Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments regarding Mark 6:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel lesson for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B. As usual, your comments are welcomed.
This reading is comprised of two stories – the rejection of Jesus in his hometown (vv.1-6) and the sending of the twelve (vv. 7-13). Mark connects them in vv.6-7, by having Jesus leave his hometown and go around teaching to the surrounding villages, then sending the twelve to go out as well. I find it best to consider each story in its own right, then to consider them as a couplet. Interestingly, the second story – of the twelve’s mission – actually concludes in 6:30-31: “The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Like Jesus, the disciple were doing and teaching. Like Jesus, they needed a deserted place to get away from the crowds and for restoration. And, in my mind, that is the point of this whole pericope – those who follow Jesus are invited to be like Jesus, by participating in the Reign of God at hand.
1 Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκεῖθεν, καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς τὴν πατρίδα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσιναὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.
And he left there, and is entering into his hometown, and his disciples are following him.
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
ἔρχεται: PMI 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
ἀκολουθοῦσιν: PAI 3p, 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
1. “And he left there” is a reference to Jairus’ house, where Jesus has just raised a 12 year old girl to life. Within that story, he had healed a woman who had been suffering for 12 years. In the next story, he will send out the 12.
2 καὶ γενομένου σαββάτου ἤρξατο διδάσκειν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ: καὶ πολλοὶ
ἀκούοντες ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες, Πόθεν τούτῳ ταῦτα, καὶ τίς ἡ σοφία ἡ
δοθεῖσα τούτῳ καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τοι αῦται διὰ τῶν χειρῶν αὐτοῦ γινόμεναι;
And Sabbath having come he began to teach in the synagogue; and hearing many were incensed saying, “Where these things and this wisdom which has been given to him and the powerful deeds which are happening through his hands?
γενομένου: AMPart gsn, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
ἤρξατο : AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
διδάσκειν : PAInf, διδάσκω, 1) to teach
ἀκούοντες : PAPart npm, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf 2) to hear
ἐξεπλήσσοντο: IPI 3p ἐκπλήσσω, amazed, to be exceedingly struck in mind
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
δοθεῖσα: APPart nfs, δίδωμι, 1) to give 2) to give something to someone 2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage
γινόμεναι: PAPart afp, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
1. There is something about the crowd’s actions in vv.2-3 that evoke a reaction from Jesus in v.4. It causes me to wonder what the implications of the verb ἐκπλήσσω might be. Most translations say that the crowd was “amazed” (NIV) or “astonished” (KJV, ESV), or “astounded (NRSV) at what they were hearing. Mark uses ἐξεπλήσσοντοfour other times. Here are the NRSV translations:
Mk.1:22 - They were astoundedat his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Mk. 7:37 - They were astoundedbeyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
Mk. 10:26 - They were greatly astoundedand said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’
Mk.11:18 - And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellboundby his teaching.
2. Is ἐκπλήσσωa good thing? Does it have negative connotations? Or, is it a neutral term in itself, taking its shade of meaning from its context? I lean toward the latter and am hearing it negatively here because Mark immediately says that the people were ‘scandalized’ by what Jesus said. The word is comprised of the prefix ἐκ, meaning ‘out’ and the root πλήσσω, meaning ‘to strike.’ While being ‘struck out of one’s mind’ is one way to put it, hence ‘astounded,’ it can also mean this, according to thebible.org’s lexicon: to strike out, expel by a blow, drive out or away; to cast off by a blow, to drive out; commonly, to strike one out of self-possession, to strike with panic, shock.
3. If the home crowd is incensed, the questions that follow can take on a challenging, not inquiring tone, like, “What the hell is he saying? How does he come to be able to do these things? Isn’t he that carpenter kid of Mary’s?” etc.
4. Michael Turton, citing Donahue and Harrington, points out that the reference to the powerful deeds done ‘through his hands’ sounds complimentary until one sees that Jesus is called a ‘craftsman’ (or ‘carpenter’) in the next sentence, a reference to one who works with one’s hands. See Turton’s commentary.
3 οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τέκτων, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς Μαρίας καὶ ἀδελφὸς Ἰακώβου καὶ
Ἰωσῆτος καὶ Ἰούδα καὶ Σίμωνος; καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ ὧδε πρὸς
ἡμᾶς; καὶ ἐσκανδαλίζοντο ἐν αὐτῷ.
Is this not the craftsman, the son of Mary and brother of James and Justus and Judah and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were scandalized in him.
ἐστιν (2x): PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰσὶν: PAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐσκανδαλίζοντο: IPI 3p, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend
1. There is quite a bit of family information here that shows above all else that these really are Jesus’ own people who know him and his family well.
2. The ‘son of Mary’ phrase, however, could be loaded. Perhaps Joseph is dead and one does not speak of the dead. Some have suggested that ‘son of Mary,’ instead of ‘son of Joseph and Mary,’ is a jab at the dubious story Jesus’ surrounding Jesus’ birth. Mark never mentions that story, so I find this unconvincing. The interpretive challenge of translating the crowd’s words is to try to capture the meaning and tone, which requires some speculation.
3. We have met Jesus’ family already in Mark’s story. Mark 3:21 says, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” Then, in 3:31, “Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.”
4. I think “craftsman” captures the comparison to the deeds happening “through his hands” in v.2.
4 καὶ ἔλεγεναὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Οὐκ ἔστιν προφήτης ἄτιμος εἰ μὴ ἐν τῇ
πατρίδι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τοῖς συγγενεῦσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ.
And Jesus was saying to them, “No prophet is without honor except among his hometown and among his relatives and among his house.”
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. While I typically translate ἐνas ‘in,’ it seems that ‘among’ fits better here.
2. The idea that a prophet has no honor in the hometown or among one’s own people is not a quote from the OT. Most commentators say it seems to be a proverbial expression that has its origins elsewhere. What does Jesus mean by saying it? (Or, if you will, what does Mark mean by having Jesus say it?) It is a backhanded way of identifying Jesus as a prophet? Is it a forehanded way of aligning these folks with the long history of those who rejected the prophets?
3. Mark does not mention the name of the town in this story. Mark identifies Jesus as being from Nazarethin 1:9. Then, he says in 2:1 that when Jesus returned to Capernaumit was reported that he was at home. [Incidentally, Matthew 4:12-13 says, “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,” followed by Matthew’s characteristic display that this move fulfilled what was written in the OT.]
5 καὶ οὐκ ἐδύνατο ἐκεῖ ποιῆσαι οὐδεμίαν δύναμιν, εἰ μὴ ὀλίγοις ἀρρώστοις
ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐθεράπευσεν:
And he was not able to do any powerful deeds there, except laying on hands he healed a few sick folk.
ἐδύνατο: IMI 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
ποιῆσαι: AAInf, ποιέω, 1) to make 1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct, form, fashion, etc.
ἐπιθεὶς: AAPart nsm, ἐπιτίθημι, 1) in the active voice 1a) to put or lay upon
ἐθεράπευσεν: AAI 3s, θεραπεύω, 1) to serve, do service 2) to heal, cure, restore to health
1. This sentence literally reads ‘not able to do no powerful deeds,’ but the double negative does not equal a positive in Greek.
2. I’ve always thought this was an interesting observation – he couldn’t do anything, you know, except heal a few sick folk. But, other than that, he couldn’t do anything!
6 καὶ ἐθαύμαζεν διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν. Καὶ περιῆγεν τὰς κώμας κύκλῳ
And he was amazed at their unbelief. And he was going around the surrounding villages teaching.
ἐθαύμαζεν: IAI 3s, θαυμάζω, 1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel 2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration
περιῆγεν: IAI 3s, περιάγω, 1) to lead around, to lead about with one's self 2) to go about, walk about
διδάσκων: PAPart nsm, διδάσκω, 1) to teach 1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses
1. Now, it’s Jesus’ turn to be amazed at them. θαυμάζω is a different term from ἐκπλήσσω in v.2.
2. The implication is that the crowd’s reaction in vv.2-3 was a reaction of unbelief, which, however proverbial, is amazing in itself.
3. I use the word “surrounding” because the adjective κύκλῳcarries the meaning of going in circles. Added to that is the prefix περιfrom “going around” (περιῆγεν), which also means ‘around.’ I think having ‘around’ then ‘surrounding’ picks up on this redundancy of ‘round’ words. The point of the redundancy seems to be that Jesus is not teaching or sending the twelve in villages aroundhis own town, but not inhis own town.
7 καὶ προσκαλεῖται τοὺς δώδεκα, καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοὺς ἀποστέλλειν δύο δύο,
καὶ ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τῶν πνευμάτων τῶν ἀκαθάρτων:
And he calls to the twelve, and began to send them two by two, and gave to them authority of the unclean spirits;
προσκαλεῖται: PMI 3s, προσκαλέομαι, 1) to call to 2) to call to one's self 3) to bid to come to one's self
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
ἀποστέλλειν: PAInf, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed 2) to send away, dismiss
ἐδίδου: IAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give 2) to give something to someone 2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage
1. Jesus sends the disciples to go out and take authority over the unclean spirits, to be amazing, to embody and to participate in the reign of God at hand. See my comments under “My Babble” below for more.
8 καὶ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδὲν αἴρωσιν εἰς ὁδὸν εἰ μὴῥάβδον μόνον, μὴ
ἄρτον, μὴ πήραν, μὴ εἰς τὴν ζώνην χαλκόν,
And charged them, that they would take up nothing onto the way except a staff only, not bread, not a bag not money in the belt,
παρήγγειλεν: AAI 3s, παραγγέλλω, 1) to transmit a message along from one to another, to declare, announce 2) to command, order, charge
αἴρωσιν: PASubj 3p, 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
1. The verb παραγγέλλω (charged) is interesting. The root αγγέλλω is the stem of a lot of ‘proclamation’-type words, including ἄγγελος(angel) and εὐαγγέλιον(evangelism).
9 ἀλλὰ ὑποδεδεμένους σανδάλια καὶ μὴ ἐνδύσησθε δύο χιτῶνας.
but binding sandals and not wearing two tunics.
ὑποδεδεμένους: PerfMPart apm, to bind or tie under with ὑπό (a) in middle to bind under one's feet, put on shoes (this specific meaning occurs only in Mar 6:9. Eph 6:15)
ἐνδύσησθε: AMSubj 2p, ἐνδύω, 1) to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one's self
1. So far, we do not know what, exactly, Jesus is calling the twelve to do. We know how they were organized, empowered, simplified, and dressed.
10καὶ ἔλεγεναὐτοῖς, Οπου ἐὰν εἰσέλθητε εἰς οἰκίαν, ἐκεῖ μένετε ἕως ἂν
And he was saying to them, “Wherever you would enter into a house, there remain until you would leave there.
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἰσέλθητε: AASubj 2p, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter 1a) of men or animals, as into a house or a city
μένετε: PAImpv 2p, μένω, 1) to remain, abide 1a) in reference to place 1a1) to sojourn, tarry 1a2) not to depart
ἐξέλθητε: AASubj 2p,εξέρχομαι, 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
11 καὶ ὃς ἂν τόπος μὴ δέξηται ὑμᾶς μηδὲ ἀκούσωσιν ὑμῶν, ἐκπορευόμενοιἐκεῖθεν ἐκτινάξατε τὸν χοῦν τὸν ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.
And whatever place might not receive you or might not listen to you, leaving there shake the bottom dust of your feet into a witness to them.
δέξηται: AMSubj 3s, δέχομαι, 1) to take with the hand 1a) to take hold of, take up, 2b) to receive or grant access to
ἀκούσωσιν: AASubj 3p, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
ἐκπορευόμενοι: PMPart npm, ἐκπορεύομαι, 1) to go forth, go out, depart
ἐκτινάξατε: AAImpv 2p, ἐκτινάσσω, 1) to shake off so that something adhering shall fall
1. The pronoun, “them” (αὐτοῖς) in the last phrase is in the dative case, which is usually translated ‘to’ or ‘with’ something. Almost every translation goes with ‘against,’ which is possible, but which is usually set off with a separate preposition.
2. I think translating the εἰς as “to” or “against” is an interpretiveissue, and not strictly a translationissue, which goes to the heart of what Jesus is telling the twelve to do. If Jesus were intending “against,” the instruction sounds like a demonstrative way of saying, ‘You reject me, I’ll reject you.” But that seems contrary to how Jesus typically operates. If this were a way of providing a testimony ‘to’ them, it would fit the spirit of not taking anything along for the journey. The twelve are not being sent out to benefit or exploit. They go out with authority over unclean spirits and receptive to hospitality. If there is no offer of hospitality, they demonstrate that they are not there to take anything – not even the dust – that is not freely given.
3. The two older translations that I consult along the way – Young’s Literal Translation of 1862 and the King James Version of 1611, have an addition to this verse: “verily I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom or Gomorrah in a day of judgment than for that city.”
4. So, continuing the thought of v.9, n.1, the twelve have been empowered with authority over unclean spirits, they’ve been instructed on what to wear, what not to depend on, and how to be a guest to both the hospitable and inhospitable. They have not been told anything specific to say. But, as the next verse suggests, they do say something.
12 Καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκήρυξαν ἵνα μετανοῶσιν,
And having gone out they preached in order that they might repent,
ἐξελθόντες: AAPart npm, 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
ἐκήρυξαν: AAI 3p, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald 1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald
μετανοῶσιν: PASubj 3p, μετανοέω, 1) to change one's mind, i.e. to repent 2) to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins
1. Given Mark’s penchant for using pronouns without clear antecedents, some translations make this “that all might repent.” The noun is implied in the 3rdperson voicing of the verb “repent.”
2. The verb, μετανοέω, literally means “change of mind.” This is the second and last time the verbal form of this word is used in Mark’s gospel, the first being Jesus’ words of 1:15, following the arrest of John. Mark also uses the nominal form, μετάνοια twice: In 1:4 with reference to John the Baptist; and 2:17, where Jesus says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
13 καὶ δαιμόνια πολλὰ ἐξέβαλλον, καὶ ἤλειφον ἐλαίῳ πολλοὺς ἀρρώστους
and were casting out many demons, and were anointing with oil many sick folk and were curing them.
ἐξέβαλλον: IAI 3p, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out 1a) with notion of violence 1a1) to drive out
ἤλειφον: IAI 3p, ἀλείφω, 1) to anoint
ἐθεράπευον: IAI 3p, θεραπεύω, 1) to serve, do service 2) to heal, cure, restore to health
1. It seems to me that this is what Mark envisions the followers of Jesus to be doing. (I think whoever added the longer ending to Mark’s gospel has this in mind as what the disciples did after the resurrection, however embellished they described it.)
For the interpreter, this week’s lexicon has two stories, each of which has meaning in its own right. Then, as a couplet, they show that when Jesus is rejected among his own folk, the twelve are empowered to go and bear the message, as well as to cast out demons and to heal. This rejection-leading-to-new-ministry is the same pattern of 1:14-15 when Jesus began his ministry after the arrest of John. (I would argue that this is part of the resurrection motif of Mark, but that is a larger topic for another day.)
Another issue that arises here is that if the message of repentance is a change of mind, what does it call one to change fromand change to?
First, I will address what I believe Mark sees one changing to.
My guess is that the most popular answer to this question would be to say it is a call to believe in Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior. That would certainly be an appropriate response if one has Romans 10:9-10 in mind, for example. However, in Mark’s gospel there are reasons for approaching the question differently. One of those reasons is that when Jesus is preparing the twelve for this mission, he does not tell them to preach about him, and that is not what they preach about. Rather than preaching about Jesus, they preach with Jesus, one could say, that repentance is necessary.
In my own reading of Mark, I think it is an incredibly important moment when Jesus sends the twelve out preaching repentance. It relates to my somewhat-developed opinion of the so-called ‘messianic secret’ in Mark. The phrase “messianic secret” attempts to name a motif that certainly is central to Mark’s gospel – the repetitive ‘don’t say anything’ moments right where we don’t expect them. For me, however, it is not so much a secretas a re-direction. By attempting over and over to make Jesus ‘the Messiah,’ people were missing the point of his message, which was that the Reign of God was present and that they all were invited to participatein it. As long as they had the Messiah to embody the reign, they were missing the participation part. To ‘follow’ is not to point to, observe, marvel, coronate, or even profess. It is more about joining along, taking up the message, indeed taking up the cross that is central to the message, and “believing” by living in the present reign of God. It is healing the sick, delivering those who are oppressed, etc. In other words, I don’t think the “messianic secret” is a literarydevice by Mark, but a theologicalpoint that Mark saw Jesus trying to re-direct his message away from himself and toward following-as-participating.
So, yes, repentance can be reconciled with turning from something and turning to following Jesus as Lord and Savior, but for Mark the act of following is more participative than propositional, more ‘take nothing with you but …’ than ‘confess with your mouth and believe in your heart.’
Regarding the question of what one is to change from: One possibility is to interpret it vis-a-vis the Roman Empire – an interpretation that is warranted not only by the realities of 1stcentury Galilee, but because Mark himself brackets the story of the disciples’ journey with the ghastly story of King Herod killing John the Baptist who also preached repentance. (vv. 7-13 and 30-31 are the bread; vv. 14-29 is the meat of this Markan sandwich.) I find it a great development in my lifetime that the Roman Empire has moved from the background to the foreground of NT studies. That, however, is another huge topic for another day and one that is ably addressed by others far better than I.