Mark Chapter 13:1-13

Chapter 13 is very short, but it’s also pretty much a unified topic. It will be difficult to break this into sections sections that have a meaningful division thematically. The break after V-13 is fairly arbitrary. I apologize, but the alternative seems to be a very long post.

1 Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ λέγει αὐτῷ εἷς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, Διδάσκαλε, ἴδε ποταποὶ λίθοι καὶ ποταπαὶ οἰκοδομαί.

And he coming out of the Temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, see the manner of the stones and the manner of the buildings.”

First, << ποταποὶ…ποταπαὶ >> doesn’t really occur in Lidell and Scott, so this is something of a neologism concocted  between the Classical period and the NT period. To translate, I used the << quales >>, which is a standard Latin word. I did this assuming that St Jerome forgot more about Greek than I’ll ever know. The Greek on << ποτε >>, or ‘how’; this is cored to the Latin, which more or less means something like ‘how much’, or ‘how good’, or ‘of such quality’. IOW, the translation of the Greek as found in English versions of the Bible is obviously a consensus translation, it’s well-founded and sensible, and really is just about the only meaning that fits the context.

But what’s more significant is, is this a straight-line or what? Talk about a set-up comment! It’s like he’s saying “Here you go, Teacher, here’s a softball. Knock it out of the park!” IOW, this should alert us that this is very likely to be non-historical. Notice that Mark does not even bother to tell us which of the disciples asked this question.

1 Et cum egrederetur de templo, ait illi unus ex discipulis suis: “ Magister, aspice quales lapides et quales structurae ”.

2 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Βλέπεις ταύτας τὰς μεγάλας οἰκοδομάς; οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ ὧδε λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον ὃς οὐ μὴ καταλυθῇ.

And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one will be left so that stone (is) upon stone, which is not destroyed.”

And there we go. Jesus puts it over the left-field fence (Americanism! Baseball metaphor! The equivalent of hitting the upper corner of the goal from 20 yards/meters out.)  I realize that it’s very easy simply to dismiss as ‘later additions’ anything that doesn’t fit my thesis, but this is, IMO, so obviously a later addition that I hope it’s not necessary to defend the point. He’s “predicting” the “coming” destruction of the Temple, and much of Jerusalem in the War described by Josephus, which included the mass-suicide at Masada as well as the destruction of the Temple.

2 Et Iesus ait illi: “ Vides has magnas aedificationes? Hic non relinquetur lapis super lapidem, qui non destruatur ”.

3 Καὶ καθημένου αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν κατέναντι τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν κατ’ ἰδίαν Πέτρος καὶ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης καὶ Ἀνδρέας,

And he being seated on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, they asked him, privately with Peter and James and John and Andrew, 

(Note, << καθημένου αὐτοῦ >> is a genitive absolute. This comprises a clause that is not grammatically dependent on the  main clause, that sort of sets up the mood, the action, etc. Latin does this with the ablative case.  << ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ ἱ εροῦ >> from V-1 is another example.)

3 Et cum sederet in montem Olivarum contra templum, interrogabat eum separatim Petrus et Iacobus et Ioannes et Andreas:

4 Εἰπὸν ἡμῖν πότε ταῦτα ἔσται, καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον ὅταν μέλλῃ ταῦτα συντελεῖσθαι πάντα.

“Tell us” (they said, continuing grammatically from the previous verse) “when will these things be, and what will be the sign when  all these things will be consumated?”

(Etymological note: the Latin << consumari>> = ‘consummated’ is a really interesting translation of the Greek <<συντελεῖσθαι>>. The Greek, literally, is ‘end together’. The Latin, literally, is ‘be together’, as in ‘come to be at the same time’.

Aside from that, again, a wonderfully scripted set-up line. Notice how we haven’t really discussed much more than the ‘no stone upon stone’, which I don’t think qualifies as ‘all these things’.

4 “Dic nobis: Quando ista erunt, et quod signum erit, quando haec omnia incipient consummari?”.

5 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἤρξατο λέγειν αὐτοῖς, Βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς πλανήσῃ:

And Jesus began to speak to them, “Look out, so that no one deceives you.”

5 Iesus autem coepit dicere illis: “ Videte, ne quis vos seducat.

6 πολλοὶ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ πολλοὺς πλανήσουσιν.

“Many will come in my name saying that ‘it is I’, and many will be deceived.”

Here we are launching into a vision, or a tale of what we now call apocalyptic teaching. “Apocalypse” literally means “revelation”; in a sense, this is a revelation, but in English the word ‘apocalypse’ has end-of-world/end of time connotations lacking in ‘revelation’. So, perhaps, the better term would be teleology, ‘teleos’ meaning ‘end’. So this is a description of the End Times.

One thing that strikes me is the <<Ἐγώ εἰμι>>, or <<Ego sum>> in Latin. At base, both of these mean ‘I am’, with the expectation of some sort of predicate adjective to follow, as in, ‘I am hungry’. Or, as is, it becomes an existential statement, as in ‘I think, therefore I am’. In English, this is very different from “It is I”, or even “I am (the one)”, which is also a possible translation of the Greek and Latin. In a real sense, there is not much actual difference between these two renderings. “It is I” at least implies some sort of predicate noun, or clarifying clause (It is I who knocks at the door…)

Notice that I’ve chosen to rendered it as “It is I”. The problem with this rendering is that it may read too much of the subsequent  apocalyptic tradition back into this phrase. In fact, Matthew 24:6 actually renders this “I am the Christ”. My four crib translations (KJV; NIV; ESB;NASB) all add ‘the Christ’ in here, too, but it is very important to realize that this is not in the Greek.

So this becomes, I believe, the first time we have a true consensus translation of a passage of Mark. This occurred, if you’ll recall, several times in Paul, where the Greek was ‘clarified’, either by adding a word or two, or straightening out the grammar to come to a readable text in English. In this case, we have to ask ourselves if Mark was predicting that someone will make an existential statement: I am. Probably not. Excluding this possibility, one is more or less forced into a situation where there is a predicate complement to the “I” that is implied, but not stated. Which means we have to ask what is the implication?

Matthew decided that “the Christ” was the implication. Perhaps this is justified. But bear in mind tha, so far, Mark has only used the term three times (vs about a dozen in Matthew); moreover, the use in 1:1 could easily be an interpolation, that the second (8:29) is Peter’s avowal that Jesus was the Christ, and that all the rest come after the Transfiguration story, I’m not convinced that Matthew was wholly justified. By adding “the Christ”, Matthew was putting his thumb on the scale to weight the meaning of this passage with a very specific meaning.

Some of the QHJ scholars believe that Jesus was, at his fundamental level, a preacher of Apocalypse. But, according to my thesis, this second half of Mark represents a different tradition about Jesus than what we saw in Chapters 1-9, where Jesus was primarily a wonder-worker, healing and expelling unclean spirits. That is very different from preaching the coming End Times. And indeed, much of this identification of Jesus as an End-Times Preacher comes precisely from this Chapter, and its correlates in Matthew and Luke. IOW, this argument about how Jesus saw himself is based on a single chapter (with a few additional references), at least in Mark. If there are additional passages like this in the other two gospels, it could be taken to mean that this strain of the Jesus belief gained ground, whether after Mark, or in places where there were different traditions than what Mark encountered. So where the different gospels were written is still an important question that has not been completely settled.

So it’s very important to realize that we do not know, in any positivist sense, how “It is I” should be understood. Remember, in Jewish tradition, the Messiah was not necessarily–or even peripherally–associated with End Times. Quite the contrary: he was to lead Israel into a new Golden Age of sorts. Also remember that there was no real End Times literature in the Graeco-Roman thought-world. So filling in “the Christ” is a theological, or at least dogmatic decision, and not necessarily one supported by the text.

6 Multi venient in nomine meo dicentes: “Ego sum”, et multos seducent.

7 ὅταν δὲ ἀκούσητε πολέμους καὶ ἀκοὰς πολέμων, μὴ θροεῖσθε: δεῖ γενέσθαι, ἀλλ’οὔπω τὸ τέλος.

“When you hear (about) war, and rumours of  wars, do not shout (as in ‘give an alarm’). It must happen, but it is not the end.”

“Wars, and rumours of wars” is a spectacular turn of phrase. It really has an End-Times feel to it; however, it’s important to realize that these implications are in the English, and not necessarily in the Greek, or at least not in the text.

And the part about ‘it must be so’ is interesting. What, exactly, does it mean? ‘Must’ in the sense of ‘fated’, as in ‘divinely pre-ordained’? This is where you have to decide exactly how conversational, or exacting the author is being. Is this just a standard conversational phrase, such as when we (Americans, at least), say ‘how are you?’ when we simply mean ‘hello’? Or is the author stating that God has (or will) set these events in motion, and they are inexorable and completely predetermined. My first impulse is to the former, but, given that such dire warnings about wars and tribulations are staples of Apocalyptic literature, I’m rather leaning towards the latter.

Regardless, there is more–and worse–to come.

7 Cum audieritis autem bella et opiniones bellorum, ne timueritis; oportet fieri sed nondum finis.

8 ἐγερθήσεται γὰρ ἔθνος ἐπ’ ἔθνος καὶ βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν, ἔσονται σεισμοὶ κατὰ τόπους, ἔσονται λιμοί: ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων ταῦτα.

“For peoples will rise against peoples, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be shakings (earthquakes), there will be famines in places. This is the beginning of travails (or birth-pangs).”

First, ‘nation rising against nation’ is completely anachronistic. “Nations” weren’t truly invented until the 19th Century. The term is ‘ethnos’, obviously the root of ‘ethnic’ as in nationality. Oops. For us, in the 21st Century, ‘ethnic background’ and ‘nationality’ are often synonymous; but they really are not the same thing, and they certainly weren’t in the ancient world. There, an ‘ethnos’ was a people, that spoke a common language, and shared a cultural heritage. There were Greeks all over the Mediterranean world; they considered them selves part of this ‘ethnos’, but the idea of a Greek ‘nation’ would have been a meaningless concept.

Second, ‘travail’ is a word that came to be associated specifically with the pain of giving birth. While, strictly speaking, the term is more general, in both Greek and in English, it was most often used of the pain of giving birth. And that is appropriate here, for the idea of the End Times was that the travail would result in the birth of a different world on the other side.

8 Exsurget enim gens super gentem, et regnum super regnum, erunt terrae motus per loca, erunt fames; initium dolorum haec.

9 βλέπετε δὲ ὑμεῖς ἑαυτούς: παραδώσουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια καὶ εἰς συναγωγὰς δαρήσεσθε καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνων καὶ βασιλέων σταθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.

“Watch out for yourselves: they will hand you over to the councils and to the synagogues (and) you will be beaten, and before the leaders and the kings you will stand  because of me to give evidence to them (the kings/leaders).”

A quick note about the Greek. What I have translated as “council” often gets transliterated as “Sanhedrin”. This usage had led me to believe that the term was Hebrew, or Aramaic, and was something of a technical term. The standard word for “council” that I am most familiar with is “boule”. However, I was mistaken. The term “sanhedrin” is Greek, and it means “council”.  The word, though, is post-classical. I do not marvel at my ignorance, which is boundless, but at the convention whereby the word was transliterated, rather than translated. Note that the Latin is “conciliis“, which is obviously the root of “council”.

Here we have more ex-post prediction. This is a description of what in fact happened to Jesus’ followers as they spread the word. One of them, of course, was Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle.  Now, this description matches, at a very high level, descriptions of what then happened to Paul as described in Acts. Since Acts was written after this, and since Paul tells us fairly little about his experiences as a ‘guest’ of either Jewish or Roman jailers, my sense would be that the author of Acts (traditionally Luke) used this outline of Mark and elaborated on it to get the scenes in Acts. I have said that I consider Mark as a journalist, Matthew as a rabbi, and Luke to be a novelist. This does not begin with me; I have read in numerous places that Luke/Acts–and especially Acts–reads like a Hellenistic novel. Luke has lots of stories that are not in the other gospels, which to me says that he invented episodes to flesh out the more skeletal narratives of Mark, and even Matthew. The birth story is from Luke, with the multitude of the heavenly host and the shepherds that were sore afraid.

Of course, this supposition I’m putting forward is hardly proven, but I throw these things out for discussion. I’m still a little appalled at the state of biblical scholarship; there is way, way too much assuming that we can take the words of both testaments as fundamentally factual, and then we can add the proof as we can make it fit. The article I cited above about Jews to Christians is such an example as the author simply reads off the text of Acts as if this were demonstrated history. It is not.

9 Videte autem vos metipsos. Tradent vos conciliis, et in synagogis vapulabitis et ante praesides et reges stabitis propter me in testimonium illis.

10 καὶ εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη πρῶτον δεῖ κηρυχθῆναι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον.

“And to all the peoples first must be preached the good news.”

Here’s another one. Jesus is never shown as making any effort to address Gentiles of any sort. When the Syro-Phoenician approached him (7:26), he attempted to brush her off, stating that he had come for the children of Israel and no one else. The story of the centurion and his son/servant is not in Mark; I believe that, again. is only in Luke, which means it wasn’t incorporated for another generation or so after Mark, at a time when the ratio of Jews to Gentiles among Jesus’ followers had probably started to swing heavily towards the latter. So for Jesus to say in his lifetime that the good news (yes, that is the literal translation, but you knew that)must be preached to all the peoples (=euphemism for ‘Gentiles’) is simply not borne out by the facts of the rest of this narrative.

So again, additional evidence indicating that this part of Mark does not stretch back to the Historical Jesus.

10 Et in omnes gentes primum oportet praedicari evangelium.

11 καὶ ὅταν ἄγωσιν ὑμᾶς παραδιδόντες, μὴ προμεριμνᾶτε τί λαλήσητε, ἀλλ’ ὃ ἐὰν δοθῇ ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦτο λαλεῖτε, οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑμεῖς οἱ λαλοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον.

“And when they lead you having been handed over, do not think out beforehand (all contained in <<  προμεριμνᾶτε >>)what you will say, but it will be given to you in that hour what to say; it will not be you (plural) who is speaking, but the holy spirit.”

This particular passage became a favourite of a lot of ‘heretical’ groups (at least, they were deemed heretical by The Church) in the later Middle Ages. When brought before the local bishop, they would often cite this verse, and the use of this verse became sort of an indication of a heretic. In many cases, these ‘heretics’ were guilty of the sin of expecting The Church to live up to the standard of Apostolic poverty, and Jesus admonished back in 6:8-9. The idea of Jesus in sending the 12 out with no extra food etc. was that “God will provide”. And so here, too. God, by way of the sacred breath, would blow the words (in-spiro) into you with which you are to address the council, or the ruling party before whom you are brought.

This is another case, I believe, that ‘sacred breath’ is actually more accurate than ‘holy spirit’, and certainly more accurate than “Holy Spirit”. However, one can see the way the term blurs from one to the other. Like most linguistic terms, it is a continuum, not a fixed point.

11 Et cum duxerint vos tradentes, nolite praecogitare quid loquamini, sed, quod datum vobis fuerit in illa hora, id loquimini: non enim estis vos loquentes sed Spiritus Sanctus.

12 καὶ παραδώσει ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον, καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς:

“And brother will hand over brother to death, and father (a) child, and children will stand up against their parents and they will kill them.”

This, really, is standard-issue apocalyptic boiler-plate: society will be rent along its most basic foundations, the strongest seams torn apart.

12 Et tradet frater fratrem in mortem, et pater filium; et consurgent filii in parentes et morte afficient eos;

13 καὶ ἔσεσθεμισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου. ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται.

“And there will be great hating of all because of my name. The one standing to the end (is the) one (who is) saved.”

 13 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum. Qui autem sustinuerit in finem, hic salvus erit.

This, however, is not standard apocalyptic boiler-plate. Now it is specifically about Jesus. Yes, God was always a big part of Jewish apocalyptic thought and literature, but we’re adding a whole new dimension. This, I believe, is an indication that this tradition Mark is recording here is a separate and distinct one from the tradition we saw in Chapters 1-8. There, Jesus was a wonder-worker; here, Jesus is part of the divine scheme. IOW, we have two very different and distinct interpretations and/or representations of who Jesus was. I believe that this rather fundamental dichotomy may carry forward for a significant period of time.

Finally, note the final sentence; it comes close to the last one standing, but it’s about persevering in the faith. Again, this seems very much like something written by someone who had experienced believers who lapsed when the pressure from the authorities became too intense.

I will stop here to switch to the next section. Again, I apologize for the artificial and completely arbitrary break-point.

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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 July 9, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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