The Gospel reading for Sunday, March 4, is Mark 8:31-38. I think this is probably the key passage in Mark's gospel regarding what it means and costs to follow Jesus. All of the major issues of Mark's gospel (what it means to follow, Jesus as the Son of Man, the messianic secret, the necessity of the cross) are present either directly or indirectly in this text. It is worth studying again and again if one wants to truly understand Mark's christology.
Below is a rough translation, with the Greek text first, my initial translation in bold font, and then some study of verbs below that. My interpretive notes are in blue.
31Καὶ ἤρξατο διδάσκειν αὐτοὺς ὅτι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ
παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ τῶν ἀρχιερέων καὶ
τῶν γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστῆναι:
Then he began to teach them, “It is necessary for the son of man to suffer greatly and to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise.”
ἤρξατο : AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
δεῖ: PAI 3s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten 1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains 1b) metaph. 1b1) Satan is said to bind a woman bent together by means of a demon, as his messenger, taking possession of the woman and preventing her from standing upright 1b2) to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc. 1b2a) to be bound to one, a wife, a husband 1b3) to forbid, prohibit, declare to be illicit
διδάσκειν: PAInf, διδάσκω, 1) to teach 1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses
παθεῖν: AAInf, πάσχω, 1) to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo 1a) in a good sense, to be well off, in good case 1b) in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight 1b1) of a sick person
ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι: APInf, ἀποδοκιμάζω, 1) to disapprove, reject, repudiate
ἀποκτανθῆναι: APInf, ἀποκτείνω, 1) to kill in any way whatever 1a) to destroy, to allow to perish 2) metaph. to extinguish, abolish 2a) to inflict mortal death 2b) to deprive of spiritual life and procure eternal misery in hell
ἀναστῆναι: AAInf, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up 1a) raise up from laying down 1b) to raise up from the dead 1c) to raise up, cause to be born, to cause to appear, bring forward
1. The ὅτι can either be translated as “that” (see the NRSV) or signify the beginning of a quote. Because v.32 makes a reference to what Jesus says here, I’m interpreting it as a quotation.
2. The phrase “Son of Man” is in the accusative case, which means that it is the object of the verb δεῖ. There may be an idiomatic speech pattern here where nouns in the accusative case act as nominative cases when paired with δεῖ. I am translating it more literally, as a substantive verb (“It is necessary for”) with “son of man” as the object.
32 καὶ παρρησίᾳ τὸν λόγον ἐλάλει. καὶ προσλαβόμενος ὁ Πέτρος αὐτὸν ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ.
And he says the word openly. And, taking him aside, Peter began to censure him.
ἐλάλει: IAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound 2) to speak 2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech 2b) to utter articulate sounds
προσλαβόμενος: AMP nsm,
ἐπιτιμᾶν,v 3sg, PAI 3s, ἐπιτιμάω, See v. 30 1) to show honor to, to honor 2) to raise the price of 3) to adjudge, award, in the sense of merited penalty 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely 4a) to admonish or charge sharply
- The remark, that Jesus says this (v.31) openly, is interesting. Throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus silences remarks about him as the Messiah – a feature that is often called the “Messianic secret” in Mark. The words, “It is necessary for the son of man to suffer …” is no secret. Perhaps it is because Jesus names names (elders, chief priests, scribes) that Mark find his candor so remarkable.
- Verse 32 seems to be an answer to v.30 (not in this week’s lection). Just after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, v.30 says, “And he censured them that they may tell no one about it.” Jesus is quite open, however, about his forthcoming suffering. When Peter begins “to censure” Jesus, Mark uses the same verb as in v.30, ἐπιτιμάω.
- It is curious that the verb ἐπιτιμάω can mean either ‘to show honor’ or ‘to rebuke.’ Context determines the translation and I think most translations have it right that vv. 30 and 32 are meant to be confrontational.
33ὁ δὲ ἐπιστραφεὶς καὶ ἰδὼν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἐπετίμησεν Πέτρῳ καὶ
λέγει,Υπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ, ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν
But turning and looking his disciples, he censured Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are reflecting not on divine things but on human things.”
ἐπιστραφεὶς: APP nsm, ἐπιστρέφω, 1) transitively 1a) to turn to 1a1) to the worship of the true God 1b) to cause to return, to bring back
ἰδὼν: AAP nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes 2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 3) to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience
ἐπετίμησεν: AAI 3s, ἐπιτιμάω, 1) to show honor to, to honor 2) to raise the price of 3) to adjudge, award, in the sense of merited penalty 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely 4a) to admonish or charge sharply
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Υπαγε: PAImpv 2s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under 2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
φρονεῖς: PAI 2s, φρονέω, 1) to have understanding, be wise 2) to feel, to think 2a) to have an opinion of one's self, think of one's self, to be modest, not let one's opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty
- It looks like I’ve left out the word “at” when I write “But turning and looking his disciples …” I am not omitting “at” accidentally. Mark has “disciples” in the accusative case, which usually signifies a direct object of the main verb, not a preposition. Maybe it means that Jesus had the disciples turn and look – at Peter. That would make sense of the fact that he is addressing Peter here, not his disciples.
- Here’s that word ἐπιτιμάω (“censured” or “rebuked”) again! It is in vv. 30, 32, and 33.
- Note the use of “behind me” in this verse … and the next!
- In Matthew 4:10 (temptation story) Jesus uses the phrase, τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Υπαγε,
Σατανᾶ (“Then Jesus says to him, Get, Satan!”) The phraseology is quite similar to how Mark
describes Jesus’ response to Peter here. Is “Satan” an expression of any temptation-bearer?
34Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τὸν ὄχλον σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,
Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἀκολουθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν
σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.
And calling to the crowd with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow behind me, let that one deny oneself and take up one’s cross and follow me.
προσκαλεσάμενος: AMP nsm, προσκαλέομαι, 1) to call to 2) to call to one's self 3) to bid to come to one's self 4) metaph. 4a) God is said to call to himself the Gentiles, aliens as they are from him, by inviting them, through the preaching of the gospel unto fellowship with himself in the Messiah's kingdom
θέλει: PAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose 1b) to desire, to wish 1c) to love 1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing 1d) to take delight in, have pleasure
ἀκολουθεῖν: PAInf, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him 2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple 2a) side with his party
ἀπαρνησάσθω: AMImpv 3s, ἀπαρνέομαι, 1) to deny 1a) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone 1b) to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's own interests. Could this be the opposite of froneiV in v.33?
ἀράτω : AAImpv 3s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up 1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones 1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand
ἀκολουθείτω: PAImpv 3s, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him 2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple 2a) side with his party
- My translation is awkward, “One … oneself … one’s ..”, etc. I am trying to pick up on the fact that this is singular, yet I’m trying to keep it gender-neutral. Most translations use the plural, in order to keep it gender neutral.
- The words “follow” and “behind” are key here. When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “Come behind me and I’ll make you fishers of people.” Then, Mark says, “They followed him.” These are discipleship terms throughout Mark. Reading Mk. 14 and seeing how the disciples ‘fled’ and how Peter ‘followed at a distance’ we see how difficult this call was for the disciples.
- See how ‘behind’ is in vv.33 and 34: Disciples line up behind Jesus with Peter/Satan.
- The imperatives, “deny, take, follow” are in the 3rd person, which is odd in the NT. Imperatives are typically in the 2nd person voice.
35ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ' ἂν
ἀπολέσει τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ καὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου σώσει αὐτήν.
For whoever who wants to rescue one’s life will destroy it, and whoever destroys one’s life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will rescue it.
θέλῃ: PASubj 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose 1b) to desire, to wish 1c) to love 1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing 1d) to take delight in, have pleasure
σῶσαι: AAInf, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction 1a) one (from injury or peril) 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
ἀπολέσει: FAI 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy 1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin 1b) render useless 1c) to kill 1d) to declare that one must be put to death 1e) metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell 1f) to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed 2) to destroy 2a) to lose
σώσει: FAI 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction 1a) one (from injury or peril) 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
- The key terms here are the oppositional terms σῶσαι and ἀπολέσει, which the NRSV translates as “save” and “lose.” I am using “rescue” because the term “save” has often lost its original meaning and has become a “religious” word. For Mark’s community, it was a common word that was the opposite of the very difficult term ἀπολέσει. I am trying to retain the harshness and opposition of these words.
- There seems to be an operational understanding among Mark’s readers of what it means to ‘rescue’ or ‘destroy’ one’s soul.
36τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖ ἄνθρωπον κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον καὶ ζημιωθῆναι τὴν
For what will it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit one’s life?
ὠφελεῖ: PAI 3s, ὠφελέω, 1) to assist, to be useful or advantageous, to profit
κερδῆσαι: AAInf, κερδαίνω, 1) to gain, acquire, to get gain 2) metaph. 2a) of gain arising from shunning or escaping from evil (where we say "to spare one's self", "be spared") 2b) to gain any one i.e. to win him over to the
to gain one to faith in Christ 2c) to gain Christ's favour and
fellowship kingdom of God
ζημιωθῆναι: APInf, ζημιόω, 1) to affect with damage, do damage to 2) to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss
- The words κερδαίνω and ζημιόω (“gain” and “forfeit”) seem to be other ways of stating “rescue” and “destroy” in v.35.
- The word ψυχὴν (psyche, or “soul”) has been transliterated in English – e.g. psych-ology. It is often translated “soul.” Again, I am a little hesitant to use “soul” because it has become a “religious” word that signifies a part of the human person, as opposed to a common word that refers to one’s being more holistically. THIS IS A PLACE FOR A WORD STUDY (and there have been plenty of those on this word!)
37τί γὰρ δοῖ ἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ;
For what can one give in return for one’s life?
δοῖ: AASubj 3s, δίδωμι to give, present (with implied notion of giving freely unforced; opposed to ἀποδίδωμι). Hence, in various connections, to yield, deliver, supply, commit, etc.
- I think the meaning of this verse retains the ‘comparative value’ sense from v.36. Perhaps “what would be a fair exchange for one’s life?”
38 ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους ἐν τῇ γενεᾷταύτῃ τῇ
μοιχαλίδι καὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται αὐτὸν
ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων τῶν ἁγίων.
For whoever is ashamed [of] me and of my words in the adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed [of] that one when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels.”
ἐπαισχυνθῇ: APSubj 3s, ἐπαισχύνομαι, 1) to be ashamed
ἐπαισχυνθήσεται: FPI 3s, ἐπαισχύνομαι, 1) to be ashamed
ἔλθῃ: AASubj 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 1a) of persons 1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of persons arriving and of those returning
- Verses 35, 36, 37, and 38 all have the word γὰρ as their second word. is a “post-positive” word, meaning that while it appears second in Greek order, we typically translated its “position” as first. And it is also typically translated as “For”.
- γὰρ signifies that vv.35-38 are making an argument or an explanation for what has already been said, namely they explain the words in v.34, “If anyone wants to follow behind me, let that one deny oneself and take up one’s cross and follow me.”