Mark Chapter 10:46-52

Chapter 10 concludes with a shortish story about a blind man.

46 Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ. καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ Ἰεριχὼ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλου ἱκανοῦ ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου Βαρτιμαῖος τυφλὸς προσαίτης ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν.

And they came to Jericho. And  he having left Jericho with his disciples and a sufficient crowd, the son of Timaios, Bar-Timaios, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road.

First: the beggar has a name. This is only the second time a supplicant like this has been given a name. The first was Jairus back in Chapter 6. This is a level of detail that either bespeaks the tradition of an eyewitness, or is something Mark made up to give the story a sense of authenticity. Or both.

Off-hand, my first impulse is to disbelieve the details  of a lot of these stories; the names of Bar-Timaios and Jairus among them. Stories grow. Yes, it is possible that they reflect an actual tradition, perhaps even one going back to an eyewitness–such as Peter, who then told them to John Mark, who wrote them down. This, anyway, is the position and the argument of a lot of religious scholars. I’m more skeptical. Mark is full of these set-piece stories; no doubt they were in circulation, but we have no reason to accept anything but the barest outline. Josephus said that Jesus was a wonder-worker, and I’m not sure I’m willing to disbelieve that. Ergo, there’s every reason to suppose that stories of these wonders were circulating, and that a number of them got to Mark. Either they had become embellished by the time Mark heard them, or Mark did the embellishing. Or both. 

And Bar-Timaios is a patronymic form; as is explained, the son of Timaios. Again, Mark seems to be explaining a Hebrew or generally Semitic language quirk to an audience that may not have gotten it. Or, actually, now that I think of it, perhaps the << ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου >> is gloss that was eventually swallowed into the narrative by scribes who did not understand Aramaic, and who made the note in the margin in order to explain or remember it themselves.

So why couldn’t all the translations from Aramaic be later marginalia that became incorporated into the text? That suddenly strikes me as very possible.

46 Et veniunt Ierichum. Et proficiscente eo de Iericho et discipulis eius et plurima multitudine, filius Timaei Bartimaeus caecus sedebat iuxta viam mendicans.

47 καὶ ἀκούσας ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζαρηνός ἐστιν ἤρξατο κράζειν καὶ λέγειν, Υἱὲ Δαυὶδ Ἰησοῦ, ἐλέησόν με.

And hearing that (it was) Jesus of Nazareth, he began to call out and said, “Jesus, Son of David, take pity on me!”

Once again, Jesus’ fame has preceded him. Even here in Jericho, Bar-Timaios has heard of Jesus and his powers. This is not inherently impossible. Jesus did create a stir; otherwise, we’d probably not be discussing him like this.

47 Qui cum audisset quia Iesus Nazarenus est, coepit clamare et dicere: “ Fili David Iesu, miserere mei! ”.

48 καὶ ἐπετίμων αὐτῷ πολλοὶ ἵνα σιωπήσῃ: ὁ δὲ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἔκραζεν, Υἱὲ Δαυίδ, ἐλέησόν με.

And many rebuked him, in order that he should be silent. But he called much louder. “Son of David, pity me!”

Should note the “Son of David” here. Not “son of God/Man”, but “Son of David”. Why does that crop up now?

48 Et comminabantur ei multi, ut taceret; at ille multo magis clamabat: “ Fili David, miserere mei!”.

49 καὶ στὰς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Φωνήσατε αὐτόν. καὶ φωνοῦσιν τὸν τυφλὸν λέγοντες αὐτῷ, Θάρσει, ἔγειρε, φωνεῖ σε.

And standing, Jesus said, “Call him. ” And they called the blind (man) saying to him, “Take heart, get up, he calls you.”

“Take heart/courage” or something such. I like that. Another quirky little detail.

49 Et stans Iesus dixit: “ Vocate illum ”. Et vocant caecum dicentes ei: “ Animaequior esto. Surge, vocat te ”.

50 ὁ δὲ ἀποβαλὼν τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ ἀναπηδήσας ἦλθεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

And taking up his cloak (and) leaping up, he came towards Jesus.

This is the only instance of the word << ἀναπηδήσας >> in the NT.

Again, the detail of picking up his cloak (he was presumably sitting on it) is quirky. It’s telling, and it’s very immediate. The story has a real sense of life.

50 Qui, proiecto vestimento suo, exsiliens venit ad Iesum.

51 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τί σοι θέλεις ποιήσω; ὁ δὲ τυφλὸς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ραββουνι, ἵνα ἀναβλέψω.

And answering him Jesus said, “What do you wish me to do for you?”  And the blind (man) said to him, “Rabbi, in order that I may look (see) about.”

51 Et respondens ei Iesus dixit: “ Quid vis tibi faciam? ”. Caecus autem dixit ei: “ Rabboni, ut videam ”.

52 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Υπαγε, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκένσε. καὶ εὐθὺς ἀνέβλεψεν, καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.

And Jesus said to him, “Get up, your faith has saved you.” And at once he looked about, and he (Bar Timaios) followed him (Jesus) in the road.

52 Et Iesus ait illi: “ Vade; fides tua te salvum fecit ”. Et confestim vidit et sequebatur eum in via.

This is really nothing new or unusual. It’s of a piece with the previous healing stories that we’ve run across.  Perhaps it’s best to think of this as something of a recapitulation, or a review, coming as it does after the newer themes that we’ve been experiencing. 

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About James, brother of Jesus

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

Posted on June 1, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve often thought that such details may have been added for effect, as you note, but I also wonder if these were minor celebrities on their own, who became Christian leaders or martyrs that were known at the time, but forgotten later.

    The Aramaic translations as gloss would make perfect sense. In regard to evidence of Roman audiences, I don’t see any evidence myself in any contextual form, but maybe the evidence is entirely within Latin or Greek language forms, which I would not recognize. I’ve never seen the name Mark in any Semitic context outside of the NT, except as a version of “Marcus”. Since the OT was translated to Greek in the Septuagint, which was used by Jews around the Mediterranean, this would agree with your hypothesis that the audience could have been Jews outside of the Aramaic world.

  2. Interesting suggestion about Bar Timmaios. Later we are told that Simon of Cyrene was the father of Rufus and Alexander. One commentator suggested that these may have been persons known to the community–local celebrities, as you suggest. I don’t doubt that there was some significance–why do it otherwise?–but what it might be is pure speculation. Or mostly speculation, unless one can come up with some clues.

    “Marcus” is a Roman praenomen, There were about 15 of these: Marcus, Gaius, Quintus, Gnaeus, Publius,,,Gaius was the most common, and is the root of the French Guy, which of course is the root for “guy”. Sort of like the “John” in “John Doe”. For the Romans, the ‘nomen’, the name, was the family name: Claudius, Manlius, Cicero, Livius, Julius. Women didn’t have praenomenes; they were simply the feminine form of the family name: Claudia, Portia, Antonia, Julia, & c. If a particular family distinguished itself, it was awarded a cognomen in commemoration, After his defeat of Carthage, Publius Scipio became P. Scipio Africanus, Then only his direct descendants would use that cognomen from then on, but his brothers were not given this honor. So the larger families had multiple branches. There were numerous branches of Claudians, for example.

    But, just because the name was Roman doesn’t mean the bearer of the name was ethnically Italian. Alexander became a popular name among Jews; note the various members of the Herod clan named Alexander. So, Jewish parents could have given their son the name Marcus, perhaps in honor of Marcus Antonius. Giving children the name of the foreign conqueror is a time-honored way to curry favor with the army of occupation, just as taking a native name could be an act of defiance.

    By the time of Jesus, there were Jewish communities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean; “Antioch” is used by many Protestant communities–the Antioch Baptist Church, e.g.–but it was a Greek settlement named after Antiochus Monophthalmus, one of Alexander’s successors. The Jewish community there was very large, as was the community in Alexandria. Many of these Jews read the Torah in the Septuagint version, rather than the Hebrew because they spoke Greek as their native tongue. Philo wrote in Greek. Matthew read the Septuagint, which is how he came up with the virgin birth predicted by Isaiah.

    As for Mark’s audience, the traditional story is that he wrote in Rome; this is, IIRC, what Eusebios said. Unfortunately, such traditions are extremely unreliable. A lot of them were probably more or less invented for aitiological purposes. The truth is, we don’t know where or for whom Mark wrote. As I’ve gotten deeper into this, I’m becoming more convinced that the audience may not have been Jewish at all, but pagan. I believe the ‘tipping point’, when the Jesus movement consisted of more people of pagan than Jewish origin came a lot earlier than has traditionally been supposed. I suspect this tipping point came shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem, and it may have been one of the main reasons Mark decided it was necessary to write this stuff down. I will develop this hypothesis as the commentary progresses.

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