Monday, October 22, 2012

Bartimaeus Bar-Timaeus and the Joy of Faithful Disobedience

Bartimaeus Bar-Timaeus and the Joy of Faithful Disobedience

The story of Bartimaeus is incredibly intriguing on many levels. Below are my rough translation and initial comments, with a just a few looks at how Mark uses some particular words throughout his story. The most difficult discipline for me with this text is to let it speak for itself before turning to Ched Myers’ insightful writing on Mark generally and on Bartimaeus as a key story in Mark more specifically.

As usual, your comments are welcomed!

Mark 10:46-52

46 Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ. καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ Ἰεριχὼ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν 
αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλου ἱκανοῦ  υἱὸς Τιμαίου Βαρτιμαῖος τυφλὸς προσαίτης ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν. 
And they enter into Jericho. And as he was going out from Jericho and his disciples and the large crowd the son of Timaeus blind beggar Bartimaeus was sitting along the road.
ἔρχονται: PMI 3p, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come
ἐκπορευομένου: PMPart gsm, ἐκπορεύομαι, 1) to go forth, go out, depart
ἐκάθητο: IMI 3s, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one's self 
1. “the son of Timaeus blind beggar Bartimaeus” the bold words in this construction are all nominative masculine singular. 
2. “Bar-Timaeus” means “son of Timaeus.” Explanations like this are why some folks speculate that Mark is writing to a non-Hebrew-speaking audience.
3. One source, which I only know from a quick visitation, posits that Timaeus could come from one of two Aramaic sources, which would mean either “Honored one” or “Impure one.” The source notes that Bartimaeus could then be understood as “Son of fame” or “Son of shame. I realize that those are two very different options, but see the comment of v.48, n.1 for a similar curious set of options regarding the ἐπιτιμάω, which could be “honor” or “rebuke.” The source for the possible interpretations of Timaeus is https://christhum.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/the-name-fame-and-shame-of-bartimaeus/.
3. The entrance and exit from Jericho is a curious location reference. Does something about Jericho make a difference to the story? Some comments below are helpful on this score. The last time someone shouted outside of Jericho, the walls fell down.

47 καὶ ἀκούσας ὅτι Ἰησοῦς  Ναζαρηνός ἐστιν ἤρξατο κράζειν καὶ λέγειν, Υἱὲ Δαυὶδ Ἰησοῦ, ἐλέησόν με.
And having heard that Jesus is the Nazarene he began to cry out and to say, “Son of David Jesus, have mercy me.”
ἀκούσας: AAPart nms, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
κράζειν: PAInf, κράζω, 1) to croak  1a) of the cry of a raven  1b) hence, to cry out, cry aloud, vociferate
λέγειν: PAInf, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἐλέησόν: AAImpv 2s, ἐλεέω to show mercy (more than have compassion), to have the desire of relieving the miserable, to show kindness by beneficence or help.
1. The verb “cry out” (κράζω) is something of an onomatopoeia in Greek, like the croak of a raven. I suppose it would be like the English word “squawk.” I wonder if it is somehow related to κηρύσσω, “to preach.” It wouldn’t be the last time someone likened preaching to squawking.
2. The phrase “have mercy on me” reads literally “mercy me,” with ‘me’ in the accusative case.
3. Bartimaeus is sitting, begging, having heard, crying out, and saying.
4. “that Jesus is the Nazarene”: This could be translated “that it is (with the subject implied by the 3rd person singular form of ‘is’) Jesus the Nazarene. Most translations say Jesus of Nazareth, but Nazareth is in the nominative case, not the genitive. I am going with “that Jesus is the Nazarene” because with the verb ‘to be’ the object of the verb can be in the nominative case. If this is correct, Bartimaeus’ insistence that Jesus is “Son of David” may be a protest against what he has heard, that Jesus is “the Nazarene.”
5. The Son of Timaeus cries out to the Son of David. Bartimaeus finds some kinship, so to speak, with another one whose identity is partly defined by his lineage.
6. To “cry out” in Mark’s gospel is to give voice to an extreme condition. Below are Mark’s uses of the verb:
...torn him, and cried with a loud...                     Unclean spirit
...before him, and cried, saying, Thou art...       Unclean spirits
...in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself...    Legion, the many unclean spirits
And cried with a loud...                                          Legion, the many unclean spirits
...of the child cried out, and said with...             Father of a child with an unclean spirit
 And the spirit cried, and rent him...                    The unclean spirit in a child
...he began to cry out, and say, Jesus...               Bartimaeus
...peace: but he cried the more a...                      Bartimeaus
... cried, saying, Hosanna; ...                                 The crowd as Jesus enters Jerusalem
And they cried out again, Crucify him...              The crowd to Pilate
...done? And they cried out the more ...             The crowd to Pilate
...saw that he so cried out, and gave up...          Jesus on the cross

48 καὶ ἐπετίμων αὐτῷ πολλοὶ ἵνα σιωπήσῃ:  δὲ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἔκραζεν, Υἱὲ Δαυίδ, 
ἐλέησόν με. 
And many people rebuked to him in order that he might be silent; but he more loudly was crying out, “Son of David, have mercy (on) me.”
ἐπετίμων: IAI 3p, 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 
σιωπήσῃ: AASubj 3s, σιωπάω, 1) to be silent, hold one's peace  1a) used of one's silence because dumb
ἔκραζεν: IAI 3s, κράζω, 1) to croak  1a) of the cry of a raven  1b) hence, to cry out, cry aloud, vociferate  1c) to cry or pray for vengeance  2) to cry  2a) cry out aloud, speak with a loud voice
ἐλέησόν: AAImpv 2s, ἐλεέω to show mercy (more than have compassion), to have the desire of relieving the miserable, to show kindness by beneficence or help.
1. One of the joys of relying on Lexicons is that you get two possible meanings for ἐπιτιμάω: “To show honor” or “To rebuke.” I’m tacking toward the latter, given how this verb is used in Mark. However, the connection between the name Timaeus and Bartimaeus and the root of this verb (ἐπι-τιμάω) is intriguing.
2. First is the anti-healing: The crowd was trying to make the blind man mute.
3. I suspect that something is at stake in the crowd’s attempt to silence Bartimaeus – something more than a sense of impropriety or decorum. After all, they are outside, not in a cathedral somewhere and this is a rebuke, not a simple shushing.
4. If Bartimaeus is proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of David, as opposed to having heard that Jesus is the Nazarene, the crowd may be rebuking his theology as much as his volume.
5. Mark uses the verb “rebuke” (ἐπιτιμάω) several times:    
And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold...
...he arose, and rebuked the wind, and...
And he charged them that they...
...him, and Peter began to rebuke him.
...on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get...
...came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit...
...and his disciples rebuked those that brought..
6. “Have mercy (on) me” (here and in v.47): It looks like “mercy” (ἐλεέω) is a transitive verb in Greek, where this could read “Mercy me,” not as a vocative cry (as when Marvin Gaye sings, “Ah, mercy, mercy me”) but as an imperative, “Mercy me!” or perhaps “Pity me!”
7. The only other use of ἐλεέω in Mark is in Jesus’ description of his exorcism of Legion to the man who had been possessed afterwards (Mk.5:19)

49 καὶ στὰς  Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Φωνήσατε αὐτόν. καὶ φωνοῦσιν τὸν τυφλὸν λέγοντες 
αὐτῷ, Θάρσει, ἔγειρε, φωνεῖ σε.
And having stopped Jesus said, “Call him.” And they call the blind man while saying to him, “Take courage, rise, he is calling you.”
στὰς: AAPart nsm, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set  
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Φωνήσατε: AAImpv 2p, φωνέω, 1) to sound, emit a sound, to speak   1a) of a cock: to crow   1b) of men: to cry, cry out, cry aloud, speak with a loud voice 
φωνοῦσιν: PAI 3p, φωνέω, 1) to sound, emit a sound, to speak   1a) of a cock: to crow   1b) of men: to cry, cry out, cry aloud, speak with a loud voice 
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Θάρσει: PAImpv 2s, θαρσέω, 1) to be of good courage, be of good cheer
ἔγειρε: PAImpv 2s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise
φωνεῖ: PAI 3s, φωνέω, 1) to sound, emit a sound, to speak   1a) of a cock: to crow   1b) of men: to cry, cry out, cry aloud, speak with a loud voice 
1. We don’t know to whom Jesus is talking. His disciples are present (v.46), but “the crowd” is already a player in the story. If it is the crowd, Jesus is countering their ‘rebuke’ by having them call him.  One supposes that Jesus could have called him himself, or gone to him.
2. “Take courage”: This word is only in the imperative in the NT. It is what Jesus said when he was walking on the sea and came near the frightened disciples in the boat during a storm.
3. “They” called and said “he” is calling: This is an interesting way of thinking about evangelizing or sharing an invitation on someone else’s behalf. Is it their way of identifying with Jesus’ call or distancing themselves from it?
4. The verb “call” (φωνέω), as the definition suggests, might also be an onomatopoeia, suggesting the sound of a rooster crowing. In all fairness, if we laugh when I suggest that preaching may be akin to squawking (see v.47, n.1 above), we might as well laugh that the crowd’s conveyance of Jesus’ message might be akin to crowing.

50  δὲ ἀποβαλὼν τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ ἀναπηδήσας ἦλθεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν. 
Then having thrown off his cloak having leaped up he came to Jesus.
ἀποβαλὼν: AAPart nsm, ἀποβάλλω, 1) to throw off, cast away
ἀναπηδήσας: AAPart nsm, ἀνα-πηδάω, to leap up, spring up, start up:
ἦλθεν: AAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
1. The detail of Bartimaeus having thrown off his cloak is curious. When I first posted this translation and commentary, I confessed that I did not see the significance of this detail. See below some very insightful responses that were generated as a result. This is community interpretation at its best. Thanks to all of you and, please, keep ‘em coming. 

51 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῷ  Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τί σοι θέλεις ποιήσω; ὁ δὲ τυφλὸς εἶπεν 
αὐτῷ, Ραββουνι, ἵνα ἀναβλέψω. 
And answering him Jesus said, “What do you will to I should do for you?” Then the blind said to him, “Rabbi, that I may see.”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
θέλεις: PAI 2s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose
ποιήσω: AASubj 1s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc. 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἀναβλέψω: AASubj 1s, ἀναβλέπω, 1) to look up  2) to recover (lost) sight 
1. “What do you will that I should do for you?” Compare this to James’ and John’s request in v.35 and Jesus’ response in v.36. Jesus asks, “Τί θέλετε ποιήσω ὑμῖν;”
2. Whereas James and John ask for places of honor which are not Jesus’ to give, Bartimaeus asks to see and Jesus responds well.

52 καὶ  Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Υπαγε,  πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε. καὶ εὐθὺς ἀνέβλεψεν, 
καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.
And Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has made you whole.” And immediately he was seeing, and followed him in the road.
εἶπεν: AAI 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
σέσωκέν: PerfAI 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 
ἀνέβλεψεν: AAI 3s, ἀναβλέπω, 1) to look up  2) to recover (lost) sight 
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. Jesus often uses the imperative “Go” (ὑπάγω), but the persons whom he commands do not always comply. Neither does Bartimaeus. Jesus says “Go,” Bartimaeus follows.
2. The word for “made whole” (σῴζω) is often translated “saved” but has a fuller meaning than simply “saved from sin” or “saved from hell” as it is often used. It can refer to healing.
3. The word for “seeing” (ἀναβλέπω) literally means “look up”.
4. Here are the uses in the imperative form of “Go” (Υπαγε) in Mark:
...but go thy way, show thyself to...
...thy bed, and go thy way into thine house...
...saith unto him, Go home to thy...
...made thee whole; go in peace, and...
...loaves have ye? go and see. And...
...For this saying go thy way; the devil is...
...rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan...
...thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou...
...said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath...
...saith unto them, Go your way into the village...
...saith unto them, Go ye into the city...
But go your way, tell his disciples...



12 comments:

  1. I think throwing off the cloak is significant in that the cloak served as his only protection from the weather; it served as his sleeping bag. As a blind man he could not be assured that someone else would take is cloak, or that he would find it again. In other words, Bartimaeus makes himself vulnerable not only to the crowd's derision, but also to the weather.
    Slightly less possible: Jerico gave up its walls, Bartimaeus gave up his cloak.

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  2. I too am curious about the reference to Jericho. Should the audience have been Hebrew-speaking perhaps an allusion to the Hebrews emerging from 40 years in the wilderness into the promised land would have been assumed? (I believe it was near Jericho where this happened?).

    On the other side perhaps the fact that Jericho is an ancient city, well known by most people, might give common ground to the listener.

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  3. I wonder if the answer to the significance of the cloak-tossing in 10.50 is to be found in the appearance of the same word in 11.8, where the crowd throw their garments on the road. This suggestion gains some pregnancy when we combine your observation of the likely importance of Bart's use of "Son of David" with the realization that "David" is next mentioned in that same crowd scene, so that the Bartimaeus scene foreshadows the entry scene on several points--and it is easy to imagine that Bartimaeus is among the crowd. (Submitted by William Robertson; some other commenter drew my attention to the two words; it's in my notes without attribution.)

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  4. I had read somewhere once (don't you love my reference skillz?) that Bartimeus' cloak was his livelihood. As a beggar, he spread it on the ground and people would toss stuff on it for him. At the end of the day, his "take" was on the cloak and that is how he survived.

    Throwing away his cloak means he threw away his past life in response to what Jesus had done for him. I've always been impressed by that interpretation, because how many of us are willing to throw it away like that for Jesus' sake?

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  5. Wow, these are some fantastic comments. I've been wondering about the relationship between the Bart story and the next story, of the entry into Jerusalem. It's a nice connection between the cloak going off and the cloaks going down. I also hear the crowd - which once tried to shush Bart when he cried out "Son of David" now crying out "Son of David!" Is Bartemaeus leading the cheering crowd? That would be really cool.
    I've often heard commentators laud Bart for calling Jesus "Son of David," yet also hear others fault the crowd for using that "insufficient title." Is "Son of David" the right thing to call Jesus? Does it imply an imperial mentality, or a servant one?
    What a fantastic and fascinating text this is. Blessings on all of you as you make something preacheable out of it!

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  6. I found this quote in a "things to think about file" from earlier this year. Therefore, I can't cite the source, other than that it is from Ched Myers.
    "This blind beggar stands in piercing contrast to
    the rich man and the disciples at every point. He is poor, landless, and disabled --
    a victim of the system, not its beneficiary. ... Yet Bartimaeus is willing to give up
    what little he has to achieve liberation; the beggar's cloak he casts off represents
    the tool of his panhandler's trade"

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  7. I am interested in the name Son of Timaeus. In Palestine today when a man has his first-born son his name changes to: "Father of xx" We could presume another level of social heirarchy/shaming here because this grown man is still known as "son of Timeaus" instead of: "father of xx." I also love the comparison between the Rich man, and also between the other disciples who asked for high status.

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  8. blind man mute...why? He does sound like a nuisance. Perhaps they just didn't like his squaking perhaps he knew too much. Perhaps he saw too much which is why he went blind in the first place.

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  9. I am struck by the parallels to so many churches today - people on the 'inside' want to hush anyone who is squawking about Jesus, they are embarrassed by it. But the one who has suffered is willing to cry out, and then cannot be turned away...

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  10. Gordon Lathrop offers a fascinating reading of this story in the first chapter of his book, "Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology." He reads this story of the son of Timaeus as a direct response to Plato's Timaeus - a critique of Platonic cosmology and of the inadequacy of closed worldviews in general. He also connects Mark's Timaeus, who cast off his cloak, to the young man following Jesus, who runs away naked from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51-52), and the young man dressed in white in the empty tomb (Mark 16:5-7). Lathrop believes the blind man who is healed follows Jesus, being baptized into his death, and witnessing his resurrection as one clothed like the newly baptized.

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  11. hmm.....I wonder if the tossing off of the cloak is signifcant in that he is giving up his possessions, which the rich man was unable to do a few stories back so he does go. Bartimaeus, on the other hand, doesn't go, he follows. And, in a way, he enters the kingdom by doing so, in that he is made whole....

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  12. I wonder about the ways we cloak ourselves against the cold. What do we wrap ourselves in. To stay cozy and warm. What would it mean to cast those off to be made whole?

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