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.


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 16, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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