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.


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 15, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I read a chapter-long biographical detail of Albert Schweitzer from 1955, and I thought it was interesting that he thought Jesus had a mental illness.

  2. I did not know that Dr Schweitzer thought that. I have come across his name a number of times as someone very interested in the historical Jesus, but can’t say I’ve actually read anything he’s written. Have to say, though, given what we know about the actual Jesus, that’s a pretty bold statement. Of course, the good doctor was under the assumption that the gospels were accurate biographies, so we can’t be too harsh in our judgement.

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