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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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 29, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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