς οὐκ ἦν σύκων.

And from a distance seeing a fig tree having leaves, he came to see what would find on it, and coming up to it he found nothing except for leaves; for it was not the season for figs.

This is a tad curious, no? He knows it’s not the season for figs–presumably, it’s April-ish, and fruit usually doesn’t appear until end of summer. And yet, he’s checking to see if there are figs on the tree?

13 Cumque vidisset a longe ficum habentem folia, venit si quid forte inveniret in ea; et cum venisset ad eam, nihil invenit praeter folia: non enim erat tempus ficorum.

14 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Μηκέτι εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἐκ σοῦ μηδεὶς καρπὸν φάγοι. καὶ ἤκουον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

And responding, he said to it, “No one ever from you will eat no fruit.” And his disciples heard (him).

So it’s spring, and not the time for figs, but Jesus gets ticked because there aren’t figs, and he lays a curse on the tree. Do I have that right? Now, what most surprises me about this passage is that I have heard it read in church at least once in my life. Jesus is acting a bit like a petulant child here, no?

Now, the QHJ people will tell you that the embarrassing nature of this episode is virtually a guarantee of its authenticity. I see the point of that, and it does seem odd that this sort of a story would have been invented. However, to say it happened, and to say it necessarily happened like this, may not be quite the same thing. Stories change in the telling, so, maybe there is some basis of truth, or maybe there isn’t. I don’t have the same level of confidence that embarrassing = authentic that the QHJ people have. However, they need to have some sort of criteria if they are to be able to get to the historical core of what Jesus said or did. I, personally, wouldn’t put much weight on this one.

14 Et respondens dixit ei: “ Iam non amplius in aeternum quisquam fructum ex te manducet ”. Et audiebant discipuli eius.

15 Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ τοὺς ἀγοράζοντας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, καὶ τὰς τραπέζας τῶν κολλυβιστῶν καὶ τὰς καθέδρας τῶν πωλούντων τὰς περιστερὰς κατέστρεψεν,

And coming to Jerusalem and coming into the Temple, he began to throw the sellers and the buyers in the Temple, and the tables of the money-changers and the chairs of the sellers of doves he overthrew, (sentence continues)

15 Et veniunt Hierosolymam. Et cum introisset in templum, coepit eicere vendentes et ementes in templo et mensas nummulariorum et cathedras vendentium columbas evertit;

16 καὶ οὐκ ἤφιεν ἵνα τις διενέγκῃ σκεῦος διὰ τοῦ ἱεροῦ.

And he did not allow that anyone carry vessels through the Temple.

Now, first of all, it’s important to realize that the Temple precinct where this was all going on was enormous. As such, it would be virtually impossible for Jesus to prevent anyone from doing anything throughout the Temple. So this is one subject on which I agree with the QHJ people: this event has gotten blown out of proportion. First, there is no way that Jesus could have disrupted the entire apparatus of buying and selling in the Temple. Second, to do so would have taken a lot muscle power and a lot of time; this time would have ensured that the Temple authorities would have had time to call in the Romans and Jesus likely would have been arrested on the spot.

16 et non sinebat, ut quisquam vas transferret per templum.

17 καὶ ἐδίδασκεν καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Οὐ γέγραπται ὅτι Ὁ οἶκός μου οἶκος προσευχῆς κληθήσεται πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν; ὑμεῖς δὲ πεποιήκατε αὐτὸν σπήλαιον λῃστῶν.

And he taught and said to them, “Is it not written that ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer by all the peoples? But you have made it a cave of thieves’.”

The other thing is that the buying and selling in the Temple was a part–an integral part–of Jewish worship. Animal sacrifice was just part of the fabric of worship. And when people traveled some distance, bringing one’s own animal to sacrifice was not always practicable, so being able to purchase an animal (most often a dove) on the site was a benefit for everyone. And, traveling from other locations often meant different monetary units–i.e., coins of different weights and degrees of silver–which had to be converted. Hence, the money-changers.  So, to some extent, what was Jesus getting so upset about?

It’s often been suggested–by Christian writers–that this represented the transformation from the external worship–animal sacrifice–to a more internalized sense of holiness. If so, then this was a really poor method of introducing this transition. Of course, this then goes back to the fact that we don’t really know what was being said out there while he was teaching all those crowds. It’s possible that he was telling them about the new internalized sense of holiness. It’s possible, but does that really seem likely? Doesn’t this episode seem to lack context?

Recall that at the end of the last section, V-11, Jesus came to the Temple the evening before, left for Bethany, and then returned on this new day. It is possible that what he saw upset him and led him to this outburst. Perhaps that was why he was on edge earlier, to the point that he cursed a fig tree for not having its fruit in season. That he was tense and frustrated and so lashed out at a tree.

It should be noted that the majority of the QHJ people have sort of soured on this external/internal transition idea. They do, however, tend to agree that this was the cause for Jesus being arrested and executed.  This was, they say, the disruption that brought him to the attention of the authorities and led to his arrest. That has a certain level of plausibility to it. In particular, the idea is that Jesus was cutting at their sweet little money-making operation that threatened the cushy gig they had going. Again, this is eminently plausible.

17 Et docebat dicens eis: “ Non scriptum est: “Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur omnibus gentibus”? Vos autem fecistis eam speluncam latronum ”.

18 καὶ ἤκουσαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς, καὶ ἐζήτουν πῶς αὐτὸν ἀπολέσωσιν: ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ αὐτόν, πᾶς γὰρ ὁ ὄχλος ἐξεπλήσσετο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ.

And the archpriests and the scribes heard, and the sought (a way) how to kill him, for they feared him, for the crowd was amazed by his teaching.

They were afraid because the crowd was amazed by his teaching. And see V-17, in which Jesus taught them (whether he did this as he was, or after he was done, clearing the Temple). This seems to indicate that, maybe, the religious authorities weren’t so much concerned with the blow that Jesus was trying to deal to their animal-selling  racket; rather, that he represented an existential threat to the religious authorities because he taught something different from them, and that the crowd was wowed by Jesus, while being quite underwhelmed by what they had to say. Sounds completely plausible, and seems to be putting us back onto the external (sacrifice) >>> internal (faith) transition.

But:

The fact is that Mark, writing 40 years later, after pretty much all of the participants in this affair were dead, probably did not have a clue about what the motives of the high priests and other authorities were. How could he have known? Who was his source? It had to be a living person, because it’s not like they kept written records of their meetings. Even if they had, any such records would have been destroyed with the Temple, five years before Mark started writing. OK, there may have been a guy who had known a guy who had been told by one of the scribes, but such a thread of reporting is tenuous at best, especially if Mark was writing somewhere else than in Judea or Galilee. It’s possible–remotely–that if he were writing in, say, Antioch, or Alexandria, that maybe a refugee from the Temple establishment had fled before the Destruction, and passed this story down to a son/grandson, who then passed it on to Mark.

Yes, it’s possible. But we have to remind ourselves how Mark saw his task. He was not trying, or even concerned with trying to write history, in any sense of the way we mean the word. Doing research by cross-questioning participants–as Thucydides said he did–was probably not on his agenda, and digging up written sources from anyone but believers even less so. Mark was writing a gospel, the good news; motivation was, perhaps, important, but, if it was, only peripherally so. Jesus’ conflict with the established religion and/or its authorities is a theme for Mark. By the time he wrote, there was some degree of differentiation between traditional Jews and followers of Jesus, even if those followers had begun life as Jews, which was becoming ever-more unlikely as time passed. More, at the time Mark wrote, there was an incentive to separate themselves as much as possible from Jews because Jews were not high on the Romans’ favourite-ethnic-group list at the time.

Here’s the thing: as mentioned, some, or most, of the QHJ folks believe that Jesus was arrested and executed for some aspect of his teaching; some think this episode was the cause. The problem with both of these hypotheses is that they assume that the reason for Jesus’ arrest and execution had something to do with Jesus and/or his followers. The assumption is that Jesus annoyed the local authorities to the point that they turned Jesus over to Rome to protect their own hides and positions of prominence. I, frankly, do not see the need to believe this. I do not see the need to connect Jesus’ arrest with Jesus’ teaching or actions.

The Romans were not great respecters of what we call human rights. They could–and did–haul people off on the flimsiest of reasons, or for what might appear to be no reason at all. As such, the elaborate charade of the trial before the Sanhedrin and the reluctance of Pilate who passively allowed Jesus to be executed strikes me as not only unnecessary, but unlikely. It strikes me as a means of exculpating the Romans, absolving them of  blame for Jesus’ death by intervening the Jewish authorities. Let’s face it: everyone involved in the passion narrative was dead, and had been dead a generation before Mark wrote. How many people would be able to contradict the story? Especially if Mark wrote somewhere outside of Galilee or Judea? Blame the Jews, absolve the Romans; in the wake of the Jewish Revolt of the 60s CE, this was a very politic stance to take. It was great PR, that would help keep the Romans off your back. 

Jesus’ execution was a source of shame. Pagans hearing the story really looked down on the whole Christian movement because of the shameful nature of the founder’s death. By ascribing the reason for the execution to religious jealousy by Jewish authorities killed several birds with one stone: it distinguished you from the Jews, who were suspect in the Romans’ eyes; it got you off the hook by not blaming the Romans; and it elevated Jesus from being a common criminal to being a religious dissident and martyr. Not bad. We need to remember that Paul barely interested in Jesus at all until he became The Christ by rising from the dead. That Jesus died the death of a common criminal may explain some of Paul’s aversion. Forty years later, excuses could be made and a more attractive narrative invented. And sold.

18 Quo audito, principes sacerdotum et scribae quaerebant quomodo eum perderent; timebant enim eum, quoniam universa turba admirabatur super doctrina eius.

19 Καὶ ὅταν ὀψὲ ἐγένετο, ἐξεπορεύοντο ἔξω τῆς πόλεως.

And when it had become evening, they went out of the city.

Once again, they presumably retired to Bethany.

19 Et cum vespera facta esset, egrediebantur de civitate.

20 Καὶ παραπορευόμενοι πρωῒ εἶδον τὴν συκῆν ἐξηραμμένην ἐκ ῥιζῶν.

And coming by the next morning they saw the fig tree withered from the root.

Definitely back in Bethany. This is the tree that Jesus cursed.

20 Et cum mane transirent, viderunt ficum aridam factam a radicibus.

21 καὶ ἀναμνησθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος λέγει αὐτῷ, Ῥαββί, ἴδε ἡ συκῆ ἣν κατηράσω ἐξήρανται.

And remembering, Peter said to him (Jesus), “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.”

This is a blatant exhibition of Jesus’ power over nature. After calming a storm, killing off a tree should be fairly easy. But, what is this story all about? Let’s read on!

21 Et recordatus Petrus dicit ei: “ Rabbi, ecce ficus, cui maledixisti, aruit ”.

22 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ,

And answering, Jesus said to them, “Have faith of  (in) God!” 

??

22 Et respondens Iesus ait illis: “ Habete fidem Dei!

23 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὃς ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, Ἄρθητι καὶ βλήθητι εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, καὶ μὴ διακριθῇ ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἀλλὰ πιστεύῃ ὅτι ὃ λαλεῖ γίνεται, ἔσται αὐτῷ.

“Amen I say to you, that he who says to that mountain, ‘Be taken up and be thrown into the sea,’ and who does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will become (will happen), it will be for him (it will happen).”

Faith! This is really interesting, but it should not be as surprising as I find it to be. After all, having faith can cast out demons, or heal people, or even raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead, why should we be surprised that we can will that a mountain be lifted and tossed in the sea? Really, which of those feats is the more difficult? Raising a mountain? Or restoring life? Of course, there is no answer to that, because each is equally impossible for a human, but completely possible for a divine agent.

But what does this really say?  If you think about it, Jesus is basically admitting that he is not necessarily divine. Rather, he is saying that he is simply an agent of the divine, through whom the divine power can work, as it did when the bleeding woman touched the hem of his cloak, healing her, and Jesus felt the power going out of him, as if he were merely a conduit. That is, Jesus is saying that he’s not necessarily any more special than any one of  us could be. “We are stardust/We are golden”. Here again we have a layer to this story that didn’t quite get plastered over. Jesus was not born divine; he became divine, presumably by way of his unconditional and unquestioning faith in God. Through this faith, he has been able to perform any number of wonders, in order to convince his listeners that they could do the same things. That is why the man who was not part of their group was able to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name (9:38), whereas Jesus’ actual disciples were not able to cast out another one (9:28; however, in this latter case, they may not have known the exact procedure).

This is another indication of the ambivalence of Mark’s gospel about Jesus’ divinity. That Matthew and then Luke chose to start the story at the Nativity, and John went back to The Beginning, indicates how the perception of who Jesus was changed and evolved over time. And actually, there wasn’t that much time between Mark and Matthew. Paul never says Jesus was divine from birth; he says Jesus was the Son of God, but then he talked freely of “God our Father”, which necessarily implies that we are all Sons of God.  Yes, Jesus is special, not a mere mortal as we are, but that was because God raised Jesus from the dead, and Jesus thereby became The Christ.

23 Amen dico vobis: Quicumque dixerit huic monti: “Tollere et mittere in mare”, et non haesitaverit in corde suo, sed crediderit quia, quod dixerit, fiat, fiet ei.

24 διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, πάντα ὅσα προσεύχεσθε καὶ αἰτεῖσθε, πιστεύετε ὅτι ἐλάβετε, καὶ ἔσται ὑμῖν.

“Because of this, I say to you, all so much that you pray for and ask for, believe that you have received  (it) and it will be (done for) you”. 

Believe that you have received it, and you will. This is pretty powerful stuff. This, honestly, has nothing to do with The Life, or Eternal Life; this is here-and-now stuff, like people who follow Jesus receiving a hundredfold in this season (10:29). This is not the standard message we associate with Christianity; indeed, it’s hard to say how this fits with garden-variety Christianity taught in Sunday schools around the world. I do not know this for certain, but this seems to be an offshoot of earlier Judaism, the school of thought that said Job was favoured by God because Job was wealthy. Such an idea would fit right into pagan thought; in fact, one of the basic ideas of religious sacrifice is ‘do ut des’; this is Latin for “I give (to you = god) so that you give (what I want back to me).”

24 Propterea dico vobis: Omnia, quaecumque orantes petitis, credite quia iam accepistis, et erunt vobis.

25 καὶ ὅταν στήκετε προσευχόμενοι, ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος, ἵνα καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφῇ ὑμῖν τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.

“And when you stand praying, forgive if you have something on someone, so that your father in the heavens will forgive you your transgressions.”

First, sort of a minor thing, but ‘when you stand praying’. We have become accustomed to the idea of kneeling in prayer, but that custom did not become prevalent until the Middle Ages. Second, I rendered it as ‘transgressions’ because this is not the standard word used for ‘sins’, although the Latin word is the standard word for ‘sins’.

Finally, this is sort of a variant of “do ut des”: I forgive, so that you will forgive.

25 Et cum statis in oratione, dimittite, si quid habetis adversus aliquem, ut et Pater vester, qui in caelis est, dimittat vobis peccata vestra ”.

Mark Chapter 11:1-11

Chapter 11 starts with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, commemorated by Christians as Palm Sunday. I just realized there are a lot of ones (the numeral) in the title of the post. Significant? Probably not.

1 Καὶ ὅτε ἐγγίζουσιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς Βηθφαγὴ καὶ Βηθανίαν πρὸς τὸ Ὄρος τῶνἘλαιῶν, ἀποστέλλει δύο τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ

And then they approached Jerusalem through Bethpage and Bethany, towards the Mount of Olives, he sent out two of his disciples, 

See next verse.

1 Et cum appropinquarent Hierosolymae, Bethphage et Bethaniae ad montem Olivarum, mittit duos ex discipulis suis

2 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν κώμην τὴν κατέναντι ὑμῶν, καὶ εὐθὺς εἰσπορευόμενοι εἰς αὐτὴν εὑρήσετε πῶλον δεδεμένον ἐφ’ ὃν οὐδεὶς οὔπω ἀνθρώπων ἐκάθισεν: λύσατε αὐτὸν καὶ φέρετε.

And he said to them, “Go up to the village that is before you, and immediately (upon) going into it you will find a colt tied, upon which no man yet has sat upon it. Release it and bring it.”

Here we have the prediction of how the immediate future is to play out. This is of a piece with his predictions of the coming tribulation that would be inflicted on the Son of Man. This is another thing that has become increasingly more frequent as we have moved along in the story. It began in 8:31, with Jesus’ first reference to the “suffering servant” motif, but this is the first time where Jesus describes the near future in such detail, and to such immediate effect. The next instance, IIRC, will be the instructions he gives for preparation of the Last Supper, which will be the coming Thursday.

Also note that it appears that the colt was tied up in one of the villages, either Bethany or Bethpage. My understanding is that they both lay hard up against the city of Jerusalem. Jesus sends them << εἰς τὴν κώμην >>, “to the village” and the final word is not generally used of a large city. That the colt was in a village and not Jerusalem s not a major revelation, or terribly significant, but it’s worth pointing out. We will come to Bethpage again later in this section.

2 et ait illis: “ Ite in castellum, quod est contra vos, et statim introeuntes illud invenietis pullum ligatum, super quem nemo adhuc hominum sedit; solvite illum et adducite.

3 καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ, Τί ποιεῖτε τοῦτο; εἴπατε, Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει, καὶ εὐθὺς αὐτὸν ἀποστέλλει πάλιν ὧδε.

“And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’, say, ‘The lord has need of it, and he will immediately send it back again.’ ” 

Also, there is some significance to the fact that the colt has never been ridden. I’m not entirely sure of what it might be. Now, as for the genus and species of this creature, that requires some sorting. In Homeric and Classical Greek, the term means ‘foal’, and then whether it’s masculine or feminine determines whether it’s a colt or a filly. Here, it’s masculine, so it would be a colt, a male.  Now, it is primarily used of horses; however, it can mean any young animal, much as in English a ‘cub’ could be a bear, or a lion, or a reporter (do they still make cub reporters?) 

I say this because, when I was growing up, Jesus rode a donkey, or an ass (is there a difference?) Now, all four of my crib translations, KJV included, render this as ‘colt’.  Now, I cannot say for sure about Greek, but the word ‘colt’ in English connotes a horse, unless otherwise specified. This matters, because it has been held, as per my Commentary on Mark, that the donkey/ass reference was specific to the Messiah, based on a cite of Zechariah 9:9, how the king/Messiah (I do not know the underlying Hebrew word) will come humbly, riding on a donkey. As such, I suspect there was some incentive to use the word donkey deliberately to evoke this message.

BTW: all the synoptics use the same Greek word: << πῶλον>>, so there is really no help. We have to decide what they word means. As I said, the Greek would imply a horse; but the usage in Judea may have been very different. Both Greek and Hebrew (OT) have separate words for horse and ass; that’s to be expected. But a ‘ d0nkey colt’ would be a meaningful term, if it’s not the term a breeder of donkeys would use.

[ If anyone is interested, I Googled “biblical references to horses” and came up with this: ]

http://www.equest4truth.com/EquineBibleReferences.html

Now, the interesting thing, as I see it, is that the author thought it more important to tell us that it was a young animal that had never been ridden, than it was to tell us the exact species of the animal. Greek has different words for horse and donkey, as does Hebrew, and I’m sure Aramaic did as well. But the author eschewed that sort of precision in order to stress the age of the creature. Why? The explanation for this would most likely be caught up in notions of status; that being the first to ride a colt was somehow…significant. Beyond that, I really can’t project.

3 Et si quis vobis dixerit: “Quid facitis hoc?”, dicite: “Domino necessarius est, et continuo illum remittit iterum huc”.

4 καὶ ἀπῆλθον καὶ εὗρον πῶλον δεδεμένον πρὸ ςθύραν ἔξω ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀμφόδου, καὶ λύουσιν αὐτόν.

And they came up and found the colt tied before the door outside a block of houses, and they loosed it (him).

4 Et abeuntes invenerunt pullum ligatum ante ianuam foris in bivio et solvunt eum.

5 καί τινες τῶν ἐκεῖ ἑστηκότων ἔλεγον αὐτοῖς, Τί ποιεῖτε λύοντες τὸν πῶλον;

And some of those bystanding there said to them, “Why do you make that colt loose?”

5 Et quidam de illic stantibus dicebant illis: “ Quid facitis solventes pullum?”.

6 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτοῖς καθὼς εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς: καὶ ἀφῆκαν αὐτούς.

And they spoke to them accordingly (as) Jesus said; and they left them (the bystanders).

6 Qui dixerunt eis, sicut dixerat Iesus; et dimiserunt eis.

7 καὶ φέρουσιν τὸν πῶλον πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἐπιβάλλουσιν αὐτῷ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐπ’ αὐτόν.

Just a note; saddles at this time did not have stirrups; those were not introduced until sometime around the 8th Century CE. So a blanket on a horse/donkey’s back would confer most of the advantages of a saddle. 

Now, this occurs to me. I know just enough about horses to realize that sitting upon one for the first time is something of a big deal. But it seems not to be a big deal for Jesus. What does this imply? Or what was it meant to convey to a contemporary, for whom these sorts of details would be more obvious. This, perhaps, takes us back to the fact that Mark tells us it’s a young animal, that has never been ridden. Is the fact that Jesus can sit upon it and ride it without problem supposed to tell us that Jesus is something more than a human? Something akin to calming the storm, or walking on water, if to a lesser degree.

Or is being the first to ride a donkey no big deal? So does this fact tells us it was a donkey, and not a horse? 

And taking the colt to Jesus, and they threw over it (the colt) their cloaks, and (Jesus) sat upon it.

7 Et ducunt pullum ad Iesum et imponunt illi vestimenta sua; et sedit super eum.

8 καὶ πολλοὶ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν ἔστρωσαν εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, ἄλλοι δὲ στιβάδας κόψαντες ἐκ τῶν ἀγρῶν.

And many spread their cloaks upon the road, and others spread cuttings from the fields.

Note: cuttings from the fields in no way specifies that it was palm branches. The Latin is ‘frondeus‘, which is obviously the root of ‘frond’, as in ‘palm frond’, but this is a generic term for leaves, or leafy. I guess a clue would be what would be ‘in the fields’ at this time of year? It’s Passover, so it’s April-ish; what would be in the field outside Jerusalem in early April? And ‘field’ does not necessarily mean ‘planted field’, but could mean just open ground. Was there open ground outside Jerusalem? Or outside Bethany?  Perhaps we’ll discover that one of the other evangelists is more specific about the cuttings.

8 Et multi vestimenta sua straverunt in via, alii autem frondes, quas exciderant in agris.

9 καὶ οἱ προάγοντες καὶ οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἔκραζον, Ὡσαννά: Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου:

And those going before, and those following shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he coming in the name of the Lord!”

9 Et qui praeibant et qui sequebantur, clamabant: “ Hosanna! Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini!

10 Εὐλογημένη ἡ ἐρχομένη βασιλεία τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶνΔαυίδ: Ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

A few things. First, note that this is not a procession like a modern parade, where onlookers stand on both sides of the road and the participants walk down the middle. Rather, this is a crowd, or perhaps a group. There are those going before and those following. How many are there? We don’t know. But this is one instance where the word ‘crowd’ is not used. It rather sounds like it’s the group that came with Jesus to Jerusalem, plus perhaps those with whom he will stay (see comment to V-11). IOW, this may have been a fairly small-scale thing, with participants and persons cheering numbered in the low dozens, rather than in the hundreds.

And the other, more important thing is, we have to ask if this even happened.  Or, maybe it happened, but maybe it was nothing like the big deal it’s been made out to be in all the biblical movies and Jesus Christ Superstar (when Simon Zealotes sings “there must be over 50,000…). This does does not sound like a major parade. It sounds like a procession of Jesus and his followers.

And this matters. In the QHJ literature, perhaps especially the stuff more than 10 years old, Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem is a major item on Jesus’ agenda, in which he’s set to have a showdown with the religious authorities. This entrance is part of what set those authorities off, afraid as they were of anything that smelled too much like an uprising.  Had Jesus’ entry been anything like the scale it’s usually presented to have been, I seriously doubt the Romans would have turned a blind eye.

But that assumes this happened at all. Especially given the loaded symbolism of riding in on a donkey, coupled with the cries of “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David,” this could easily be something that was added later. 

10 Benedictum, quod venit regnum patris nostri David! Hosanna in excelsis! ”.

11 Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς τὸ ἱερόν: καὶπεριβλεψάμενος πάντα, ὀψίας ἤδη οὔσης τῆς ὥρας, ἐξῆλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν μετὰτῶν δώδεκα.

And this is something else that makes me a bit suspicious of the triumphal entry bit: Jesus comes in, gets to the Temple, looks around, and then leaves because it was already evening. What happened to the crowd? That would be hard to explain. Being accompanied by a group of followers, even 30-40 people, maybe not. From what I gather, the Temple complex was enormous, and a few dozen people could easily be swallowed up in the crowd. Now what does this mean? That Jesus, perhaps, was not so popular in Jerusalem as he had been in Galilee. No surprise, despite the couple of times when we’re told people, or Pharisees from Jerusalem came to listen to him.

This may tie in with what has been called Jesus’ messianic secret. We have seen him enjoin unclean spirits, or persons he has healed from talking about him, admonishing them to silence. I have suggested this was a literary device used by the author to explain why Jesus, seemingly at, or by, the time Mark wrote, had so few Jewish followers. Jesus simply wasn’t that well-known. That would explain why his entrance gained so little notice, why he was not thronged by those in the Temple as he supposedly was in other places. He was a provincial, after all, not up to the level of sophistication of the Jerusalem crowd. So here he comes to the Temple and leaves without attracting much, if any, attention.

11 Et introivit Hierosolymam in templum; et circumspectis omnibus, cum iam vespera esset hora, exivit in Bethaniam cum Duodecim.

As promised after verse 2, we’re back in Bethany. It seems Jesus will be staying here, rather than in Jerusalem itself. Now, I believe Bethany is where Mary and Martha and Lazarus live in John. And, if the colt was tied to a tree in Bethany, perhaps Jesus knew of the colt because he had contacts or followers or something such living there. This, perhaps, takes some of the lustre off the prediction of knowing that the colt had never been ridden. Perhaps he knew this because he knew the owners. And this might be why the passersby are so willing to let the disciples take the colt, because they know who “the lord” is.

Now, Jesus having contacts in Bethanypage may be an indication that this is not his first trip to Jerusalem. I am very skeptical about that; he had traveled there, according to Luke, as a child with his parents for Passover. This was a pretty standard custom for a lot of Jews, especially those within a few days’ journey from the city. It really would be strange if this was his first trip.  So once again, as with his relocation to Caphernaum, perhaps this was not terra incognita for Jesus, but places with which he was familiar, where he knew people, and where he had connections.

Summary Mark Chapter 10

Note: This will be my 100th post on this site. To date, I’ve had about 1,400 hits. Granted, it’s taken about 15 months, but I have to admit that when I first started, I wasn’t sure what sort of reception I’d get. I have to say, I’m a bit surprised, and very, very, gratified and very, very grateful to all of you who come ’round to read what I have written.

Thanks!

OK, back to the substance.

Perhaps this is more a reflection of me being a dullard, but Chapter 10 seems like, far and away, the most important chapter that we have read so far.

Chapter 10 starts with the discussion of divorce: Jesus in conflict with the established practices of Judaism. Then a child is brought to Jesus, and the disciples (the dullards!) rebuke those bringing the child, but Jesus counter-rebukes them and tells us that we must be this innocent to receive the kingdom of God. After that brief bit, it’s the rich young man who wants to follow Jesus, and then the discussion about camels and eyes of the needle, which leads to Jesus talking about how much the disciples will gain, both ‘in this time’ and ‘in eternity’, ‘life everlasting’. Added to this, we have Jesus talking about himself–or, of the son of man–as being a redemption for all. Then there’s the bit about James and John, and more predictions of suffering to come, and the first being last. And then we finish with bar-Timaios.

One thing I hadn’t noticed until now: both the people bringing the children, and bar-Timaios were rebuked, whether by the disciples or others in the crowd Why throw this in? I think to some extent, especially with bar-Timaios, we’re hearkening back to that them of the inclusive kingdom that we saw way back in Chapters 2-3, when Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors. Then, the Pharisees objected; here, it’s people in the crowd. Like wealth, health was often seen as a mark of God’s favour, so the blind and the halt and the lame–and especially lepers–were considered less than others. As such, this is Jesus challenging social norms to some extent, arguing for inclusiveness, suggesting that those too well-pleased with themselves may not have the inside track into the kingdom that they thought they would. Ergo, this chapter is about who belongs in, or who will gain entrance into the kingdom: not people who divorce, not people who keep children away, not wealthy people, but children and those who have given up everything–and so are poor–and the blind/outcast.

In other words, this chapter is pivotal for describing more fully the promise of the kingdom to come. And not only will those who would be first find themselves, perhaps, outside looking in, but those who are last now may find themselves on the inside and having received the life eternal. And the first/last motif comes up a couple of times in the chapter: before the bit where John and James ask to sit on Jesus’ right and left, but it’s mentioned–stressed again for emphasis?–after the disciples get annoyed at the temerity of the two brothers. Note that we are not told where those who are now last will be first, and vice-versa. Where will this take place? When? I believe it’s safe to infer that this will happen in the kingdom, when/where the newly first will receive eternal life.

To be honest, I certainly did not see how well this all fit together as I was going through it. Now I wonder how much of this I have overlooked to this point. How many other chapters were this ‘pivotal’? At some time, I will go back and take another look, because I have to say that this is masterful, a very subtle piece of writing. Or at least, a masterful piece of editing. Whoever is behind the construction here–one person, or more than one–did a really spectacular job, at least on this chapter. I will keep a closer eye on this going forward, and may add some addenda to stuff I’ve  already commented on.

So this really develops the notion of the kingdom, and tells us about eternal life. So again I have to ask ‘where has this been until now?’ Why have we had to wait until Chapter 10? And, is there some sort of qualitative difference between this chapter and the others?

My answer to the first question is that I really don’t know. But then, nor does anyone else. Why does any author make the choices that s/he does? My answer to the second question is “I think so.”

Look back at Chapter 5, with the tales of the Gerasene demoniac, Jairus, and the bleeding woman. Or Chapter 6 with Jesus not being honoured in his hometown, the death of the Baptist, feeding 5,000, some going to and fro in the boat, and other healings.  Chapters 8 and 9 are similar. Those chapters contain stories. What we have here is doctrine, new information. The coy hints about the kingdom being at hand, or believers in the good news as Jesus’ mother and brother, or faith ‘saving’ someone, are gone, replaced with the discussions about who can enter the kingdom, and eternal life. When did we notice this change? After the story of the Transfiguration.

The idea of form criticism of the bible is a few centuries old by now. This holds that the form of the story–miracle tale, sermon, whatever–can provide clues or insights into the meaning of the story. OK, I’ll buy that. Of course the form influences the content. But what does that really tell us? It doesn’t truly, as far as I can tell, examine the content, which is what I believe needs to be done, and is what I’m trying to do here. And based on content, something has changed in Chapters 9 & 10. What about the rest? And now I will have, I hope, sharper eyes to see the structure of the chapter as perhaps being revealing.

In any case, Chapter 10 truly did expand the horizons of the discussion, and our knowledge of what was being said. Now, we have to decide if this can indeed be traced back to Jesus, or if this stuff was layered on at a later time. That may have to wait until we conclude with Mark altogether and take a closer look at how he stacks up to Paul. I’m looking forward to that.