Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Welcoming Disciples Do Not Forbid, Impede or Suffer Impediments

Mark 9:38-50

This text has been worked over quite a bit, with several emendations and repetitions. I will not try to identify every variant reading, but stay with the text as it appears in www.greekbible.com. In verses 43-50, particularly, I’m reminded of the story that Bart Ehrman tells of the scribe who was angered by previous scribes having amended the text he was copying and wrote in the margin, “Fool and knave! Stop trying to fix the text!” I’ve been screaming that a lot this week.

I will make some judgments about this text as I hear it playing out in Mark’s Galilean community vis-à-vis the Twelve’s Jerusalem community. It is my theory, so you are free to disregard or argue with it.

38  Ἔφη αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης, Διδάσκαλε, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια, καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτόν, ὅτι οὐκ ἠκολούθει ἡμῖν.
John was disclosing to him, “Teacher, we saw someone in your name casting out demons, and we were preventing him, because he was not following us.” 
Ἔφη IAI, 3s from φημί,v  1) to make known one's thoughts, to declare   2) to say  
ἐκβάλλοντα: PAPart asm, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out  1a) with notion of violence  1a1) to drive out (cast out)  1a2) to cast out  1a2a) of the world, i.e. be deprived of the power and  influence he exercises in the world
ἐκωλύομεν IAI, 1p, κωλύω, 1) to hinder, prevent forbid  2) to withhold a thing from anyone  3) to deny or refuse one a thing 
ἠκολούθει: IAI 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 
1. “disclosed”: It is possible to see these words of John as a response to Jesus’ words in v.37. Hence, KJV and YLT translate it, “John answered him …” As an interpreter, I would like to read this text as a continuation of the conversation from last week and not as a pericope unto itself. But, it would be a curious response for John’s words to be a reaction to Jesus speaking about “welcoming a child” in his name.
2. “in your name” is the connective tissue between the last pericope and this one. Jesus speaks of welcoming a child in his name; John speaks of someone casting out demons in his name.
3. “Casting out demons in your name”: If my ongoing comments regarding Mark’s view of Jesus are anywhere near correct, this person is doing exactly what Jesus is calling others to do – he is participating in the Reign of God which is at hand. I am convinced that this is the critical issue behind what has been called the “Messianic Secret” in Mark. It is not about secrecy, but about interpreting “following” as participation more than adoration.
4. “preventing”: Is this act of “preventing” (or “forbidding”) what Jesus addresses in v.42 when he speaks of “impeding one of these little ones”? i.e. “Don’t stop those who are not following us from participating in the Reign of God by casting out demons in my name”?
5. “following us”: There is a subtle shift in the language from Jesus saying “follow me” to John saying “following us.” Maybe it’s not so subtle. I suspect that one of the dynamics behind this text is Mark’s Galilean community doing participatory work in the Reign of God, and receiving criticism of the Jerusalem-centered church, associated with the twelve, which considers itself the “us.”   

39 δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Μὴ κωλύετε αὐτόν, οὐδεὶς γάρ ἐστιν ὃς ποιήσει δύναμιν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου καὶ δυνήσεται ταχὺ κακολογῆσαί με:
But Jesus said, “Do not prevent him, for there is no one, who will do work in my name and will quickly be able to speak evil of me.” 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
κωλύετε: PAImp, 2p, κωλύω, 1) to hinder, prevent forbid 2) to withhold a thing from anyone  3) to deny or refuse one a thing 
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ποιήσει FAI, 3s, ποιέω, 1) to make, to produce, construct, form, fashion,
δυνήσεται FMI, 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  2) to be able to do something 
κακολογῆσαί AAInfinitive, κακολογέω, 1) to speak evil of, revile, abuse, one 2) to curse 
1. Jesus’ present imperative, “Do not prevent,” has the aspect of prohibiting an ongoing action, corresponding to John’s imperfect “We were preventing.” It speaks to an ongoing conversation more than an episode.
2. “speak evil of me”: This possibility seems posited here as what John may be fearing. If the person is not following them, then after casting out demons in Jesus’ name he may speak evil of Jesus. Maybe it is a matter of a rogue demon-caster, who has latched onto the power of Jesus’ name, but is not a “disciple” in the sense of learning to speak rightly of that name. Again, I suspect that it is more a matter of the Jerusalem-centered church of the twelve critiquing the theology and questioning the orthodoxy (perhaps that’s too strong of a word for this stage of the church’s development) of Mark’s Galilean-centered community. I’m making suppositions largely influenced by Richard Horsley’s remarks about the strain between Galileans and Judeans in “Hearing the Whole Story,” and Werner Kelber’s argument that the disciples ultimately fail in “Mark’s Story of Jesus.”

40 ὃς γὰρ οὐκ ἔστιν καθ' ἡμῶν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐστιν.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Compare with Matthew 12:30a, ὁ μὴ ὢν μετ' ἐμοῦ κατ' ἐμοῦ ἐστιν, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” Discuss among yourselves.
2. If the dynamic here is the tension between Mark’s Galilean community and the Jerusalem community, this could be a word of comfort to the Galileans in the face of criticism, or it could be a word of instruction to the Jerusalem critics.

41  Ὃς γὰρ ἂν ποτίσῃ ὑμᾶς ποτήριον ὕδατος ἐν ὀνόματι ὅτι Χριστοῦ ἐστε, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ.
For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are in name of Christ, truly I say to you, that one will not lose his reward. 
ποτίσῃ AASubj, 3s, ποτίζω, 1) to give to drink, to furnish drink  2) to water, irrigate (plants, fields etc.)  3) metaph. to imbue, saturate one's mind 
ἐστε: PAI 2p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
λέγω: PAI 1s, , λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἀπολέσῃ: AASubj 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin  1b) render useless 
1. I am interpreting the phrase ἐν ὀνόματι ὅτι Χριστοῦ ἐστε as “because you are in the name of Christ,” to parallel how ὀνόματι has been used with a genitive above (vv.37, 38, and 39). It is curious that the ESV says, “because you belong to Christ,” which may be a way of thinking about it, but which leaves out the obvious parallel language of the “name” in the preceding verses.

42 Καὶ ὃς ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων [εἰς ἐμέ], καλόν ἐστιν αὐτῷ μᾶλλον εἰ περίκειται μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ βέβληται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν.
And whoever might impede one of the little ones who believe [in me], it is far better to him if a millstone is tied around his neck (trachea) and to have been thrown into the sea. 
σκανδαλίσῃ: AASubj, 3s, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which  another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend  1a) to entice to sin  1b) to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom  he ought to trust and obey 
πιστευόντων: PAPart gpm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed 
περίκειται: PMI, 3s, περίκειμαι, 1) to lie around  2) to be compassed with, have round one 
βέβληται: PerfPI, 3s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls  1a) to scatter, to throw, cast into  1b) to give over to one's care uncertain about the result  1c) of fluids  1c1) to pour, pour into of rivers  1c2) to pour out  2) to put into, insert 
1. Just to be clear, the “impeding” here (σκανδαλίζω) is a different word from the “preventing” of vv. 38 and 39 (κωλύω).
2. This is the first of several comments that will address the matter of a “impeding” or, literarily, “scandalizing” oneself or others. Several questions arise.
a. What is the referent of “one of these little ones who believe”? Is the antecedent the child, from v.37, or the one who was casting out demons in the name of Christ in v.38?
b. This is the first of a string of phrases about “impeding” and how it would be better to suffer something awful than to impede or to be impeded. Again, I wonder if the conversation about “impeding” is triggered by the disciples forbidding the ‘not one of us’ man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name.
c. Following my train of thought, this would be a way of warning the Jerusalem church not to impede the work that the Galilean church is doing. A strong warning.

43 Καὶ ἐὰν σκανδαλίζῃ σε χείρ σου, ἀπόκοψον αὐτήν: καλόν ἐστίν σε κυλλὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν τὰς δύο χεῖρας ἔχοντα ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν, εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἄσβεστον.
And if your hand impedes you, cut it off; it is better for you to go out into life maimed than having these two hands to enter into gehenna, into the asbestos fire. 
σκανδαλίζῃ: PASubj, 3s, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which  another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend  1a) to entice to sin  1b) to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom  he ought to trust and obey 
ἀπόκοψον: AAImp, 2s, ἀποκόπτω, 1) to cut off, amputate 
εἰσελθεῖν: AAInf, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  2) metaph.  2a) of entrance into any condition, state of things, society,  to come into life, of thoughts that come into the mind 
ἔχοντα: PAPart, ams, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating  emotions, etc.), to hold fast keep, to have or comprise or  involve, to regard or consider or hold as 
ἀπελθεῖν: AAInf, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart  1a) to go away in order to follow any one, go after him, to  follow his party, follow him as a leader  2) to go away  2a) of departing evils and sufferings  2b) of good things taken away from one  2c) of an evanescent state of things 
1. "Hand": How, we ask, can a hand put an impediment into our way, since our hands are simply body parts that do our will? We almost have to accept a pre-Gestalt theory of the human being, where one's hand acts independently of one's mind or will and therefore becomes an enemy to us. I wonder if that was a 1st century way of seeing the body, "at war with itself" or as "members, functioning contrary to one another."
Perhaps one way of thinking through this language is to attend to how 'hand' has figured into this chapter so far. As a respondent, Deirdre, noted last week, there was an emphasis in the last pericope on how the Son of Man is being handed over "to human hands" and later to Jesus embracing a child as a way of demonstrating what it means to "receive" a child, Jesus, and the one who sent him. The hand, in this chapter, is an instrument for either receiving or killing the son of man or impeding a disciple.
2. Have some fun and do some word studies with “gehenna” and “asbestos fire.”

44καὶ (This verse, a repeat of v. 48, is not in most manuscripts)
1. The addition of this verse here and in v.46 is part of what I meant by saying that this text has been worked over quite a bit.   

45 ἐὰν πούς σου σκανδαλίζῃ σε, ἀπόκοψον αὐτόν: καλόν ἐστίν σε εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν χωλὸν τοὺς δύο πόδας ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὴν γέενναν.
If your foot impedes you, cut it off; it is better you to go into the life lame than having two feet to be cast into the gehenna.
σκανδαλίζῃ: PASubj, 3s, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which  another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend  1a) to entice to sin  1b) to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom  he ought to trust and obey 
ἀπόκοψον: AAImp, 2s, ἀποκόπτω, 1) to cut off, amputate 
ἐστίν: PAI 3s, , εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰσελθεῖν: AAInf, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  2) metaph.  2a) of entrance into any condition, state of things, society,  to come into life, of thoughts that come into the mind 
ἔχοντα: PAPart, ams, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating  emotions, etc.), to hold fast keep, to have or comprise or  involve, to regard or consider or hold as 
βληθῆναι: APInf, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls  1a) to scatter, to throw, cast into 
1. Again, the question arises of how a foot can impede one and how cutting it off and being lame is the solution.

46 καὶ (This verse, a repeat of v. 48, is not in most manuscripts)

47 ἐὰν ὀφθαλμός σου σκανδαλίζῃ σε, ἔκβαλε αὐτόν: καλόν σέ ἐστιν μονόφθαλμον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ δύο ὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὴν γέενναν,
If your eye impedes you, cast it; it is better you to enter into the kingdom of God one-eyed than having two eyes to be cast into the gehenna.
σκανδαλίζῃ: PASubj, 3s, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which  another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend  1a) to entice to sin  1b) to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom  he ought to trust and obey 
ἔκβαλε: AAImpv 2s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls  1a) to scatter, to throw, cast into
ἐστίν: PAI 3s, , εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰσελθεῖν: AAInf, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  2) metaph.  2a) of entrance into any condition, state of things, society,  to come into life, of thoughts that come into the mind 
ἔχοντα: PAPart, ams, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating  emotions, etc.), to hold fast keep, to have or comprise or  involve, to regard or consider or hold as 
βληθῆναι: APInf, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls  1a) to scatter, to throw, cast into 
1. I feel a lot more appreciation for an eye that impedes, because the “wandering eye” and the “green-eye of envy” are expressions that point to how difficult it is to tame the eye and make it do one’s bidding. Perhaps in antiquity it was common to speak of all body parts in that way. James certainly speaks of the tongue as an untamable body part.
2. If it were a thing, by Mark’s time, to refer to various parts of the church as body parts, it may be that this intends to say to the Jerusalem church that they would be better off severing their relationship with the “orthodoxy committee” or whoever it was that was trying to impede the Galilean church.

48 ὅπου σκώληξ αὐτῶν οὐ τελευτᾷ καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐ σβέννυται:
Where their worm does not die and the fire is not extinguished.
τελευτᾷ: PAI 3s, τελευτάω, 1) to finish, bring to and end, close  2) to have an end or close, come to an end 
σβέννυται: PPI 3s, σβέννυμι, 1) to extinguish, quench  1a) of fire or things on fire  1a1) to be quenched, to go out  1b) metaph. to quench, to suppress, stifle  1b1) of divine influence 
1. This is the description of gehenna that some scribes repeated as vv. 44 and 46.
2. “Their”: What is the antecedent to the plural ‘they’ here? Gehennans? All that dwells in the valley of Hinnon? I just can’t shake the feeling that some scribe decided that a passing reference to gehenna was not enough disincentive to the errant, and needed lots of embellishment. Perhaps my suspicions come from hearing too many evangelists that seem to get their mojo on the more graphically they talk about hell and punishment.

49 πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ ἁλισθήσεται.
For all will be salted in fire.
ἁλισθήσεται: FPI 3s, ἁλίζω, 1) to salt, season with salt, sprinkle with salt
1. This could be a very promising turn of events! If the fire is not merely a punishing fire – as we have grown accustomed to imagining it – maybe this verse indicates that the fire becomes an offering to God instead. Maybe it is a purifying fire, that leaves the work of determining orthodoxy to God, not a self-appointed part of the body.
2. The word “fire” πυρὶ is in the dative, which most often does not take the form of “with” but “in.” All of the translations at my disposal choose “with.”

50 Καλὸν τὸ ἅλας: ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας ἄναλον γένηται, ἐν τίνι αὐτὸ ἀρτύσετε; ἔχετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ἅλα, καὶ εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.
The salt [is] good; If the salt has become saltless, in what would it be seasoned? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace in each other.
γένηται: AMSubj 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ἀρτύσετε: FAI 2p, ἀρτύω, 1) to prepare, arrange, with respect to food  2) to season, make savory
ἔχετε: PAImpv 2p, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  
εἰρηνεύετε: PAImpv 2p, εἰρηνεύω to live in peace, to keep peace
1. This verse seems severely cut and pasted from another conversation about the positive but possible-to-lose benefits of salt. I cannot see how it originally belongs here, except for the slight connective tissue of the word ‘salt.’
2. “Have salt in yourselves (perhaps the agent that makes the purifying fire effective?) and be at peace in each other”: This seems to be the point of the text. The disciples should not be in confrontation with another, who is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The Jerusalem church should not be in confrontation with the Galilean church, who does not follow them. They should assume that whoever is not against them is for them and those who are casting out demons in Jesus’ name will not soon speak evil of him.

It seems that my rough translation has only taken me a little way in this text and that word studies, literary and cultural contexts, and redaction criticism are needed throughout the rest of the week, before turning to the homiletical challenge of preaching.



3 comments:

  1. Re: hands and feet, I can easily see a non-Gestalt reality of the body at work in my young children. They react and misbehave, and it's not at all clear that the will is involved. I suspect that Paul was aware of just how long that reality stays with us; maybe Jesus was alluding to that here. (Because obviously Jesus had already read Romans.)

    Re: fire, doesn't the dative have an instrumental sense too, especially in a passive construction? Salted by means of fire?

    And is there any chance the awkward syntax of "because you are in the name of Christ" comes from a textual problem? Or does that only look weird because my Greek is rusty?

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  2. Oh, very well said, Mark (Davis, not gospeler Mark). I've had my ears tuned up all lectionary year and had formulated some thoughts on my own which you place out clearly and help comfirm (for me, at least) about the purpose of Mark.
    "I am convinced that this is the critical issue behind what has been called the “Messianic Secret” in Mark. It is not about secrecy, but about interpreting “following” as participation more than adoration….
    I suspect that one of the dynamics behind this text is Mark’s Galilean community doing participatory work in the Reign of God, and receiving criticism of the Jerusalem-centered church, associated with the twelve, which considers itself the “us.” "
    Yes! This gospel seems in part, or largely, a polemic against those in Jerusalem who have really exalted Jesus and, in turn as "followers", themselves. Mark's gospel continually takes them to task for misunderstanding.
    As for the "impeding" in vs 42, is it possible we have another example of Mark's embedded story within story here? If so, how does the conversation with John inform us about receive a child? Perhaps some more thought and meditation needed here...
    Anyways, many thanks as always for thought provoking work.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So I am tangling with Richard Horsley's notes in NOAB 4th Ed in which he has ascribed a male sexuality referent to the text of 43-48, with impeding named body parts from sexual activity. a far cry from the tension between Mark's Galilean Church and the Jerusalem Church.

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