Monthly Archives: August 2013
This will conclude a very long Chapter 14. Unlike the two previous sections, this one is fairly short, covering only Peter’s denial. I don’t think I’ll have much to say, but then I always think that. I had assumed (!) that the Passion story would not have a large amount of content that would require content. Guess I was wrong.
66 Καὶ ὄντος τοῦ Πέτρου κάτω ἐν τῇ αὐλῇ ἔρχεται μία τῶν παιδισκῶν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως,
And Peter being in the courtyard, one (female) of the servant-girls of the high priest came.
[ I believe ‘servant-girls’ is the right term since the word used is based on << παις >>, which is literally ‘child’. Think of Richard Nixon, with his “house boy” Manolo. ]
66 Et cum esset Petrus in atrio deorsum, venit una ex ancillis summi sacerdotis
67 καὶ ἰδοῦσα τὸν Πέτρον θερμαινόμενον ἐμβλέψασα αὐτῷ λέγει, Καὶ σὺ μετὰ τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ ἦσθα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ.
And seeing Peter warming (himself understood; a middle-form verb), she looked at him saying, “And you were with the one of Nazareth, Jesus.”
Believe it or not, this is only the second time that Nazareth is mentioned in Mark’s gospel. The first came way back in Chapter 1, when Jesus seems to have moved to Caphernaum. At the time I speculated that he wasn’t really from Nazareth; that the whole Nazareth identity was something added later, perhaps after Matthew found the quote about “He will be called a Nazarene.” And, honestly, this doesn’t do too much to convince me otherwise. It would have been very easy to insert << τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ >> into the text here, just as it would have been very easy to insert “the Christ” into Mark 1:1. I do admit, however, that the placement of << τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ >> is a little odd if it’s an interpolation. But, since a lot of these things started as marginal notes, it would depend on the line breaks in the text. Recall that back in Chapter 3, when Jesus (unnamed) mother and siblings came to ‘rescue’ Jesus, we are not told where they lived. Nor was the name of the hometown mentioned in Chapter 6, when Jesus’ siblings and mother were named. As a result, I believe there is at least a case for Jesus not really being a “Nazarene”. I could be proven wrong.
67 et, cum vidisset Petrum calefacientem se, aspiciens illum ait: “ Et tu cum hoc Nazareno, Iesu, eras! ”.
68 ὁ δὲ ἠρνήσατο λέγων, Οὔτε οἶδα οὔτε ἐπίσταμαι σὺ τί λέγεις. καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἔξω εἰς τὸ προαύλιον [:καὶ ἀλέκτωρ ἐφώνησεν].
But Peter denied, saying, “I do not know nor do I understand what you are saying.” And he went out to the ante-courtyard [ and the cock crowed].
The part in [ ] at the end about the cock crowing is not in all manuscript traditions. Remember the prediction: deny three times before the cock crows twice.
68 At ille negavit dicens: “ Neque scio neque novi quid tu dicas! ”. Et exiit foras ante atrium, et gallus cantavit.
69 καὶ ἡ παιδίσκη ἰδοῦσα αὐτὸν ἤρξατο πάλιν λέγειν τοῖς παρεστῶσιν ὅτι Οὗτος ἐξ αὐτῶν ἐστιν.
And the serving girl seeing him began again to say to those standing around that “He is of them.”
69 Et ancilla, cum vidisset illum, rursus coepit dicere circumstantibus: “ Hic ex illis est! ”
70 ὁ δὲ πάλιν ἠρνεῖτο. καὶ μετὰ μικρὸν πάλιν οἱ παρεστῶτες ἔλεγον τῷ Πέτρῳ, Ἀληθῶς ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶ, καὶ γὰρ Γαλιλαῖος εἶ.
But he again denied. And after a short time again the bystanders said to Peter, “Truly, of them you are. For Galilean you are.”
[ Sorry about the Yoda-like syntax, but it’s word-for-word. ]
70 At ille iterum negabat. Et post pusillum rursus, qui astabant, dicebant Petro: “ Vere ex illis es, nam et Galilaeus es ”.
71 ὁ δὲ ἤρξατο ἀναθεματίζειν καὶ ὀμνύναι ὅτι Οὐκ οἶδα τὸν ἄνθρωπον τοῦτον ὃν λέγετε.
And he began to curse and swear that, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”
71 Ille autem coepit anathematizare et iurare: “ Nescio hominem istum, quem dicitis! ”.
72 καὶ εὐθὺς ἐκ δευτέρου ἀλέκτωρ ἐφώνησεν. καὶ ἀνεμνήσθη ὁ Πέτρος τὸ ῥῆμα ὡς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁἸησοῦς ὅτι Πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι δὶς τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ: καὶ ἐπιβαλὼν ἔκλαιεν.
And again a second time the cock sounded. And Peter remembered the words as Jesus spoke to him that, “Before the cock crows twice, three time you will deny me.” And going out he wept.
In this instance I think it’s pretty easy to tell that the bracketed part in verse 67 was added, possibly because someone noticed that the cock had not sounded before being mentioned here in verse 72. Now, ‘the second time’ would, strictly speaking, have covered the prediction, but it seems to have made someone nervous enough to insert the words into verse 67.
72 Et statim iterum gallus cantavit; et recordatus est Petrus verbi, sicut dixerat ei Iesus: “ Priusquam gallus cantet bis, ter me negabis ”. Et coepit flere.
Now, what is the point of this story? My first sense is that Mark realizes he has to hedge his bets here a bit. For the entire first half of the gospel we are told how popular Jesus was. In fact, we are told this (implicitly if not explicitly) 18 times in the first 7 chapters, four more in chapters 8-10, and four more in chapters 11-15. And yet, in Chapter 15, Jesus seems bereft of his support. More, by the time that Mark was writing, the main impetus to growth of Jesus’ followers was among pagans, and not Jews. So I think that this story is supposed to help explain why this happened. Yes, Jesus had been popular, but at the end, he was deserted by his followers. Even Peter denies him.
The other possibility is that this story was created in response to the persecutions of proto-Christians by such as Saul of Tarsus, or any that may have been practiced at a local level by Romans, including Nero’s demonization of Christians in blaming them for the great fire in Rome. For any who might have wavered in difficult times, a story that even Peter wavered could have provided solace and forgiveness. There are other possible interpretations, but seems to me that those are the most likely. As always, feel free to disagree.
I’m trying to keep this in chunks that have some sort of beginning, middle and natural break. Sometimes it’s easier than others.
53 Καὶ ἀπήγαγον τὸν Ἰησοῦν πρὸς τὸν ἀρχιερέα, καὶ συνέρχονται πάντες οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς.
And they led Jesus to(wards) the high priests and all the high priests gathered, and the elders and the scribes.
Hail, hail, the gang’s all here! This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but it wasn’t until fairly recently (a few years) that I realized that the Pharisees were an informal group, or subdivision. Sort of like the charismatics are a subgroup of Christians. As such, the Pharisees had no ‘official’ role as Pharisees. Hence, while Jesus was sort of an ongoing annoyance for the Pharisees, who were unhappy with his teaching and tried to argue against him, they pretty much disappear at this point of the narrative. The high priests and scribes were the officials, so they are the ones with whom we deal during this phase of the story.
53 Et adduxerunt Iesum ad summum sacerdotem; et conveniunt omnes summi sacerdotes et seniores et scribae.
54 καὶ ὁ Πέτρος ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ ἕως ἔσω εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως, καὶ ἦν συγκαθήμενος μετὰ τῶν ὑπηρετῶν καὶ θερμαινόμενος πρὸς τὸ φῶς.
And Peter from a distance followed him until outside the courtyard of the high priests, and there he sat himself with the (head?) servants and warming himself before the light.
[ The Greek: first, the Greek says ‘light’, not ‘fire’ as does the Latin. Now, back then, at night there was no light without fire, so we can see how the the two could easily be interchangeable.
Second, << ὑπηρετῶν >> is a really interesting word to translate. It’s a compound word; the base is << ηρετῶν >>, which is ‘rower’. The compound form includes the Greek form of “super”, or “over”, so the word becomes the “over-rower”, the sense being sort of the overseer, or non-commissioned officer. As such, the NASB chose to render this as ‘officers’; the KJV, meanwhile simply translates it as ‘servants’. The NIV and the ESV prefer ‘guards’. Now, to complicate this, the Greek can also simply mean ‘rower’. Now the Latin gives us a clue with << ministris >>, the root of ‘minister’, so it has some of the sense of ‘over-rower’. In other places where this is used, the KJV sometimes uses ‘ministers’, or ‘officers’. I can see why the ESV and NIV chose ‘guards’: it’s a way out of the conundrum ].
54 Et Petrus a longe secutus est eum usque intro in atrium summi sacerdotis et sedebat cum ministris et calefaciebat se ad ignem.
55 οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ ὅλον τὸ συνέδριον ἐζήτουν κατὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ μαρτυρίαν εἰς τὸ θανατῶσαι αὐτόν, καὶ οὐχ ηὕρισκον:
The high priests and the entire Sanhedrin sought evidence against Jesus in order to kill (execute) him, and they did not find it.
Here is where red flags start going up for me. This is the beginning of a long and convoluted process in which the council twists itself into pretzels trying to come up with evidence against Jesus. Why? Tell the Romans he’s an insurrectionist, that he was captured trying to do some damage to Rome. I think the Romans would have been more than happy to get rid of a nondescript peasant whom the Jewish authorities called a trouble-maker.
Remember: we are smack in the middle of the reign of Tiberius; I spent an entire year with The Annales, in which Tacitus describes, in great detail about how the Emperor killed off prominent senators on the flimsiest of pretexts. As imperial overlords, due process and civil rights were not big priorities for the Romans.
So the question becomes: why are we the Jewish authorities concerned with the fig-lead of propriety? Not for the Romans’ sake. Then for whose? To keep the crowd from rioting? Remember we were told twice, back in 11:18 and again in 14:2 that the chief priests were afraid to arrest Jesus because they were afraid of the crowd. Now, I failed to distinguish between the language of the two. In 11:18 they were afraid of the crowd because they were spellbound by Jesus teaching. In 14:2, we were told the high priests were afraid of the crowd during the festival. The first is specifically tied to Jesus; the second is much more generic. in 14:2 the implication could be that the crowd might take offense at anyone being arrested. And yet, in Chapter 15, when the crowd is presented with the reality of Jesus having been arrested and on the verge of being executed, far from rioting to prevent this, we are told–emphatically–that they were screaming for his blood.
Which was it?
Now, there is a third choice: that the vast majority of the crowd was there for the festival and didn’t particularly care one way or the other. This, IMO, is the most likely possibility, if only because, generally speaking, either of the extremes is less likely than a more moderate reaction. I bring this up for two reasons: either a lack of reaction, or the reaction that we are told occurred basically and fatally contradicts the high priests’ fears as expressed in Chapter 11. The crowd either didn’t care that Jesus was to be executed, they were wholly in favor. Second, either of these two reactions just as effectively kills the fears of the high priests expressed in Chapter 14. The crowd was not concerned about Jesus’ impending death, nor the deaths of the other two who were executed with him.
So, given that the crowd either didn’t react, or was in favor of Jesus’ execution, we can deduce, rather conclusively, that the high priests had no reason to find someone willing to provide evidence sufficient to have Jesus executed. Since there was no reason to find this evidence, we have to ask if this whole charade of a ‘trial’ before the entire council ever actually happened. If there was truly no need to “find” (i.e. manufacture) evidence in order to give themselves the cloak of respectability necessary to justify the execution of Jesus, why would they have to put themselves through all this?
This is not to say that Jesus wasn’t arrested on the first night of Passover; he may have been. But the arrest may not have been for the reasons stated, nor was it necessarily carried out by the Jewish authorities. Jesus may well have been arrested directly by the Romans.
If this is what happened, then why the whole story? Why invent it? The obvious reason is to absolve the Romans from guilt in the execution of Jesus. This is the line I’ve been walking through this whole exercise–at least that’s how I remember it. Now I realize that citing this as the motive for inventing this story has implications for the dating of the Pre-Markan Passion Story (PMPS) (assuming there was one), and for Mark’s gospel as well. However, I don’t think these implications present insurmountable objections to my position. The thing is, the date for the PMPS may reflect the changes in the composition of Jesus’ assemblies after Paul’s establishment of a number of Gentile communities. These groups may have been reluctant to accuse the ‘Romans’ (in the most general sense, which would include the Syro-Phoenician woman of Chapter 7) of killing Jesus. Since they weren’t Jews, or hadn’t been Jews, blaming the Jews and not the Romans may have been good PR even before Jews became personae non gratae with the Roman authorities.
55 Summi vero sacerdotes et omne concilium quaerebant adversus Iesum testimonium, ut eum morte afficerent, nec inveniebant.
56 πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐψευδομαρτύρουν κατ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἴσαι αἱ μαρτυρίαι οὐκ ἦσαν.
For many gave false testimony against him (Jesus), but the testimonies were not equal.[ Here, ‘equal’ is a fairly rough translation. The Greek is iso- as in ‘isosceles triangle’. The sense is something for which the measures–perhaps as in weights–are different. The bottom line is that the various witnesses did not corroborate each other, but what gets lost there in the translation is the idea of a physical sense of actual balancing. ]
Here’s a thought. My contention has been that there were a number of different traditions that Mark took and wove together into a (mostly) coherent whole. Perhaps what this line represents is the beginning of that fragmentation. This line/verse could be taken as an indication that the different and conflicting opinions or impressions of Jesus went back a long way. Now, a legitimate point may be raised, that, if there was no trial, then there were no witnesses with differing opinions and testimony. And this is a fair point. However, for Mark to say this doesn’t have to be true or historically accurate; but it does have to be, or at least should be, believable. That is, it needed to sound plausible to his audience. Could this be taken as an indication that Mark’s audience would not have been surprised that there were differing stories about Jesus? Perhaps. It seems likely.
This is the sort of inference that needs to be drawn from a work that is not historical in nature. In the same way, novels or fiction in general provide incidental information about the time in which they were written. For example, science fiction stories written in the 1970s that fail to predict the coming of cell phones tell us quite clearly that cell phone technology simply was not on the horizon at that particular time. In this way, perhaps this verse tells us that different stories about Jesus were part of the social network in which Mark wrote.
56 Multi enim testimonium falsum dicebant adversus eum, et convenientia testimonia non erant.
57 καί τινες ἀναστάντες ἐψευδομαρτύρουν κατ’ αὐτοῦ λέγοντες
And some standing up made false testimony against him, saying:
57 Et quidam surgentes falsum testimonium ferebant adversus eum dicentes:
58 ὅτι Ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμεν αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ὅτι Ἐγὼ καταλύσω τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον τὸν χειροποίητον καὶ διὰ τριῶν ἡμερῶν ἄλλον ἀχειροποίητον οἰκοδομήσω:
that “We heard him saying that ‘I will destroy the Temple built by hand and within three days I will built another not constructed by hand’.”
Now this is really interesting. This line is repeated in Matthew, and in the same context, and with the same intention of putting across that this prediction or threat or promist to destroy the Temple and rebuilt it was false testimony, perjury. But we have never heard Jesus say this. And yet, by the time we get to John, Jesus does say this, with the added explanation that he was speaking metaphorically about his body. So here we can see how the story developed, it grew, as I have been suggesting stories tend to do, so that the narrative has it so that Jesus does indeed make this prediction.
But let’s take a step back. Mark is reporting this prediction as perjury, as a lie. What does this say about Jesus’ message? It says something, but, to be honest, I’m not sure what quite yet. More thoughts will follow as I sort this out in my own head.
58 “ Nos audivimus eum dicentem: “Ego dissolvam templum hoc manu factum et intra triduum aliud non manu factum aedificabo” ”.
59 καὶ οὐδὲ οὕτως ἴση ἦν ἡ μαρτυρία αὐτῶν.
And in this way (lit = ‘not in this way’, or perhaps, ‘in this way not’…) the testimonies of them were not equal.
59 Et ne ita quidem conveniens erat testimonium illorum.
60 καὶ ἀναστὰς ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς εἰς μέσον ἐπηρώτησεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν λέγων, Οὐκ ἀποκρίνῃ οὐδέν; τί οὗτοί σου καταμαρτυροῦσιν;
And standing in the middle of them the high priest questioned Jesus saying, “Are you not going to answer anything? (About) what they testify against you?
[ that was tough to twist into English that satisfies the Greek. I still didn’t quite get it right but I’m not sure how else to bend the English. ]
60 Et exsurgens summus sacerdos in medium interrogavit Iesum dicens: “ Non respondes quidquam ad ea, quae isti testantur adversum te? ”.
61 ὁ δὲ ἐσιώπα καὶ οὐκ ἀπεκρίνατο οὐδέν. πάλιν ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς ἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ εὐλογητοῦ;
But he was silent and did not answer anything. Again, the high priest questioned him and said to him, “Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?”
A very blunt question. And, if you think about it, something that’s out of the blue. To this point we have not been given any indication that the religious authorities had this perception about Jesus, or about his teaching.
61 Ille autem tacebat et nihil respondit. Rursum summus sacerdos interrogabat eum et dicit ei: “ Tu es Christus filius Benedicti? ”.
62 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ὄψεσθε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν καθήμενον τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.
And Jesus said, “I am he. And you will see the son of man seated on the right (hand/side) of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Coming with the clouds? And the Latin says the same thing. Paul (1 Thess 4:17) and Mark previously (13:26) said he would be coming on the clouds. Not that it truly matters; it seems like it might be a mixed-up preposition.
62 Iesus autem dixit: “ Ego sum, et videbitis Filium hominis a dextris sedentem Virtutis et venientem cum nubibus caeli ”.
63 ὁ δὲ ἀρχιερεὺς διαρρήξας τοὺς χιτῶνας αὐτοῦ λέγει, Τί ἔτι χρείαν ἔχομεν μαρτύρων;
And the high priest, tearing his robes said of him, “What yet (else) do we need of evidence? (“What more evidence do we need?” Jesus Christ Superstar)
63 Summus autem sacerdos scindens vestimenta sua ait: “ Quid adhuc necessarii sunt nobis testes?
64 ἠκούσατε τῆς βλασφημίας: τί ὑμῖν φαίνεται; οἱ δὲ πάντες κατέκριναν αὐτὸν ἔνοχον εἶναι θανάτου.
“You heard the blasphemy. How does it seem to you?” And all answered him, “It is enough to be liable for death.”
<< ἔνοχον >> is actually a legal term, or a term used in specifically legal settings. Interesting that Mark knew such a word.
64 Audistis blasphemiam. Quid vobis videtur? ”. Qui omnes condemnaverunt eum esse reum mortis.
65 Καὶ ἤρξαντό τινες ἐμπτύειν αὐτῷ καὶ περικαλύπτειν αὐτοῦ τὸ πρόσωπον καὶ κολαφίζειν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγειν αὐτῷ, Προφήτευσον, καὶ οἱ ὑπηρέται ῥαπίσμασιν αὐτὸν ἔλαβον.
And they began to spit at him and to cover his face, and slap him and to say to him, “Prophecy!” and the guards struck him and led him away.
[ Here we run into the word discussed in verse 54 above: << ὑπηρέται >>. There we discussed how it originally meant ‘rower’; here, the obvious meaning would seem to be ‘guards’. ]
This is interesting: they cover Jesus’ face and hit him, and then demand that he prophecy. About what? Now, we ‘know” that the idea was that he was supposed to prophecy about who struck him, but note that we are not told that. Matthew fills in the blanks, but how did he know? Was this just such common knowledge that Mark didn’t feel the need to explain? Or did he not know? Was the tradition silent on this? How faithfully did Mark record the tradition? Did he miss things once in a while?
This is another good instance where we don’t know everything that we think we do.
65 Et coeperunt quidam conspuere eum et velare faciem eius et colaphis eum caedere et dicere ei: “ Prophetiza ”; et ministri alapis eum caedebant.
This is a fairly long section, but I don’t think too much comment will be required. There is a lot of straight-forward narrative. Of course, that’s what I thought about Chapter 14 as a whole.
32 Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς χωρίον οὗ τὸ ὄνομα Γεθσημανί, καὶ λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Καθίσατε ὧδε ἕως προσεύξωμαι.
And they went out to the garden, the name of which was Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here so that I may pray.”
32 Et veniunt in praedium, cui nomen Gethsemani; et ait discipulis suis: “ Sedete hic, donec orem ”.
33 καὶ παραλαμβάνει τὸν Πέτρον καὶ [τὸν] Ἰάκωβον καὶ [τὸν] Ἰωάννην μετ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἤρξατο ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν,
And he took with him Peter and James and John, and he began to be amazed and sorely troubled.
[ The root meaning of << ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι >> is ‘to be amazed’. Mark uses it in this sense on 9:15, and it is used in this sense twice in Chapter 16. Here we have another instance of a consensus translation, as even the KJY translates it as ‘to be sorrowful’. Liddell & Scott don’t offer enough cites to really give a sense of how (if) the word mutated. The Latin is ‘to be frightened’, so that’s not a lot of help. Presumably, the meaning was extrapolated from the following verse? ]
33 Et assumit Petrum et Iacobum et Ioannem secum et coepit pavere et taedere;
34 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Περίλυπός ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή μου ἕως θανάτου: μείνατε ὧδε καὶ γρηγορεῖτε.
And he said to them, “Very sad is my soul, (even) unto death. Wait here and be vigilant.”
34 et ait illis: “ Tristis est anima mea usque ad mortem; sustinete hic et vigilate ”.
35 καὶ προελθὼν μικρὸν ἔπιπτεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ προσηύχετο ἵνα εἰ δυνατόν ἐστιν παρέλθῃ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἡὥρα,
And having gone a little (distance) he fell to the ground, and praying in order that if it could be taken away from this hour.
This is all very dramatic. And that is what I would assume this is: drama. This all strikes me as a lot of scene-setting for dramatic impact. But the interesting thing is that, if you look at the opinion on the Pre-Markan Passion, over half the scholars surveyed accept that this verse and verse 32 were part of the narrative tradition rather than something that Mark composed, and something approaching half accept verse 34 as authentically Pre-Markan.
For the most part, whether this came to Mark, or Mark wrote it does not have a huge impact on the historicity. I have serious doubts that this really contains any truly historical information. Who is the informant? Peter and James were dead before Mark wrote; John is traditionally said to have been the only Apostle to die of old age, around the year 100 CE. As a kid, I always found the Passion story to be very dramatic, even gripping. I liked hearing it read on Palm Sunday or at other times during Holy Week as practiced by the Roman Rite of the time. And that’s just the point; it is dramatic. It is also, IMO, largely fiction.
35 Et cum processisset paululum, procidebat super terram et orabat, ut, si fieri posset, transiret ab eo hora;
36 καὶ ἔλεγεν, Αββα ὁ πατήρ, πάντα δυνατά σοι: παρένεγκε τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ: ἀλλ’ οὐ τί ἐγὼ θέλω ἀλλὰ τί σύ.
And he said, “Father, Father, all is possible for you. Take away this cup from me, but not what I wish, but what you (wish).”
The significant part here, I think, is “for you (God the Father), all things are possible”. Once again, we are so used to the god of the philosophers, which by definition is omnipotent, omniscient, etc., that we forget that this concept of god–or God–is not necessarily what we find in either the Hebrew or the Christian scriptures. As far as that goes, YHWH wasn’t even the only god for much of the Hebrew scriptures. So for Jesus to say this represents a real step in the development of the concept of the deity. It is tempting, of course, to see the influence of Greek philosophy here, with its Platonic Ideals; tempting, but probably not necessary. YHWH had moved to become the most powerful god, then he became the only True, Living God; from there, it’s not that great a step to omnipotence.
With this, however, we sort of flash back to Chapter 13:32, in which only the Father knows the hour. Here, Jesus is saying, not my will, but yours, which requires a real distinction between Father and Son. Philosophically, there is no possible way to square this distinction with the eventual theology of the Trinity, in which all are inseparable, equal, and unitary. Here is where we can, once again, see the intermediary stages between how people of the First Century conceived of God, and how God the Father/Son/Holy Spirit became defined by the Christian Church. We can see how much of our idea of God is a Christian invention, reached in stages as layers of theology accumulated; first the Arians forced the Christians into declaring the unity of the Father and Son, and on top of this was layered the Holy Spirit as the Third Person. If Jesus = God the Father, this prayer is pointless. It becomes the manifestation of his human anguish, but it does not describe a truly Divine Being, of one substance with the Father.
By this point, I don’t think the “Abba-Father” requires further comment.
36 et dicebat: “ Abba, Pater! Omnia tibi possibilia sunt. Transfer calicem hunc a me; sed non quod ego volo, sed quod tu ”.
37 καὶ ἔρχεται καὶ εὑρίσκει αὐτοὺς καθεύδοντας, καὶ λέγει τῷ Πέτρῳ, Σίμων,καθεύδεις; οὐκ ἴσχυσας μίαν ὥραν γρηγορῆσαι;
And he came and he found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, do you sleep? Are you not strong enough to be vigilant for a single hour?”
37 Et venit et invenit eos dormientes; et ait Petro: “ Simon, dormis? Non potuisti una hora vigilare?
38 γρηγορεῖτε καὶ προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ ἔλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν: τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα πρόθυμον ἡ δὲ σὰρξ ἀσθενής.
“Be vigilant, and pray, lest that you may not come to the test. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh lacks strength.”
“Coming to the test/trial”. This is a look back from the future, when followers of Jesus were tried and tested. Part of the problem is how to translate this word. It has both meanings; the problem is that, in English ‘test’ and ‘trial’ can mean essentially the same thing, or they can mean something rather different, with ‘trial’ having an official, judicial implication. Even worse is the test/temptation array; again, the Greek word can be legitimately translated both ways, with very different implications. And the (ahem) temptation to translate it as ‘temptation’ is exacerbated by the Latin, ‘tentationes’, which is the root of our word.
This is, I believe, the first and only reference in Mark to the flesh/spirit dichotomy. Now, given that, I don’t see any reason to see anything beyond a fairly commonsense interpretation of this. We don’t have to see Gnostic–or any other kind of–dualism lurking behind the words. This would be comprehensible to all sorts of people who don’t have the foggiest notion of what dualism means. Most humans get it that we often–too often–want to do things, but we don’t have the physical stamina to pull it off. And, had Mark written first, I would be content to leave it at that and move on.
However, Paul wrote before Mark, and the dichotomy between flesh and spirit was fairly pronounced, even in a fairly short piece like Galatians. Given that, we have to ask if Mark came by this thought via the tradition, or whether it was some piece of literary inspiration that led Mark to come up with this. If the former, then we’re back at the question of how much of the tradition of Paul reached Mark, and in what form, and via what intermediaries. Given this is more a less a one-off, my suspicion is that Mark probably came up with this himself; that it was not from Paul; as such, it has no real dualistic implications lurking beneath the words. As support, this part is thought to be part of the Pre-Markan narrative by only 7-13 of the scholars surveyed; however, I don’t derive much sense of security at this support.
To a large extent, one’s impression or opinion on the issue of Pre-Markan tradition depends on where you stand on the historicity of the narrative as a whole. Perhaps the Passion Story is indeed one of the oldest strata of Mark’s gospel; that doesn’t mean it’s in any way historically accurate. There are lots of reasons, IMO, for disbelieving this section of the gospel; however, this is not the place to deal with them. I will return to this when I assess this chapter, and perhaps again when I assess Mark as a whole.
38 Vigilate et orate, ut non intretis in tentationem; spiritus quidem promptus, caro vero infirma ”.
39 καὶ πάλιν ἀπελθὼν προσηύξατο τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον εἰπών.
And again going away, he prayed, saying the same account.
[ Ouch. Really ugly translation. The purpose is to get across the fact that << λόγον >> is singular. The Latin is ‘sermo’, which is also singular, and the root of ‘sermon’. We would say, reciting the same prayer, or saying the same words. ]
The “same words/prayer” really hits at the formulaic nature of this section. Everything is done three times, and there’s no attempt to change it up much.
39 Et iterum abiens oravit, eundem sermonem dicens.
40 καὶ πάλιν ἐλθὼν εὗρεν αὐτοὺς καθεύδοντας, ἦσαν γὰρ αὐτῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶκαταβαρυνόμενοι, καὶ οὐκ ᾔδεισαν τί ἀποκριθῶσιν αὐτῷ.
And again coming he found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy, and they did not know what they should say to him.
40 Et veniens denuo invenit eos dormientes; erant enim oculi illorum ingravati, et ignorabant quid responderent ei.
41 καὶ ἔρχεται τὸ τρίτον καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Καθεύδετε τὸ λοιπὸν καὶ ἀναπαύεσθε; ἀπέχει: ἦλθεν ἡ ὥρα, ἰδοὺ παραδίδοται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰς τὰς χεῖρας τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν.
And he went a third time and he said to them, “Are you sleep and resting the remainder (of the time?)? The hour has come, behold, the son of man is handed over into the hands of sinners.”
What strikes me here is ‘sinners’. A nice, neutral, indeterminate word. Could be anyone: a certain group, a certain people, or no one specific. As for the formula, note that this time the author didn’t even bother describing Jesus’ prayer; just that he did it a third time, just as Peter will deny Jesus three times, and Jesus will be in the tomb for three days.
41 Et venit tertio et ait illis: “ Dormite iam et requiescite? Sufficit, venit hora: ecce traditur Filius hominis in manus peccatorum.
42 ἐγείρεσθε ἄγωμεν: ἰδοὺ ὁ παραδιδούς με ἤγγικεν.
“Get up, let’s go. Look, the hander-over approaches.”
The word for ‘approaches’, << ἤγγικεν >> used here is the same word that was used back in 1:15 to tell us that the kingdom of God approaches. Is there a deliberate repetition to create a literary echo? Probably not. It’s just the common verb for the concept. On things like this, it may be easy to out-think oneself, to become too-clever by half.
42 Surgite, eamus; ecce, qui me tradit, prope est ”.
43 Καὶ εὐθὺς ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος παραγίνεται Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ ὄχλος μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων παρὰ τῶν ἀρχιερέων καὶ τῶν γραμματέων καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων.
And immediately he having spoken, Judas appeared to the Twelve, and with him (was a) crowd of (belonging to) the high priests and the scribes and the elders, with swords and clubs.
43 Et confestim, adhuc eo loquente, venit Iudas unus ex Duodecim, et cum illo turba cum gladiis et lignis a summis sacerdotibus et scribis et senioribus.
44 δεδώκει δὲ ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν σύσσημον αὐτοῖς λέγων, Ὃν ἂν φιλήσω αὐτός ἐστιν: κρατήσατε αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπάγετε ἀσφαλῶς.
The one handing him (Jesus) over gave to them (the high priests & C) a sign, saying, “The one whom I will kiss is he. Take hold of him and lead him away carefully.”
44 Dederat autem traditor eius signum eis dicens: “ Quemcumque osculatus fuero, ipse est; tenete eum et ducite caute ”.
45 καὶ ἐλθὼν εὐθὺς προσελθὼν αὐτῷ λέγει, Ῥαββί, καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.
And coming immediately to him, he said, “Rabbi”, and he kissed him.
Don’t you just love the dramatic irony of this? Betrayed with a kiss? It is brilliant as a literary device. Just like the ‘Is it I, Lord?’ at the table when Jesus says one of them will betray him, or the prediction of Peter’s three denials. This is a very well-crafted story. Now, these literary elements do not, of themselves either support or refute the historicity of the underlying narrative; however, they should act as a pink flag to tell the reader that this has been heavily written. It should put us on guard that we can’t take anything for granted as accurate.
45 Et cum venisset, statim accedens ad eum ait: “ Rabbi ”; et osculatus est eum.
46 οἱ δὲ ἐπέβαλον τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῷ καὶ ἐκράτησαναὐτόν.
They bound his hands and overpowered him.
[ I suppose ‘overpowered’ should just be rendered as ‘arrested’. But the root of the Greek verb is the word for ‘power’. This is ‘kratia’, which is the last half of demo-cracy. Again, the bland verb ‘arrest’, which at root means ‘stop’ does not convey the sense of physical power of ‘kratia’. This is a case where something is definitely lost in the translation, even if the translation is basically accurate. ]
46 At illi manus iniecerunt in eum et tenuerunt eum.
47 εἷς δέ [τις] τῶν παρεστηκότων σπασάμενος τὴν μάχαιραν ἔπαισεν τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως καὶἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτάριον.
One of those standing about drawing his sword struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
They fight back!
47 Unus autem quidam de circumstantibus educens gladium percussit servum summi sacerdotis et amputavit illi auriculam.
48 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν ἐξήλθατε μετὰμαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων συλλαβεῖν με;
But Jesus responding said to them. “How as a bandit have you come with swords and clubs to capture me?”
48 Et respondens Iesus ait illis: “ Tamquam ad latronem existis cum gladiis et lignis comprehendere me?
49 καθ’ ἡμέραν ἤμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ διδάσκων καὶ οὐκἐκρατήσατέ με: ἀλλ’ ἵνα πληρωθῶσιν αἱ γραφαί.
Each day i taught among you in the temple and you did not arrest me. But (it is) in order to fulfill what was written”
This is a bit odd, and does not quite ring true. We are told that one of those with Jesus cut off the ear of the slave of the high priest, and everyone stood about, calmly, waiting for Jesus’ words of wisdom. There was no hubbub, no clamor, no roar from the crowd come to arrest Jesus? And then we get the crescendo with more literary irony–or sarcasm?– of: why didn’t you arrest me in the temple?
And that is an excellent question. At some point I am going to have to stop and do some sort of assessment of the likely historicity of what we’re being told. But I think it should wait just a bit longer, until we have the trial before the Sanhedrin.
According to the new book, Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan, the word that I have translated as ‘bandit’ was reserved by the Romans for insurrectionists. Now, I have not read the entire book yet; only the first chapter, and I do not know on what sort of scholarship this was based. However, I have to say, it came as a surprise to me. Not that I am necessarily as versed in Greek as he is, but that seems to be part of the problem. The word is Greek. Now, granted, the Roman Empire was basically bilingual at this point, so a knowledge of Greek is neither a surprise nor a difficulty. BUT–the Latin translation is ‘latro’, which usually means pretty much a garden variety bandit, perhaps shading to the idea of a highwayman.
49 Cotidie eram apud vos in templo docens, et non me tenuistis; sed adimpleantur Scripturae ”.
50 καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἔφυγον πάντες.
And leaving him, all fled.
The Greek is isn’t entirely clear, but it seems pretty clear that it was Jesus whom ‘they’ left; ‘they’ meaning his disciples. And note that we are not told that Jesus re-attached the ear as Luke–and only Luke–said he did. And John tells us that it was Simon Peter who wielded the sword, and that the slave’s name was Malchus. Think back to the story of the woman and the nard, how Mark does not name her, but she came to be identified with Mary Magdelene; so, too, here, the story grew in the telling: Luke has Jesus re-attach the ear, Simon wielded the sword, and the slave is named. These are all details that accrued as time passed. That is an important process to remember.
50 Et relinquentes eum omnes fugerunt.
51Καὶ νεανίσκος τις συνηκολούθει αὐτῷ περιβεβλημένος σινδόνα ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ, καὶ κρατοῦσιν αὐτόν:
And there was a certain young man following him wrapped in linen over his nudity, and they took hold of him.
51 Et adulescens quidam sequebatur eum amictus sindone super nudo, et tenent eum;
52 ὁ δὲ καταλιπὼν τὴνσινδόνα γυμνὸς ἔφυγεν.
And leaving the linen, he fled naked.
52 at ille, reiecta sindone, nudus profugit.
This is truly, far and away, the most bizarre passage in the NT. What on earth does it mean? Why is it here? I’ve read all sorts of ‘explanations’–conjectures, really, because that is all we’ll ever get about this. Someone suggested that this was Lazarus, because linen meant he was rich, and Lazarus was rich–presumably this refers to he whom Jesus raised from the dead? Perhaps not.
The most notorious reading of this involves the so-called “Secret Mark”. It is crucial to remember that the evidence for this rests solely upon the word of a single scholar who purports to have found a 17th Century copy of a Second Century letter that quotes a Secret Gospel of Mark. The snippet had some pretty lurid and suggestive implications. Regardless of provenance or meaning, whether literal, literary, or symbolic, this passage is just strange.
Here’s the Wikipedia link:
Here is the appropriate page on the Early Christian Writings website.
I just took a look at my stats, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the number of views, and visitors, and everything. So I want to thank you all for taking the time to read what I’m saying. I hope you’re finding this an enjoyable and enlightening experience.
The other thing that impresses me is that some of the regular readers are from the UK and Canada, but also the Philippines, Australia, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, South Africa (and other countries in Africa), and a number of other places. To someone who grew up in the American Midwest, being connected to all these different parts of our ever-shrinking world is very…surprising.
So, that being said, just let me offer a formal “Thank You” to everyone who reads this blog.
We have now come to the Last Supper, and the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Pre-Markan Passion begins.
22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν, Λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
And they having eaten, taking the bread he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, this is my body.’
Here is the institution of what became the Eucharist. Since this has been a staple of many Christian forms of worship, this is obviously important. It is highly significant that Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. There, Paul claims that this tradition that he imparted to the Corinthians (and presumably his other groups) was handed down by the Lord himself.
Now, can we believe this? I think we can. Yes, it’s possible that Paul made this up, but we have to ask why he would have done so. Yes, it’s possible he did it to claim some kind of link directly to Jesus. Yes, it’s possible to make up plausible reasons why this can’t or doesn’t or shouldn’t trace back to Jesus, but IMO this passes the skepticism test. Or, at the very least, it’s likely that it became embedded in the proto-Christian tradition at a very early date, so that Paul believed it was authentic. We have to remember that Paul says almost nothing about Jesus before the Resurrection; when Paul tells us something about Jesus as a human, I think it behooves us to listen.
So, given that, the question becomes: where did Mark get this? Did he get it from Paul? Or independently? This matters. A lot. If he got it from Paul, that means that Mark was aware of Paul’s existence, probably his tradition, and perhaps his writings. In turn, this implies that the tradition was running in, more or less, a single thread: Jesus >> Paul >> Mark. However, we then have to ask why Mark’s version is so much shorter than Paul’s version. Yes, compression, or conservation of words and valuable parchment may have played a role, but Mark is capable of telling long tales. His version of the Gerasene demonaic is longer than Matthew’s version; so I think a case could be made that, had Mark been aware of Paul’s longer version, with its admonition that it came right from Jesus, this would mean Mark had what he felt like good reasons for editing The Lord. Yes, he could have chosen to do so, but what would those powerful reasons have been? Seriously. What would have caused Mark to leave Jesus’ words on the cutting room floor? Yes, they could exist, but I can’t think of what they might be. Yes, this could be just a failure of imagination on my part, but, sorry.
So, if Mark did not get this from Paul, he must have gotten it from somewhere else. Those are our choices: Paul, or not-Paul. If not Paul, then not-Paul. (Modus tollens)
The implication of this is that the line from Jesus, or his first followers, took a different course before getting to Mark, one that bypassed Paul. Which means that there was more than one Jesus-tradition. How many? Impossible to say, but more than one. And this goes back to my thesis of Mark the Weaver: weaving together the various traditions and sources that he had heard.
What this also means is that, in all likelihood, there were traditions that did not survive. That there were multiple strands of Jesus-tradition is not new information, since we saw the “council” of Jerusalem, held between Paul and James, brother of Jesus.
Either they died a natural death due to lack of interest, or they were snuffed out by those who became the “orthodox” tradition. The Ebionites are a very likely candidates for this category. James, brother of Jesus, has been associated with the Ebionites for a very long time. Recall back in Galatians 2:10, James enjoined Paul to “remember the poor”, which has been read as referring to James’ group, the Ebionites (which name is most likely derived from the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “the poor”.)
So we have some indication, or at least a possibility of three different threads of the Jesus tradition: Paul, the Jewish Christians, and the Jewish Christians who became the Ebionites. Now, we are not going to solve the source problems here; what we can do, and what we will do is say that my thesis of “Mark the Weaver” has received some fairly powerful support.
22 Et manducantibus illis, accepit panem et benedicens fregit et dedit eis et ait: “ Sumite: hoc est corpus meum ”.
23 καὶ λαβὼν ποτήριον εὐχαριστήσας ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἔπιον ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες.
And taking the drinking vessel (and) blessing (it), he gave it to them, and all drank from it.
This is kind of different. The language here is not something that has been repeated elsewhere. It certainly was not incorporated into the standard Roman Rite, nor the Anglican celebration of the Eucharist. (I cannot speak of other traditions from personal experience.)
23 Et accepto calice, gratias agens dedit eis; et biberunt ex illo omnes.
24 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν:
And he said to them, “This is my blood, of the covenant which has been poured out for (lit = ‘over’) many.”
After dispensing with the source issues after V-22, we come now to the real point: what the heck does this mean? This is my body? This is my blood? Second question: where did this come from? Now, ritual cannibalism is hardly unknown in world history; however, to the best of my knowledge, there were no major groups practising this in the Ancient Mediterranean world in the First Century. This is not Judaic; it’s not Hellenistic; it’s not Semitic. So what this means, IMO, is that this was a pretty serious and major theoretical innovation on the part of Jesus. And he obviously meant it as metaphorical from the beginning. Here, I think, rather than in the apocalyptic pseudo-predictions of Chapter 13, is where we should look for Jesus “true”, or his “fundamental” message, the real core of his teaching.
Jesus was trying to create something with this meal. If these words, and the words in 1 Corinthians are have any validity as originating with Jesus, the implication, IMO, is that he was trying to institute a New Thing with these words. Assuming that these words authentically originate with Jesus. I think that he was self-consciously doing something that he saw as novel. He was taking the Passover meal and changing the meaning, or at least re-interpreting the meaning. The meaning of ‘covenant’ to anyone Jewish was clear, certain, and fixed. So for Jesus to say ‘the blood of the covenant’, he would be deliberately invoking something that would resonate with Jews. This, I think, is a strong indication that Jesus saw himself as a Jew, speaking to Jews. The idea of the covenant would be meaningless to most pagans; this helps explain why the founders of the Christian Church felt compelled to adopt the Hebrew Scriptures as part of the canonical whole.
[ Along with this, the KJV adds the word ‘new’ to ‘covenant’. I don’t know if this was a manuscript problem or an editorial decision; several mss have come to light since the original translation of the KJV. ]
Now the words << ὑπὲρ πολλῶν >>, ‘over/for many’ are not in Paul’s account. This seems to indicate that they had been added to the tradition in the intervening years. At least, they had been added to one of the traditions of which Mark was aware. Again, this seems to show a broadening of the message; now, non-Jews are included, at least potentially. This represents a change since non-Jews hadn’t been included in the idea of the covenant. And note, Jesus speaks of ‘the covenant’, not a ‘new covenant’, again showing his Jewish focus.
“Many”, of course, could be taken as “many people”, or as “many peoples”. Purely from context, it is difficult to decide which is meant. However, given that this was added later, possibly by non-Jews, there is at least the possibility that it was meant to imply ‘many peoples’. This would connect with the ‘preaching the good news to all the peoples’ that we encountered in 13:10. But note the skill and deft touch here; a couple of non-controversial words could–and possibly did–change the whole meaning of the passage.
So what was Jesus trying to institute? The Kingdom of God? To say this was his intention is almost a tautology. The problem is that we (or at least I) have not pinned down exactly what “Kingdom of God” means. This is something with which I have to grapple in an attempt to try and decide what Jesus–or, more likely, what Mark–understood and intended when using the term.
24 Et ait illis: “ Hic est sanguis meus novi testamenti, qui pro multis effunditur.
25 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ πίω ἐκ τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ὅταν αὐτὸ πίνω καινὸν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.
“Amen I say to you, that never more I drink from the produce of the vine until those days when when I might drink the new (wine) in the kingdom of God.”
And on cue, we get ‘Kingdom of God.” Here, the term obviously has a future tense, rather than something that is here-and-now. What it does not necessarily convey is a sense of ‘other-world’, or ‘beyond-time’, or ‘after-the-End-Times’. We assume this is what Jesus means in these words, but that’s exactly what it is: an assumption, an implication that we read into the words because of 2,000 years of subsequent history. Honestly, this again feels like something added after the Resurrection. We know how the story turns out, that Jesus is about to die, so we “know” what Jesus means. Therefore, any sense of ‘apocalyptic’ implication was a later addition, just like the ‘predictions’ in Chapter 13.
25 Amen dico vobis: Iam non bibam de genimine vitis usque in diem illum, cum illud bibam novum in regno Dei ”.
26 Καὶ ὑμνήσαντες ἐξῆλθον εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν.
And having hymned (sung the hymn), they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Note what is not here: nothing about Peter’s upcoming denial, which happens at the Last Supper in the other gospels.
26 Et hymno dicto, exierunt in montem Olivarum.
27 Καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Πάντες σκανδαλισθήσεσθε, ὅτι γέγραπται, Πατάξω τὸν ποιμένα, καὶ τὰ πρόβατα διασκορπισθήσονται:
And Jesus said to them that, “You will all be made to stumble, that (as) it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ “
This is only one of two uses of the shepherd & sheep metaphor in Mark. This, I think, really indicates how the tradition grew over the years. It was used something like nine or ten times in Matthew and John, but only twice in Luke. This lack of comparability between Matthew and Luke, IMO, is significant, and I think this means we may want to ask some questions about whether this is part of the Q source material.
27 Et ait eis Iesus: “ Omnes scandalizabimini, quia scriptum est: “Percutiam pastorem, et dispergentur oves”.
28 ἀλλὰ μετὰ τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με προάξω ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν.
“But after me having been raised (from the dead, we presumably are to assume), I will go before you to Galilee.”
Two big things: Jesus will be the direct object, rather than the subject of the raising. He will be acted upon. This is not consistent with Jesus as the actor, the active, the acting divinity. So once again, Mark seems ambivalent–at best–about Jesus’ divinity.
Second, he will go ahead of them to Galilee? What? He will go ahead to Galilee? This does not at all square with what the other gospels tell us, in which Jesus appears to the disciples in and around Jerusalem. And Emmaus, of Luke’s gospel, is west of Jerusalem, while Galilee is north, so Jesus would not have been going to Galilee by way of Emmaus. So what does this mean? Note that we are told the same thing in 16:7, by the young man in white who is in the tomb. He told the two Marys and Salome that Jesus has gone ahead to Galilee.
Bart Ehrman had an incredibly clever idea about this. He has suggested that the chief priests and the religious hierarchy were responsible for the empty tomb. They feared Jesus’ tomb becoming a rallying point for Jesus’ followers, so they removed the body. Then, they left one of the young priests, who would have been dressed in dazzling white robes to tell Jesus followers that Jesus had gone to Galilee. The idea was to get Jesus’ followers out of Jerusalem, to get them back to Galilee where they would be Herod’s problem and not their own. However, this topic should probably be discussed relative to Chapter 16.
28 Sed posteaquam resurrexero, praecedam vos in Galilaeam ”.
29 ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἔφη αὐτῷ, Εἰ καὶ πάντες σκανδαλισθήσονται, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐγώ.
Peter said to him, “Even (kai) if all stumble (upon themselves), but not I.” (more poetically: “Everyone else may desert you, but I never will.”)
29 Petrus autem ait ei: “ Et si omnes scandalizati fuerint, sed non ego ”.
30 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν λέγω σοι ὅτι σὺσήμερον ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ πρὶν ἢ δὶς ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ.
And Jesus said to him, “Amen I say to you that you this day, in this night, before twice the cock will sound, thrice you will deny me utterly.”
[ The ‘utterly’ is actually part of the verb. The intensification comes from the prefix, << ἀπ- >>. ]
In the other gospels, this prediction occurs while they are still at table. Here, they are already outside. Interestingly, my commentary to Mark notes that we could skip from V-26, the singing of the hymn, to V-32, the coming to Gethsemane and never suspect that anything had been left out. This seems to support the idea that the shepherd metaphor, and the going ahead to Galilee were added later. It also implies that this prediction of Peter’s denial was retro-fitted into the narrative. Mark chose to put it here, but the others decided to include it while still in the upper room. I presume Mark put it here; is this an instance where a later redactor decided that Mark’s narrative needed the prediction?
One thing: in the allegedly pre-Markan Passion Narrative, scholarly support for Peter’s denials is fairly weak, meaning that many scholars do not think that it was part of the Passion story that came down to Mark. My commentary states that Mark inserted these verses; it need not be so. It could have been an even later addition. Whether it was Mark or someone else who added these verses would be a difficult case to make in either direction, IMO.
30 Et ait illi Iesus: “ Amen dico tibi: Tu hodie, in nocte hac, priusquam bis gallus vocem dederit, ter me es negaturus ”.
31 ὁ δὲ ἐκπερισσῶς ἐλάλει, Ἐὰν δέῃ με συναποθανεῖν σοι, οὐ μή σε ἀπαρνήσομαι. ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ πάντες ἔλεγον.
He (Peter) spoke more vehemently, “if it must be that they kill me with you, I will not utterly deny you.” In this way all (of them) spoke.
As with the comments about the beautiful architecture at the beginning of Chapter 13, so here we have a classic set-up line. What does Peter do? Profess his willingness to die before he denies Jesus. So what does the audience know Peter is going to do? Deny Jesus, just as predicted. This part is transparently (IMO) a literary device, invented by Mark (or someone else) to set Peter up for the eventual fall, in a mini-morality play, or a mini-Greek tragedy.
31 At ille amplius loquebatur: “ Et si oportuerit me commori tibi, non te negabo ”. Similiter autem et omnes dicebant.
This will be another artificial break in the story; at least it will end on the same note that the previous post did, with a comment on Judas the betrayer. At the end of the last section, Judas was looking for a way to betray Jesus.
12 Καὶ τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῶν ἀζύμων, ὅτε τὸ πάσχα ἔθυον, λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, Ποῦ θέλεις ἀπελθόντες ἑτοιμάσωμεν ἵνα φάγῃς τὸ πάσχα;
And on the first day of the (celebration of) the unleavened bread, when they generally killed the paschal (lamb), his disciples said to him, “Where do you wish that going out we will prepare in order that you may eat the paschal (meal).
Several things in a seemingly innocuous sentence. First, the tense and person of the verb ‘to kill’. It is third person imperfect, which carries the idea of a repeated or habitual action. So, being third person, ‘when they generally killed”. I am struck by the ‘they’; not, ‘we’, but ‘they’. Now, this may be meaningless, but it seems to imply a degree of separation from Judaism; otherwise, why not put thi in the passive, ‘when the paschal lamb was generally killed’. Admittedly, however, this may not really be significant.
Second, there is a big controversy about the timing. In the Synoptics, it has always seemed clear to me that what has become known as The Last Supper was actually a Passover Seder. John, however, very clearly puts the day of the meal on the night before the start of Passover, on the Day of Preparation. This is the day on which the lamb was killed, the day before the Seder was held. Of late, I have come across attempts to synchronize the two time-schedules, so that the apparent discrepancy goes away. Now, reading this, it does seem ambiguous; the disciples are asking, on the Day of Preparation, when to hold what I believe is the Seder, the Pascha ( which = both the Latin and the transliterated Greek.)
This is another of those discussions among academics that can rage without ever being completely settled. What I get from this is that the author was not completely familiar with the practices of 2nd Temple Judaism. Quite frankly, the attempt to be precise has come off as ambiguous; what is meant by the ‘first day of the unleavened bread’? Is it the Day of Preparation, or the day of the Seder? That we cannot be completely sure about this indicates, to me, that the text is not completely clear. The other thing is that John’s setting of the crucifixion on the Day of Preparation is recognized as a theological, rather than an historical, point. My sense is that the Last Supper was, indeed a Seder, or that Mark understood this as a Seder, or intended this to be taken as a Seder. The attempt to synchronize this with John, I think, is probably an overzealous impulse for consistency.
And it seems that John’s willingness to alter details like this to suit theological intent should be a serious warning for us. “Truth” with a capital-T should never be sullied by mere facts.
However, as always, I’m open to new information, new interpretation, or new explanation.
12 Et primo die Azymorum, quando Pascha immolabant, dicunt ei discipuli eius: “ Quo vis eamus et paremus, ut manduces Pascha? ”.
13 καὶ ἀποστέλλει δύο τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν πόλιν, καὶ ἀπαντήσει ὑμῖν ἄνθρωπος κεράμιον ὕδατος βαστάζων: ἀκολουθήσατε αὐτῷ,
And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and you will happen upon (lit = ‘stand down on’) a man carrying a jar of water. Follow him.”
Once again, Jesus making a prediction, just as he did at the beginning of Chapter 11. Such predictions have become relatively commonplace since Chapter 11. In fact, they pretty much started in Chapter 11, with the exceptions of the coming kingdom in Chapter 1, and the parable of the bridegroom leaving the party in Chapter 2. And those seem to be of a different sort than those we’ve seen since.
13 Et mittit duos ex discipulis suis et dicit eis: “ Ite in civitatem, et occurret vobis homo lagoenam aquae baiulans; sequimini eum
14 καὶ ὅπου ἐὰν εἰσέλθῃ εἴπατε τῷ οἰκοδεσπότῃ ὅτι Ὁ διδάσκαλος λέγει, Ποῦ ἐστιν τὸ κατάλυμά μου ὅπου τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου φάγω;
“And wherever he may enter, say to the lord of the house that “The teacher said, ‘where is my lodging where I eat the Pascha(l meal) with my disciples?’
I think the interesting thing here is a glimpse into the world of the First Century. Apparently, there were rooms that could be engaged for large (at least largish) gatherings. This makes sense in the context in a wolrd of small houses; even then, space, interior space cost money. We are not told if money changed hands, but it’s hard to imagine that it didn’t, at least in the normal course of affairs.
I guess the question is: What was Mark trying to convey here? Is this just a throw-away bit of narrative? A chance for Jesus to make his prediction? Or is there some other implication? One commentary I consulted suggests that Jesus had made the arrangements beforehand, and that the carrying of a water jar was the signal meant to identify the man to the disciples; this was sort of a code like spies use, because it would normally be a woman carrying water. I think this stretches the point.
14 et, quocumque introierit, dicite domino domus: “Magister dicit: Ubi est refectio mea, ubi Pascha cum discipulis meis manducem?”.
15 καὶ αὐτὸς ὑμῖν δείξει ἀνάγαιον μέγα ἐστρωμένον ἕτοιμον: καὶ ἐκεῖ ἑτοιμάσατε ἡμῖν.
“And he will show you a large reclining room above the ground having been made ready; and there you will prepare (the meal) for us.”
15 Et ipse vobis demonstrabit cenaculum grande stratum paratum; et illic parate nobis ”.
16 καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ καὶ ἦλθον εἰς τὴν πόλιν καὶ εὗρον καθὼς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἡτοίμασαν τὸ πάσχα.
And the disciples going out, and they went into the city and they found (the man) accordingly, and he spoke with them, and they prepared the Passover.
Based on all this, it seems difficult to believe that they were not preparing the Seder. As for the arrangements, it’s possible that Jesus made them beforehand, or it’s possible that the disciples made them on the spot with someone known to Jesus and the story came about how Jesus ‘predicted’ all of this. But, the point remains that we have to ask how seriously we are to take these passages, anmd what Mark intended to convey.
16 Et abierunt discipuli et venerunt in civitatem et invenerunt, sicut dixerat illis, et paraverunt Pascha.
17 Καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης ἔρχεται μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα.
And it becoming evening, he came with the Twelve.
Should this be ‘the rest of the Twelve? Or were the two sent ahead not part of the Twelve?
17 Et vespere facto, venit cum Duodecim.
18 καὶ ἀνακειμένων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐσθιόντων ὁἸησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι εἷς ἐξ ὑμῶν παραδώσει με, ὁ ἐσθίων μετ’ ἐμοῦ.
And they reclining and eaten, Jesus said, “Amen I say to you, that one of you will hand me over, one eating with me.”
Another prediction, this one very dramatic.
18 Et discumbentibus eis et manducantibus, ait Iesus: “ Amen dico vobis: Unus ex vobis me tradet, qui manducat mecum ”.
19 ἤρξαντο λυπεῖσθαι καὶ λέγειν αὐτῷ εἷς κατὰ εἷς, Μήτι;
And they began to become and they said to him, one by one, “It is not I?”
19 Coeperunt contristari et dicere ei singillatim: “ Numquid ego? ”.
20 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Εἷς τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ ἐμβαπτόμενος μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἰς τὸ τρύβλιον.
Then he said to them, “One of the twelve, the one dipping with me in the dish.”
Before getting to the main point, recall how I said that we would be justified in calling him “John the Dunker”? Here we have an example of ‘baptizo’ used in its common sense: the one who “embaptizon” (‘is dipping’) in the dish. Think of someone dunking a doughnut into a cup of coffee.
The main point is that other gospels explicitly tell us that Judas then dipped his bread into the dish after Jesus said this. Mark does not. Why not? Because it’s too obvious? If it’s so obvious, why do the other evangelists feel the need to make it explicit? Here’s a thought: the name of Judas was inserted later; prior to Mark it was just ‘one of the twelve’.
The Passion narrative referred to previously does not include the accounts of the Last Supper. It begins in Gethsemane, which is where we’re headed shortly, so we don’t get an indication of how deeply Judas’ name was attached to the Betrayer. But this is the second time we’ve had an unnamed participant: we didn’t get the name of the woman who broke the perfume on Jesus. Now, you can say I’m being overly picky, and to a point you’d be right, especially since Judas was named previously. OTOH, having done a fair bit of writing, I realize that writers usually include some things and leave out others for reasons. Now, given Mark’s brevity, he may have been saving the pen-strokes, ink, and parchment space. But, once again, I feel it proper to ask the question. Individual instances combine into patterns. If we see enough individual instances, we are justified to draw a generalized conclusion.
Is there a general pattern in Mark? If so, what does it mean? Does it mean that later writers took Mark’s text and filled it out with additional details? And let’s bear one other thing in mind: Mark’s version of the Gerasene demonaic is longer than the story told by Matthew. Mark felt it worthwhile to include stuff that Matthew left out; why did Mark leave out Judas here? Is it the case where someone did a ‘search and replace’ function, inserting Judas’ name most of the time, but missing a couple?
The link to the Pre-Markan Passion is here. Note that 14:43 is coded red, which means that most of the scholars agree that this verse is Pre-Markan. It includes Judas’ name. Just bear in mind that the fact that Judas’ name was in the account before it reached Mark does not mean that the account was factually accurate. If you look at how layers of new material around historically accurate kernels of actual fact, you will find that names accrue almost as often as the fall away. The Arthur legend is the best example; however, let it be said that it had a thousand years to accrue figures like Launcelot, Gawaine, Percival, and Galahad, and that poets deliberately embellished the ‘historical record’. Basically, this record consists of the following: Arthur did exist, and he apparently was a successful war leader of the Britons against the Saxons. That’s it.
20 Qui ait illis: “ Unus ex Duodecim, qui intingit mecum in catino.
21 ὅτι ὁ μὲν υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὑπάγει καθὼς γέγραπται περὶ αὐτοῦ, οὐαὶ δὲ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι’ οὗ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται: καλὸν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθηὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος.
“While the son of man go accordingly as it is written about him, ‘woe to that man, through whom the son of man is handed over. Better for that man that he should never have come into being.’ “
[ alternative: While events should go for the son of man as they are written about him, OTOH, woe to the man… ]
Here is a great use of << μὲν…δὲ >>, which I’ve bolded. Without the << μὲν…δὲ >>, one would need several more explanatory words to make the contrast. But << μὲν…δὲ >> does it very elegantly.
21 Nam Filius quidem hominis vadit, sicut scriptum est de eo. Vae autem homini illi, per quem Filius hominis traditur! Bonum est ei, si non esset natus homo ille ”.
Here, we finish with ‘it is written’ about the son of man. Again, the intent is to assure us that what happened to Jesus was all part of The Plan, that not only did Jesus expect it, but that this was how it had to be. And, if Jesus’ followers, such as the Twelve, didn’t know that Jesus would be killed, they should have, since they were warned about it.
The problem, of course. is that Jesus’ death did come as a shock to his followers. Or, at least, it may have. To be completely honest, I don’t believe we have a clue about how his followers reacted. Well, maybe a clue; by the time Paul wrote, that Jesus had not only died, but that he had been executed like a common criminal was pretty much well-known, and as time went on, his followers came to see this execution as something that, if they weren’t proud of it, they were increasingly less ashamed of it.
Now here’s a thought: I’ve suggested several times that Jesus’ followers, rather than minimizing, actually played up Jesus’ relationship with John the Dunker. I’ve suggested that it was to give Jesus more of a pedigree; but what about this: what if the connection was magnified to demonstrate how or why Jesus also ran afoul of the local and/or religious authorities of the Jewish people, and, as with John, they were ones responsible for Jesus’ death? Why? Again, to explain to the pagan audience that becoming a follower of Jesus was not an act of treason against the Roman State.
This, I think, should not be underestimated. In the new book, Zealot, The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan. of which I have read only the first chapter (which is available online in various places), the author tells us that crucifixion was the punishment reserved by the Romans for insurrection. While I am not completely convinced of this, the existence of the book indicates that there is good evidence for a ‘political’ agenda for Jesus.
Bear in mind that the period between Jesus’ final years and the writing of the gospels were some of the most notorious years of the Roman Empire. According to Tacitus, much of this started with Tiberius who came up with the crime of <<maiestas>>, which has been translated into French as ‘lesé majesté‘. The idea is that the perpetrator has lessened the majesty of the emperor. The point is that it was a bad time to be crossing Roman authority. So this gave the followers of Jesus even more reason to stand apart from the Jews who had just rebelled, and to placate the Roman authorities, who were not terribly forgiving on the best of days.
This will need to be a topic in the summary of Mark.
I put a link to this site in my last post, but I’ve had a chance to read some more of the stuff. The result is that it’s even better than I first thought, so I highly recommend taking a look. Or more than one.
The title of the blog is the transliteration of “The Goodnews According to Mark”, which is the title in Greek.
With Chapter 14, we come to the story of the Passion.
1 ην δὲ τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας. καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς πῶς αὐτὸν ἐν δόλῳ κρατήσαντες ἀποκτείνωσιν:
It was the Passover, and the (celebration of the) unleavened (bread) after two days, and the high priests and the scribe were seeking how taking hold of him by craft they might kill him.
[ The Greek is a bit convoluted here, but the meaning is clear enough. So, while it’s a bit of a consensus translation, it does no real violence to the underlying meaning.] Note that we are now encountering the high priests as the antagonists. Until this point and for the most part, the group that was particularly opposed to Jesus was the scribes. Now, however, that the scene has moved to Jerusalem, we find that the high priests are involved. This implies that the highest religious authorities of the Jewish people were conspiring to kill Jesus. This is the second time that we are told that the authorities wanted to kill him; the first was back in 3:16, when it was the Pharisees and the Herodians. Now, it’s the high priests and scribes. What does this mean? Well, the obvious meaning is that these four groups wanted to kill Jesus. But should we believe that?
IMO, the level of credibility here is unclear. We were told the Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to kill Jesus after he healed the man with the withered hand on the sabbath. Why did that upset these two? Neither of these really had any religious authority. The Pharisees had no particular authority. OTOH, the Herodians, presumably, had secular authority, but would they be interested in killing Jesus over some perceived religious issue? Given the history of the Herodians, I think not, unless they were trying to ingratiate themselves with the religious community for whatever reason. However, given that they ruled based on Roman military power, maybe not so much.
As for the high priests and the scribes, what is their motive? The ‘cleansing of the Temple’? If what Jesus did was so terrible, why wasn’t he arrested on the spot?
This goes to the heart of the question of why Jesus was killed. It is impossible for our time to ascertain the real level of authority that the Jewish ‘authorities’ held. Josephus tells us that the Herodians often acted first and got Rome’s backing later. Can we believe this? Or were the Herodians acting with Roman agreement from the outset? The point is thrown out that the Jewish authorities were particularly concerned about the Roman attitude towards Jewish turbulence, with the understanding that the Jews had to walk on eggshells so that the Romans didn’t…what? Intervene? Depose them, and replace them with a new set of puppets? Yes, but who cares about what the Jewish authorities felt? They had very little real power, especially in Jerusalem. Herod, in Galilee, had more latitude of movement. If he was so concerned about Jesus and his preaching in Galilee, why not just arrest him then? He had no qualms about arresting and executing John the Baptist. Maybe Herod became slightly concerned about ‘public opinion’, but to the extent that he would risk alienating the Romans because he was afraid to squash a popular preacher? Something tells me no.
The thing is, the Romans, not to put too fine a point on it, didn’t give a rat’s ass about public opinion, or due process, or any sort of niceties when it came to possible sedition. If Herod, or the high priests, or any prominent group in the province had reason to want to eliminate a popular preacher, I see no reason why they could not simply tell the Romans that Jesus was an instigator bent on stirring up insurrection. That would have ended the matter with typical Roman efficiency and dispatch. Jesus would have been arrested and summarily executed without much ado or fanfare, and even less scruple on the Romans’ part. These guys were right bloody bastards who had no qualms about executing troublemakers. In fact, in Livy, we are told of the father who executed his son for disobeying an order, the consequences of which were fairly minimal. And this was seen as a good thing.
No. Had the Herodians actually wanted Jesus dead when he was in Galilee, Jesus would have been dead. If the high priests in Jerusalem wanted Jesus dead, a word to the leader of the Roman garrison probably would have sufficed. If the Romans were at all concerned about Jewish sensibilities in the arrest of Jesus–and that is a very big if–those sensibilities would have been more that assuaged by the fact that it was the Jewish authorities that were turning Jesus in. Remember: this was the time of Tiberius; if you read Tacitus’ Annales, you will find that Tiberius was executing Romans of fine senatorial families on trumped-up charges. If the Emperor didn’t scruple to kill perceived enemies of high rank, the idea that the Roman governor in Judea would be squeamish about killing some nobody Jew is borderline ludicrous.
So what is going on here? More to come.
1 Erat autem Pascha et Azyma post biduum. Et quaerebant summi sacerdotes et scribae, quomodo eum dolo tenerent et occiderent;
2 ἔλεγον γάρ, Μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, μή ποτε ἔσται θόρυβος τοῦ λαοῦ.
For they said, “Not in the festival, not when there will be an uproar of the people.”
What does this mean? “Uproar” has been translated as “riot”, but this is taking the word too far, IMO. It means, at base, “noise”, but particularly the noise of a crowded assembly. So it could be read as “outcry”, I suppose, but it could just as easily be read as “applause”. Now, the Latin << tumultus>>, can be read more easily as “disturbance”. which then can be stretched to “riot” I suppose. The second problem is the tense of the verb: it’s a future indicative, middle voice. Future indicative means that it’s a statement that something will occur, without any real sense of doubt. Not that it may occur, or could occur, which would be normally be subjunctive voice, but that it will occur. IOW, the high priests feel they know this for a fact.
Why would this happen? Presumably because the people would be upset about Jesus. But again, why? In the next verse we will be informed that he is staying in Bethany, which we more or less knew from Chapter 11. We are also told he’s staying in the house of Simon the Leper. IOW, he’s staying outside Jerusalem, with someone who (presumably) was a leper. IOW, he doesn’t have anyone more respectable to stay with inside the city walls. IOW, he doesn’t have much of a following inside Jerusalem. So why are the people going to riot? Because they would riot for Jesus? Not bloody likely, is it? Or because they would riot about anyone being arrested and killed. Possible, I suppose, but we don’t get the sense that Jerusalem was exactly a powder keg from Josephus’ description of the time, nor in his description of Jesus, which is very brief, if heavily doctored by subsequent Christian copyists.
So what’s the deal?
Ever since Albert Schweitzer (yes, that Albert Schweitzer) there has been an assumption, or even an insistence that Jesus’ death had to be related in some way to Jesus’ teaching or actions. The question is “why?” Why is this necessary? Frankly, from any historical point of view, it’s simply not necessary. The Romans executed people for all sorts of reasons, or sometimes for no good reason whatsoever. It was part of their charm. Given that they were extremely prone to this sort of brutal behaviour, why do we have to assume that Jesus was killed for something he did, or even something he said?
Here’s where we get to the crux of the matter. If Jesus was killed because of his ministry, the group most likely to be responsible would be the Jewish authorities, since they are the ones who would have had most reason to be offended, or threatened, or annoyed by Jesus. But, if he was killed for something unrelated to his ministry, the likely suspect shifts. Now, it is the Romans who were most likely to have killed Jesus. Indeed, we are given this amazing story of how the Jewish authorities tied themselves in knots to drum up some sort of charge so that they could beg and plead and cajole the Romans into executing Jesus. As we stated, the Romans really did not need much of a reason.
Given this proclivity, isn’t it most likely that Jesus was killed because of the Romans? And given this, why do we have to assume that they had any reason to kill Jesus that was related to his ministry? And if these two premises are true, should we not assume that the whole story of the high priests drumming up charges probably isn’t true? That, in fact, what Mark has done is set us off on the path towards Antisemitism by concocting more or less fictitious reasons for the Jewish authorities wanting to kill Jesus? Why? So that the blame would not be laid on the Romans.
Remember: the Jews have just been savagely crushed when Mark was writing. How better to show your bona fides with the oppressor than to blame the Jews, who just rebelled? And how better to separate yourself from the Jews, than by blaming them for the death of Jesus? Bear in mind, too, at the time Mark wrote, we have probably hit the tipping point at which most converts were now pagans, rather than Jews. The destruction of the Jewish Assembly, at one time led by James, brother of Jesus, would have gone a long way towards shifting the impetus to converting pagans rather than Jews. IOW, the assemblies started by Paul would have begun to supersede the older Jewish assemblies. So the idea of Jesus’ followers separating themselves from Jews would not have been just a reflexive and defensive reaction, but one that arose from the actual differences in the background, heritage, and ethnicity of the converts.
The result? I don’t particularly believe a lot of what is to follow.
2 dicebant enim: “ Non in die festo, ne forte tumultus fieret populi ”.
3 Καὶ ὄντος αὐτοῦ ἐν Βηθανίᾳ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳΣίμωνος τοῦ λεπροῦ κατακειμένου αὐτοῦ ἦλθεν γυνὴ ἔχουσα ἀλάβαστρον μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς: συντρίψασα τὴν ἀλάβαστρον κατέχεεν αὐτοῦ τῆς κεφαλῆς.
And he being in Bethany, and reclining (= eating dinner) in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him having an alabaster jar of pure (lit = ‘faithful’) nard (that was) very expensive. She broke the alabaster, and poured it on his head.
I have to say, while I realize that having expensive perfume, or ointment poured on you was considered a good thing back then, can’t say as it sounds all that appealing.
In the previous comment I said that Jesus was staying in the house of Simon the Leper; I hadn’t read this closely enough. He was only eating dinner there; however, the point remains that he was apparently staying in Bethany. Chapter 11 tells us this pretty specifically; upon arriving, he went to the Temple, then retired to Bethany in the evening. Then he entered into Jerusalem on the donkey from Bethany, and he returned there after ‘clearing’ the Temple. And here he is again. Note that in John, we will be told that he was staying with Mary and Martha, whereas Mark leaves the host(ess) unknown. Why does Jesus stay in Bethany? Why doesn’t Mark name names, but later gospels do? These are questions that the historian has to ask, the implications of the text that need to be addressed.
Why does Jesus stay there? As I mentioned, likely that he wasn’t familiar enough with anyone in Jerusalem, but that he had a group of well-wishers in Bethany. The standard line of speculation is that these would be disciples, of a sort. People who had heard Jesus’ message and asked him to stay with them. That’s a very nice, and a very tidy supposition, but we have to realize it is based on absolutely no evidence. We have no reason to prefer this explanation over another, such as maybe they were family friends, or perhaps relatives, cousins, that sort of thing. Now, this has ramifications for exactly how popular, or how widely known Jesus was, whether he was sought after, or generally unknown outside Galilee. Mark has certainly made it sound like Jesus was popular, but we really have nothing but his word for it. Of course, having some woman anoint him may indicate that someone, at least, had reason to provide such an extravagant ministration.
Who were these people, both his hosts and the woman? That is impossible to say from what we have here; frankly, Mark doesn’t seem particularly concerned about this sort of detail, but then he tells us the name of Simon the Leper. Here, IMO, we may be justified to infer that Simon may have been one of the beneficiaries of Jesus’ wonder working? In a couple of different places, we are told Jesus “healed many”.
We also know that the story of the woman with the nard became attached to Mary Magdalene. It’s interesting to ask why Mark did not know her name. Here’s a thought: It has been suggested that Mary M, and some of the other women named in the gospels, were women of some substance, who were able to support Jesus and his followers financially. Perhaps Mary Magdalene lived after Jesus; that she was a supporter of the group that was becoming a ‘church’. Wouldn’t it be interesting if she had her name added to the later gospels, because, by the time Matthew wrote, she had been a significant supporter? Of course, this is pure speculation, but we have to ask why her name, and the names of Mary and Martha of Bethany were not recorded by Mark, but they were by later gospels. Usually, details get lost, not gained. Or do they? The simplest possibility is that later evangelists named names because they just made them up to make the whole thing sound more authentic. So, compared to that, isn’t it a nicer story to suppose that Magdalene was a real person, if later? (My apologies to Dan Brown here, but it’s not like he was the first to come up with that theory; The Last Temptation of Christ (by the author of Zorba The Greek) predated Brown’s work by a several decades.
3 Et cum esset Bethaniae in domo Simonis leprosi et recumberet, venit mulier habens alabastrum unguenti nardi puri pretiosi; fracto alabastro, effudit super caput eius.
4 ἦσαν δέ τινες ἀγανακτοῦντες πρὸς ἑαυτούς, Εἰς τί ἡ ἀπώλεια αὕτη τοῦ μύρου γέγονεν;
There were some complaining amongst themselves. “For what (reason) was this perfume wasted?”
4 Erant autem quidam indigne ferentes intra semetipsos: “ Ut quid perditio ista unguenti facta est?
5 ἠδύνατο γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ μύρον πραθῆναι ἐπάνω δηναρίων τριακοσίων καὶ δοθῆναι τοῖς πτωχοῖς: καὶ ἐνεβριμῶντο αὐτῇ.
“For this perfume could be sold more than three hundred denarii, and be given to the poor.” And they muttered against her.
5 Poterat enim unguentum istud veniri plus quam trecentis denariis et dari pauperibus ”. Et fremebant in eam.
6 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν,Ἄφετε αὐτήν: τί αὐτῇ κόπους παρέχετε; καλὸν ἔργον ἠργάσατο ἐν ἐμοί.
But Jesus said, “Leave her. Why do you have upon her trouble? She has done (a) good thing for me.”
[Note: it is difficult to render the Greek verb tenses in English in a way that both preserves the tense of the original, and yet makes sense in English. The first word of V-5, “is able to” is past-tense in Greek; in English it has to be rendered as a subjunctive because what the perfume is able to fetch on the market is theoretical. ]
6 Iesus autem dixit: “ Sinite eam; quid illi molesti estis? Bonum opus operata est in me.
7 πάντοτε γὰρ τοὺς πτωχοὺς ἔχετε μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν, καὶ ὅταν θέλητε δύνασθε αὐτοῖς εὖ ποιῆσαι, ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε.
“For always the poor you have with you, and when you wish to give to them you can easily (lit = ‘well’) do (so). Me you will not always have.”
Here Jesus makes another allusion to his coming demise. I have noted that the number of such ‘predictions’ that he makes leaps upwards in these later chapters.
7 Semper enim pauperes habetis vobiscum et, cum volueritis, potestis illis bene facere; me autem non semper habetis.
8 ὃ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν: προέλαβεν μυρίσαι τὸ σῶμά μου εἰς τὸν ἐν ταφιασμόν.
“What she has done is what she had (i.e., “what she had in her power to do”), to anoint me for the entombment.”
[ Both the Greek and Latin verbs refer to tombs, rather than internment, or burial. ]
8 Quod habuit, operata est: praevenit ungere corpus meum in sepulturam.
9 ἀμὴν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ὅπου ἐὰν κηρυχθῇ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον εἰς ὅλον τὸν κόσμον, καὶ ὃ ἐποίησεν αὕτη λαληθήσεται εἰς μνημόσυνον αὐτῆς.
“Amen I say to you, when the good news (lit = ‘good news’) has been proclaimed to the whole world, and what she has done will be spoken to the memorializing of her.”
[ “memorializing” is a bit awkward, but it really captures the Greek. Also, ‘proclaim’ I think, neatly splits the difference between ‘announce’, which is what the Greek actually says, and ‘preach’, which is what is normally done to the gospel (lit=’good news’. ]
Odd: she will be memorialized, but we won’t tell you her name. The moral here is that, it was what she did, not who she was that’s the important thing here. In the corporate world, we’d call this the takeaway.
But here’s a more significant point: “when the good news has been proclaimed to the entire world”. This is the second mention of this idea; the first was in 13:10. IOW, very late in the gospel. Prior to Chapter 13, there is no indication of Jesus preaching to Gentiles, with the possible exception of the people of Geresene (5:3). We were never really told why Jesus went there; was it to exorcise Legion? The only other times when Gentiles are even mentioned is, obliquely, when they went to the territory of Sidon & Tyre (7:24), but we’re never told that they interacted with any Gentiles; and when Jesus is approached by the Syro-Phoenician woman (7:27), which is on this same trip.
Now, the immediate reaction may be to claim that these are interpolations; however, in this instance, it’s probably not that simple. Rather, I think it represents the ex-post justification of what had been happening anyway. We know for certain that, at some point, more converts came from pagan backgrounds than Jewish backgrounds. That is obvious from the demographics. The question is, when did that happen? It happened at some point before this verse, and probably after verse 13:10. So why aren’t these just interpolations? Well, a likely example of an interpolation is 1:1; the addition of ‘son of God’. or even, ‘Christ, son of God”. These are a few words added to the end of the sentence, They could just be marginal notes that were later incorporated to the body of the text via sloppy copying, or perhaps they were added to clarify, or reinforce the message. However, adding the preaching of to all the peoples is not just a few words, and it represents a major shift in the message of Jesus. To the point of 13:10, Jesus’ interest in Gentiles is limited, to be generous. Now, to have him require that the gospel has to be proclaimed to all the peoples is a serious shift in priorities. In all likelihood, this passage could not have come into being before Paul’s evangelical missions. In all likelihood, it came about rather later; a decade would be the bare minimum, IMO. To warrant inclusion in the gospels the number of non-Jewish had to grow to critical mass, to the point where it had long-since stopped being controversial. I think a decade is an absolute minimum, which puts us into the 60s, perhaps the mid-60s, which would be about +/-10 years before Mark wrote this.
And, there’s no reason it could not have been added after Mark wrote his gospel. Paul gives us what is called a terminus post-quem; it could not have happened before Paul, but there’s no real hard stop on the other end. It feels like something added after the destruction of the Temple.
Now, what does this do to 13:10? If the part about preaching to all the peoples was a later addition, is this entire chapter a later addition? Perhaps. but not necessarily. A sentence or two could have been added. But, at the very least, we have to ask that question. The story of the woman anointing Jesus could easily be the sort of thing that was invented later. And so could Jesus’ ‘prediction’ of the destruction of the Temple. To some degree, they both are intended to show us that Jesus knew what was going to happen. This has to make us even more suspicious of Jesus the Apocalyptic Preacher.
9 Amen autem dico vobis: Ubicumque praedicatum fuerit evangelium in universum mundum, et, quod fecit haec, narrabitur in memoriam eius ”.
10 Καὶ ἸούδαςἸσκαριὼθ ὁ εἷς τῶν δώδεκα ἀπῆλθεν πρὸς τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς ἵνα αὐτὸν παραδοῖ αὐτοῖς.
And Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off towards the high priests in order to hand him (Jesus) over to them.
10 Et Iudas Iscarioth, unus de Duodecim, abiit ad summos sacerdotes, ut proderet eum illis.
11οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες ἐχάρησαν καὶ ἐπηγγείλαντο αὐτῷ ἀργύριον δοῦναι. καὶ ἐζήτει πῶς αὐτὸν εὐκαίρως παραδοῖ.
Hearing him, they rejoiced and promised to give him money (lit = ‘small pieces of silver’). And he sought how to hand him over opportunely.
11 Qui audientes gavisi sunt et promiserunt ei pecuniam se daturos. Et quaerebat quomodo illum opportune traderet.
First, ‘opportunely’ is a horrible choice of words, but it’s the best at capturing the Greek, which literally is ‘a good season’. So, an ‘opportunity’, but used as an adjective.
Secondly, very sudden change of topic, no? This is the second mention of Judas; the first being when he was named one of the Twelve, in 3:19, and we were told that he would be the one who handed Jesus over. And there was no spoiler alert! Do I believe that 1) Jesus was betrayed?; and 2) that, if so, was the betrayer’s name Judas, with the possible surname of Iscariot?
The site, Early Christian Writings http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/, indicates that there was a pre-Markan passion story, and it begins with the scene in Gethsemane, when the high priests came to arrest him. I really do recommend taking a look; http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/passion-young.html. The text is color-coded, indicating how many scholars agree that a particular passage is authentic. A high number believes that the part about Judas being the betrayer is authentic. For the moment, I’m going to declare myself agnostic on this topic, and save it for later, when we come to that in the narrative.
Finally, we are told that Judas was promised–but not given–‘money’, The literal meaning of the word is ‘little pieces of silver’. We don’t know how many. But silver was more valuable than bronze, which is what the denarius was made of (the root of the English ‘penny’. This is why, if you go to a hardware store for 16-penny nails, you will–at least, you may see–them labeled as “16d”. At least. I have seen such labels as a kid). But they are ‘little pieces’, as opposed to full-sized coins. Ancient monetary systems are not my specialty, so I do not feel qualified to estimate how much Jesus’ life was worth. I would be curious to know if these ‘little pieces of silver’ were worth more than the 300 denarii at which the jar of perfume was valued. I tend to suspect so, but I could be wrong.
What do we have in Chapter 13?
This is an apocalyptic vision. No one would dispute that. The problem is to decide what that means, whether Jesus said anything like this, and what the author, whether Jesus, Mark, or someone in between meant by the words.
As stated, some of the QHJ scholars believe that preaching the apocalypse was Jesus’ primary message. They have, and put forward, excellent arguments for their position, but I don’t believe I agree with them. My disagreement is based on context. The gospel begins with John the Baptist, who preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We have no indication that he preached apocalypse. Yes, there were some at least quasi-apocalyptic writings among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and John may have been associated with that sect, and he may have shared some of these apocalyptic views. But that is a long chain of contingencies, without a clear link between any of them.
After John was arrested, we are told that Jesus said ‘the time is fulfilled’, and as a consequence he began preaching that the kingdom of God was nigh. ‘Nigh’, or ‘at hand’, or ‘approaching’ can mean a lot of things, and one of these things could be apocalypse.; in fact, this is how the ‘coming kingdom of God’ has come to be interpreted. The funny thing is, unless ‘kingdom of God’ = ‘apocalypse’, the apocalypse theme pretty much disappears from Jesus’ message until after the Transfiguration. Even in the more oblique “kingdom of God” form, the apocalypse theme pretty much disappears until Chapter 9. The major exception is Chapter 4, in which we get the parable of the sower, and two others that compare the kingdom of God to seeds that are planted. These seeds then grow, naturally and over time, like the mustard seed, until it becomes large enough for birds to build nests. These do not strike me as apocalyptic messages.
The non-occurrence of the apocalyptic theme strikes me as peculiar. By definition, a primary message is one that is stressed repeatedly and consistently. A primary message is not one that disappears for almost two-thirds of the work. Given that, I find it difficult to accept that apocalypse was Jesus’ primary message.
Then we come to Chapter 13, which is all apocalypse, all the time. We noted some peculiarities of this chapter: most of it is direct speech from Jesus, and it’s far and away the longest single speech of Jesus in all of Mark. It feels like a coherent whole, and like a self-contained unit. It could be removed and no one would notice that it wasn’t there. The other similar story is the one relating the death of the Baptist. What does that mean?
I believe it means that each of these stories came down to Mark, more or less intact as he wrote them into his gospel. These represent genuine traditions of Jesus and John that were carried independently of some of the other traditions that Mark knew. The existence of these two stories is a large part of the reason I believe that Mark’s basic accomplishment was to merge several strands of tradition together into a more-or-less coherent whole; but it is a whole where the seams sometimes show, and this is, IMO, a great example of the seams. There is one at each end of the story.
Assuming that my multiple-strands thesis is correct, what does that imply? Basically, that different people heard different things from the message of Jesus. I will discuss this further in my summary of Mark; for now, I want to focus on the apocalypse. Some people who heard Jesus’ message believed that Jesus was preaching apocalypse. Or, which is a very different thing, they were able to interpret the ideas presented by Jesus as predictions of apocalypse. Again, this is where a more specialised background would be of enormous help, the better to understand the role of apocalyptic thought and writing in the First Century. The most famous example of such writing is Daniel; there we find a commentary of the contemporary world, the world of Seleucid rulers set in the distant past, in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. It is similar to the movie M*A*S*H, which sought to criticise the Vietnam war by using the Korean War as its setting. Perhaps Chapter 13 does something similar: it talks of a past event as something that is ‘coming’.
In fact, this addresses one of the main pillars of the Jesus the Apocalyptic Preacher argument. These scholars argue that the inclusion of the passage that the current generation will not die until the events foretold had occurred would have been an embarrassment to the early church. The church, the argument goes, would have realized that Jesus was ‘wrong’, because the events had not occurred, even though several generations had passed. As such, there must have been a strong impetus compelling them to include this passage; this impetus, they argue, was that Jesus actually said these words.
Fair enough. This chain of logic seems to have some merit; but only if the members of the early church understood the passage the way we understand the passage. What if they understood that the passage should be taken as I have suggested? In which case, members of the current generation were alive when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus was right!
Bear in mind,that in the early-mid 70s CE, the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was a highly sensitive issue for both sides. The Romans were still not thrilled with the Judean situation, and it was certainly still freshly traumatic for the Jews who had experienced the decapitation of their central place of worship. Did Mark seek to talk about this, by removing the setting back three or four decades? In this way he could comment on the war and the abomination of desolation without seeming to be criticising the Romans. Matthew will take the theme a little farther by having Jesus weep over the coming destruction: by that point, perhaps enough time had elapsed that he could be less veiled in his implications by having Jesus mourn the ‘coming’ destruction of Jerusalem in ‘advance’ of the ‘coming’ event.
It’s also possible that Mark simply composed this chapter largely by himself. He didn’t receive the ‘tradition’, he created it. For him, or for some of his audience the Jewish War was an open wound. While very painful to the touch, it needed to be cleaned out and perhaps cauterized. How better to do this than to have Jesus ‘predict’ this event? Against this, we have the references–really the reference–in 1 Thessalonians in which Paul uses language similar to what Mark uses in Chapter 13: Jesus coming down from the sky on the clouds; however, there is no necessary contradiction: Mark could have written this chapter because the tradition had come down to him, whether through Paul, or otherwise.
I’ve been having great difficulty coming to any kind of conclusion about this. But that’s as it should be. The question of Jesus’ primary message is still hotly contested by NT scholars. A recent book describing Jesus as a zealot (but not of the party of the Zealots) has been drawing attention. I haven’t read it–yet–but given the author’s credentials, it seems that it has to be taken seriously. So, for the moment, suffice it to say that, despite the existence of this chapter, I do not believe that Jesus’ primary message was one of apocalypse, as we have come to understand the term. I say this because our understanding of “apocalypse” has been greatly coloured by the book of Revelation, in which the vision predicted is one of end-times. Given the example of Daniel, I think we may need to think of “apocalypse” as an allegory for the present, rather than a prediction of the future.
As always, a reminder that this is a work in progress. The opinions of the author are subject to change as new information becomes available! Thank you for your indulgence.