Mark Chapter 14:12:21
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.
Posted on August 13, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged Bible, Bible commentary, Bible scholarship, biblical scholarship, commenting, gospel commentary, gospels, Historical Jesus, mark's gospel, New Testament, New Testament Greek Translation, religion, St Mark, theology. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.