Monday, February 13, 2012

Paralytic on a Platter - Mark 2:1-12

The Gospel reading for the 7th Sunday of Epiphany is Mark 2:1-12, the story of Jesus healing a person with paralysis. There are many angles to this story worth considering - the faith and actions of the paralytic's helpers; the relationship between 'forgiving sins' and 'taking up one's mat and walking,' the enormous popularity of Jesus and how that poses a problem for the paralyzed one; etc.

[Editorial note: I've changed my structure a tad, to make these notes more digestible. (Please remember, I'm talking to myself here!) I have the greek text, then my rough translation in bold, then some critical notes about verbs (that's the part that seems to be driving some people crazy). I've added a new feature - some questions and comments beneath each verse, which articulate some of the issues that face translators and readers. They are bulleted with lower case letters and in blue. You may want to read the bold translation, then skip directly to the blue comments. I'd love to hear if this is an easier format for you. - Mark]


Mark 2:1-12 
1Καὶ εἰσελθὼν πάλιν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ δι' ἡμερῶν ἠκούσθη ὅτι ἐν οἴκῳ ἐστίν.
And returning again into Capernaum after days [it] was heard, “He is in a house [at home?].”
εἰσελθὼν : AAP nsm, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter 
ἠκούσθη : API 3s, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear 
  1. Could the saying, “He is in a house” be a way of saying, “His days of being ‘unclean’ from touching the leper (Mk.1:40-45) are completed?”
  2. ὅτι often begins a quote. Literally “[it] was heard that he is in a house”
  3. There are no nouns, only implied subjects in the verbs.

2καὶ συνήχθησαν πολλοὶ ὥστε μηκέτι χωρεῖν μηδὲ τὰ πρὸς τὴν θύραν, καὶ 
ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον. 
And many were gathered so that these no longer [were able] to make room to the door, and he was speaking the word to them.
συνήχθησαν : API 3p, συνάγω, 1) to gather together, to gather  1a) to draw together, collect 
χωρεῖν : PAInf, χωρέω, 1) to leave space (which may be filled or occupied by another),  to make room, give place, yield  
ἐλάλει: IAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak
  1. μηκέτι  ('no longer') and μηδὲ  ('and not', or 'but not') are both negatives. Double negatives are fairly common in NT Greek, and 2 negatives do not make a positive! 
  2. This is the only use of ‘speaking the word’ (ἐλάλει τὸν λόγον) that I remember in the Gospels. Anybody out there know of other places?  It seems like a stock phrase these days in some churches. 

3καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων. 
And they are coming, bringing to him a paralytic being lifted by four [of them?].
ἔρχονται : PMI 3p, 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 
φέροντες : PAPart npm, φέρω, 1) to carry   1a) to carry some burden   1a1) to bear with one's self   1b) to move by bearing; 
αἰρόμενον : PPPart asm, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones  
  1. Again, there is no noun for the subject “they.” It is implied in the 3rd person plural verb “are coming” (ἔρχονται).

4καὶ μὴ δυνάμενοι προσενέγκαι αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον ἀπεστέγασαν τὴν στέγην ὅπου ἦν, καὶ ἐξορύξαντες χαλῶσι τὸν κράβαττον ὅπου  παραλυτικoς κατέκειτο. 
And not being able to approach to him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was, and digging through let down the mat where the paralytic was lying.
δυνάμενοι : PMPart npm, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability or of a state of mind, or through favorable  circumstances, or by permission of law or custom
προσενέγκαι : AAInf, προσφέρω, 1) to bring to, lead to  1a) one to a person who can heal him or is ready to show him some  kindness, one to a person who is to judge him
ἀπεστέγασαν: AAI 3p, ἀποστεγάζω, 1) to uncover, take off the roof 
ἐξορύξαντες: AAPart npm, ἐξορύσσω, 1) to dig out, to pluck out (the eyes)  2) to dig through 
χαλῶσι: PAI 3p, χαλάω, 1) to loosen, slacken, relax  2) to let down from a higher place to a lower
κατέκειτο: IMI 3s, κατάκειμαι, 1) to have lain down, i.e. to lie prostrate  1a) of the sick  1b) of those at meals, to recline
  1. The word for ‘mat’ (κράβαττον) sounds like it has been transliterated into ‘crib’ along the way.
  2. “Dig through” may refer to removing layers of branches, rather than shoveling dirt, etc.

5καὶ ἰδὼν  Ἰησοῦς τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ, Τέκνον, ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. 
And seeing their faith, Jesus says to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἀφίενταί: PPI 3p, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire … 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 
  1. Τέκνον means “child” in most cases in Mark. In one case, Jesus calls the disciples “children” Mk.10:24. A real child? A term of affection or pity? He is called ‘a paralytic’ throughout the story, so we can’t discern an age.
  2. To ‘forgive’ is not the primary meaning of ἀφίενταί, but comes fourth in the www.greekbible.com lexicon of meanings. To ‘send away’ is the primary mng there. It makes me think that the ‘scapegoat’ may be a reigning image in the word when it comes to how sins are 'sent away'.
  3. Would there be a different feel to our understanding of sin and the taking away of sins if we used ‘sent away’ rather than ‘forgiven’ in our language?

6 ἦσαν δέ τινες τῶν γραμματέων ἐκεῖ καθήμενοι καὶ διαλογιζόμενοι ἐν ταῖς 
καρδίαις αὐτῶν, 
Yet some of the scribes are seated there and are reasoning in their hearts,
ἦσαν: IAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
καθήμενοι: PMPart npm, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one's self  2) to sit, be seated, of a place occupied  2a) to have a fixed abode, to dwell 
διαλογιζόμενοι: PMPart npm, διαλογίζομαι, 1) to bring together different reasons, to reckon up the  reasons, to reason, revolve in one's mind, deliberate 
  1. Some of the Scribes were “reasoning in their hearts.” We usually locate 'reasoning' in heads, not hearts. 
  2. “reasoning” is διαλογιζόμενοι, transliterated in English as ‘dialoguing.’

7 Τί οὗτος οὕτως λαλεῖ; βλασφημεῖ: τίς δύναται ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας εἰ μὴ εἷς  θεός; 
“Why is he speaking this way? He is blaspheming! Who is able to forgive sins except God alone?”
λαλεῖ: PAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak 
βλασφημεῖ: βλασφημέω, 1) to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate, blaspheme  2) to be evil spoken of, reviled, railed at 
δύναται: PMI 3s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources, or of a state of mind, or through favorable  circumstances, or by permission of law or custom
ἀφιέναι: PAInf, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire … 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 
  1. The Scribes interpret Jesus’ words as actually ‘forgiving’ sins, not just pronouncing them forgiven.

8καὶ εὐθὺς ἐπιγνοὺς  Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι αὐτοῦ ὅτι οὕτως διαλογίζονται 
ἐν ἑαυτοῖς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τί ταῦτα διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν; 
And immediately Jesus, knowing in his spirit that they were reasoning in themselves this way, says to them, “What things are you reasoning in your hearts?
ἐπιγνοὺς: AAPart nsm, ἐπιγινώσκω, 1) to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly  1a) to know accurately, know well  2) to know
διαλογίζονται: PMI 3p, διαλογίζομαι, 1) to bring together different reasons, to reckon up the  reasons, to reason, revolve in one's mind, deliberate 
διαλογίζεσθε: PMI 2p, διαλογίζομαι, 1) to bring together different reasons, to reckon up the  reasons, to reason, revolve in one's mind, deliberate 
  1. Jesus knows in his spirit what the Scribes are reasoning in their hearts. Brains and bodies seem to be just hanging around for a moment … Jesus’ question, then, brings all the interior dialogue and perception out into the public sphere.
  2. Here, the ὅτι is best translated ‘that’ and not as introducing a quote (see v.1 above)

9τί ἐστιν εὐκοπώτερον, εἰπεῖν τῷ παραλυτικῷ, Ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι,  εἰπεῖν, Ἔγειρε καὶ ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει;
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘You sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Rise and take your mat and walk’?”
Ἀφίενταί: PPI 3p, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire … 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 
Ἔγειρε: PAImpv 2s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake  1b) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life
ἆρον: AAImpv 2s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up
περιπάτει: PAImpv 2s, περιπατέω, 1) to walk  
  1. The first statement is in the ‘indicative mode’ – it declares something as reality. The second statement has three imperatives – rise, lift, and walk.

10ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε ὅτι ἐξουσίαν ἔχει  υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς λέγει τῷπαραλυτικῷ, 
[“]Yet, in order that you may see that the son of man has authority to forgive sins on the earth,[”] he says to the paralytic,
εἰδῆτε: PASubj 2p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἔχει: PAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  
ἀφιέναι: PAInf, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire … 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
  1. This verse has a curious change of voices. When it says, “… in order that you may see …” it sounds like a continuation of Jesus’ words to the Scribes. (The ‘you’ is implied in the 2nd person plural verb). But, when it says, “he says to the paralytic …” it sounds like the narrator’s voice. (The ‘he’ is implied in the 3rd persons singular verb). In Greek, it flows without indicating a voice change. Translators have to decide what to make of it. The NRSV, e.g. puts in hyphens to indicate an insertion of the narrator’s voice. (Mk. 13:14 is another example of this kind of ‘narrative intrusion.’)
  2. My QUESTION is, “Where does the quote end and the narrative intrusion begin/end?”
  3. OPTION 1: The whole verse could be in the narrator’s voice if the ‘you’ is a reference to Mark’s audience (like, for example, John 20:31 and Mark 13:14)
  4. OPTION 2: The small phrase, “He says to the paralytic” could be the narrative intrusion.

11Σοὶ λέγω, ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου. 
[“]I say to you, ‘Rise, take your mat and go into your home.’”
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἔγειρε: PAImpv 2s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake  1b) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life 
ἆρον: AAImpv 2s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up.
ὕπαγε: PAImpv 2s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under  2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
  1. So, the answer to the question of ‘which is easier’ (v.9) is not that they are two different things that one could say, but that the power to say one implies the power to say the other.
  2. Jesus’ words are ‘… and go into your home’ as opposed to ‘… and walk’ (v.9)

12καὶ ἠγέρθη καὶ εὐθὺς ἄρας τὸν κράβαττον ἐξῆλθεν ἔμπροσθεν πάντων, ὥστε ἐξίστασθαι πάντας καὶ δοξάζειν τὸν θεὸν λέγοντας ὅτι Οὕτως οὐδέποτε εἴδομεν. 
And he was raised and immediately taking the mat he went before all, so that to amaze all and to glorify God saying “We never saw this way.”  
ἠγέρθη: API 3s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake  1b) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life  1c) to cause to rise from a seat or bed etc.
ἄρας: AAPart nsm, 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 
ἐξῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ἐξίστασθαι: PMInf, ἐξίστημι, 1) to throw out of position, displace  1a) to amaze, to astonish, throw into wonderment  1b) to be amazed, astounded 
δοξάζειν: PAInf, δοξάζω, 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion  2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
λέγοντας: PAPart apm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  
εἴδομεν: AAI 1p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
  1. He “was raised” (ἠγέρθη) this is the same term used to describe the resurrection throughout the NT and it is typically in the passive.
  2. The ὅτι is introducing a quote here, like v.1 but unlike v.8.


9 comments:

  1. Thank you for your work and time. These notes are helpful and insightful.

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  2. Question? Could the your sins are forgiven be translated into something like, your sins are no longer with you, or your sins no longer matter?

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  3. Hi Frits,
    Great question. The following are definitions offered for the verb that is typically translated 'forgiveness' in this text. You will notice that 'forgive' or 'remit' actually is the 4th definition (1d), and that there are many other possibilities. I think your suggestion is quite valid.

    ἀφίημι,v \{af-ee'-ay-mee}
    1) to send away 1a) to bid going away or depart 1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife 1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire 1c) to let go, let alone, let be 1c1) to disregard 1c2) to leave, not to discuss now, (a topic) 1c21) of teachers, writers and speakers 1c3) to omit, neglect 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 1e) to give up, keep no longer 2) to permit, allow, not to hinder, to give up a thing to a person 3) to leave, go way from one 3a) in order to go to another place 3b) to depart from any one 3c) to depart from one and leave him to himself so that all mutual claims are abandoned 3d) to desert wrongfully 3e) to go away leaving something behind 3f) to leave one by not taking him as a companion 3g) to leave on dying, leave behind one 3h) to leave so that what is left may remain, leave remaining 3i) abandon, leave destitute

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  4. just a 'thanks,' Mark for your work. from, T Hennesy in Illinois

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  5. Thanks, T. Still miss you around here. It was good to see you a couple of months ago.

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  6. To ‘forgive’ is not the primary meaning of ἀφίενταί, but comes fourth in the www.greekbible.com lexicon of meanings. To ‘send away’ is the primary mng there.

    *Really*! Thank you for this -- it makes the whole story make sense to me.

    I never really understood the whole, "which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or take up your mat and walk" thing, because to me the two options have nothing to do with each other. I always wrote that off as some cultural thing I was not understanding, physical infirmity being understood as a manifestation of sin, yadda yadda....

    BUT if we take the primary meaning of the verb (and the connotation for "walk" that you also bring out on that verb), then suddenly there's a parallel structure to the story! "Which is easier, to send his sins on their way, or to send him on his way?"

    Well!

    And now, too, this story becomes palpably similar to the story of the expulsion of the demon at the end of Mark 1 (especially as interpreted through a Girardian perspective), which makes it function better in terms of building or amplifying a theme.

    Thank you!

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  7. Victoria, Thank YOU for an insightful way of extending my comments into wonderful territory.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. Very interesting insight on forgive. If Jesus was sending the man's sins on their way, is this a way of saying that his sins had nothing to do with his paralysis, that his sins were out of the picture, irrelevant as regards his condition? "Let's get this notion of sin and suffering as cause and effect out of the picture, then we can move on to healing this poor man."

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