Mark Chapter 14:32-52

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 >> isto 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.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on August 26, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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