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. 

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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 12, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Since the high priests were so connected to the Temple, they were probably leaders of the Sadducees. Until these events, they probably did not care as much about Jesus as the Pharisees, as long as he didn’t cause problems for them or their status with the Romans. If the high priests used this Roman status to destroy their own political enemies, as we saw with people under American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Romans may have become wary of the high priests, and may have used this tension in a divide-and-conquer strategy amongst the Jews, making the high priests work harder for executions, even if the Romans agreed with them. What happened with James the Just follows this pattern, which led to the downfall of the high priests of the time, according to Josephus.

  2. I do not mean to imply in my previous comment that Jesus caused more of a disruption than possibly one money-changing table, which would not have brought the Romans to act. They like to stay a bit off-site, to avoid riling up the anti-gentile crowds. However, his enemies would happily use this event to go to the Sadducees to get them to get the Romans to get rid of Jesus.

  3. Agree with all your points, especially the point about the Romans liking to stay in the background, especially during the festival. My thought is, given the enormous commercial importance of this tim to the Temple authorities, my sense is that they would take a very dim view–a very dim view–of any sort of disruption. Even the overturning of a single money-changer’s table would have been a very volatile act. Given this, and given the rest of the narrative that Jesus came back the next day, I have to believe that any disruption that actually occurred was very minor. Otherwise, I can’t see any outcome other than the immediate arrest of Jesus and his merry band of pranksters. I just have the sense that the Jewish authorities would not have tolerated any sort of commotion, and would have hustled Jesus off the premises to the nearest barracks. I cannot for the life of me imagine that Jesus could have upset any apple carts and then have had the nerve to come back the following day. Or, if he did come back, I seriously doubt he would have been allowed in. So, given the overall course of the narrative and how it plays out, that Jesus wasn’t arrested for another week, I am gravely suspicious about the entire incident. It feels contrived. The detail about making a whip out of cords pushes it over the top, IMO.

    Excellent point about the fate of James, brother of Jesus. The Romans certainly tried to keep everyone off-balance and at each other’s throats.

    And I frankly doubt that the Jewish authorities had anything to do with Jesus’ death. The other thing the Romans didn’t like was getting jerked around by the locals. Then there’s Paul. His testimony that Jesus was crucified is, I think, unimpeachable historically. But Paul doesn’t really even hint at anything that we’re familiar with from the Passion narrative. He calls the crucifixion shameful in the eyes of many; this, I think, puts us in the realm of the common criminal rather than that of the innocent martyr. As such, I’m not really convinced that there was any motivation of religious jealousy behind Jesus’ death. I tend to the idea that Jesus died the death of a common criminal, whether rightly or wrongly. And let’s face it: “criminal” in the final analysis, meant whatever happened to annoy the wrong Roman at the wrong time. It was a wonderfully broad category, especially for the locals, and especially if the locals were particularly annoying.

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