Tuesday, October 16, 2012

James and John call “Shotgun!”

Below is a rough translation of and some preliminary remarks about Mark 10:35-45, the Revised Common Lectionary Reading for Sunday, October 18, 2015. This reading immediately follows the third time that Jesus discloses his forthcoming death to the twelve. And, it is the third time that they – some or all - react inappropriately.

35 Καὶ προσπορεύονται αὐτῷ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης οἱ υἱοὶ Ζεβεδαίου λέγοντες αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, θέλομεν ἵνα ἐὰν αἰτήσωμέν σε ποιήσῃς ἡμῖν.
And James and John the sons of Zebedee come near to him, saying to him, “Teacher, we desire that whatever we may request, you do for us.” 
προσπορεύονται: PMI 3p, προσπορεύομαι, 1) to draw near, approach
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
θέλομεν: PAI 1p, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1b) to desire, to wish
αἰτήσωμέν: AASubj, 1pl, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require   
ποιήσῃς: AASubj 2s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, etc
1. The verb αἰτέω can be more than simply “ask” and the word θέλω is a bit more than simply “want” – particularly as these two terms come together in this request. For example, αἰτέω describes a beggar begging for alms, or Herod offering Herodias anything that she desires, when she desires the head of John the Baptizer. It is the term for Joseph asking for the body of Jesus after the crucifixion and it is sometimes used with prayer. With the close relation to θέλω, which carries a sense of resolution or determination, I don’t quite know the best language to capture the words. In some ways, James and John are craving power. 2. I am inclined to see αἰτέω and θέλω as volitional terms, contrasting with ποιέω (to make or to do) and later εἴδω (to know, vv.38 and 42). Together, this text addresses knowing, willing, and doing, three major philosophical/ethical categories.
3. The request sounds rather open-ended. I suspect that this is a typical kind of formal opening salvo of what would be a back-and-forth kind of negotiation when someone is asking a boon.

 36 δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί θέλετέ [με] ποιήσω ὑμῖν;
Then he said to them, “What do you desire [me] to do for you?”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
θέλετέ: PAI 2p, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1b) to desire, to wish
ποιήσω: AASubj 1s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, etc
1. The postpositive δὲ could be ‘but,’ yet Mark uses it often to move the storyline from one thing to the next, so I will use ‘then’ because a contrast does not seem indicated by the context.  
2. I suspect that this is exactly the follow up response to the kind of opening that James and John use when negotiating a boon.

 37οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Δὸς ἡμῖν ἵνα εἷς σου ἐκ δεξιῶν καὶ εἷς ἐξ ἀριστερῶν καθίσωμεν ἐν τῇ δόξῃ σου.
Then they said to him, “Grant to us that we may sit one on your right and one on your left in your glory.” 
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
Δὸς  AAImp 2s, δίδωμι, 1) to give ... 2b) to grant, give to one asking, let have  
καθίσωμεν AASubj 1pl, καθίζω, 1) to make to sit down 
1. As Michael Scott from “The Office” says, “The rules of ‘shotgun’ are very simple. The first persons to call ‘shotgun’ when in sight of the vehicle gets to sit in the front seat.”
2. I can’t help but wonder if, after asking for the prime seats above the other ten, it will only be a matter of time before James and John come to Jesus individually begging for the right hand seat.
3. “in your glory”: Since this is the third time that Jesus has disclosed his impending death, and the third reaction, a question would be whether James and John have a sense of what Jesus’ “glory” really is. The twelve’s reactions to the first two disclosures would indicate that none of them gets or accepts that death is in the package.
4. Jesus has spoken of “the Son of Man” coming in the glory of his father in 8:38, following the first disclosure of his impending death (and the first bad response). He will speak of it again in Mark’s ‘little apocalypse’ in c.13, saying that they will see “the Son of Man” coming with great power and glory.

 38 δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε. δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ἐγὼ πίνω, τὸ βάπτισμα ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι;
Then Jesus said to them, “You have not known/seen what you are requesting.  Are you able to drink the cup which I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
οἴδατε: PerfAI 2p, εἴδω, ἴδω, an obsolete form of the present tense, the place of which is supplied by ὁράω. The tenses coming from εἴδω and retained by usage form two families, of which one signifies to see, the other to know.
αἰτεῖσθε: PMI 2p, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
δύνασθε: PMI 2p, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources, or of a state of mind
πιεῖν AAIndicative, πίνω,  1) to drink 
πίνω: PAI 1s, πίνω,  1) to drink 
βαπτίζομαι: PPI 1s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) 
βαπτισθῆναι: APInf, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) 
1. “know/see” (εἴδω): This verb has an interesting history of being, originally, about ‘seeing’ but becoming a way of speaking about ‘knowing.’ In this case, the verb is in the perfect tense, although it sounds strange to translate tat way.
2. Of course, Jesus has already been literally/physically baptized in water in Mark’s gospel, 1:9-11. The sacramental language of this text makes me think that this is a Markan expression more than an authentic saying of Jesus. Given the immediately previous disclosure of his impending death, is Jesus/Mark interpreting the sacraments as death warrants of a sort?
3. My friend Mel Roblee used to say that drinking the cup was a symbolic way that Roman soldiers would signify their willingness to die in battle. Does anyone know of this tradition?
4. The relationship between ‘knowing/seeing’ and the sacramental language is interesting. If James’ and John’s request is an expression of the “Gentile” (v.42) way of being, baptism and the cup of the new covenant is posited as a whole different way of knowing/seeing.

 39οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Δυνάμεθα. δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τὸ ποτήριον ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε,
Then they said to him, “We are able.”  Then Jesus said to them, “The cup which I drink you will drink and the baptism with which I am baptized you will be baptized, 
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
Δυνάμεθα PMI 1pl δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources, 
πίνω: PAI 1s, πίνω,  1) to drink 
πίεσθε: FMI 2p, πίνω,  1) to drink 
βαπτίζομαι: PPI 1s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse
βαπτισθήσεσθε  FPI 2p, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse
1. In a different gospel James’ and John’s response may seem courageous and inspiring. In Mark’s gospel it seems arrogant, even laughable in light of how the twelve consistently misapprehend what Jesus is saying and how all of them forsake Jesus at his arrest.
2. If this language is sacramental and if it indicates death, the assumption that James and John will both drink the cup and be baptized with the baptism of Jesus goes farther than the actual narrative of Mark’s gospel – the original ending of which ends with the disciples not even knowing about the resurrection.

 40 τὸ δὲ καθίσαι ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἐξ εὐωνύμων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι, ἀλλ' οἷς ἡτοίμασται.
yet to sit on my right or on my left is not mine to give, but for whom it is prepared.
καθίσαι: AAInf, καθίζω, 1) to make to sit down  1a) to set, appoint, to confer a kingdom on one
ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
δοῦναι: AAInf, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
ἡτοίμασται PPI 3s, ἑτοιμάζω, 1) to make ready, prepare 
1. This is a bit awkward to translate, since the δὲ and the ἀλλ' can both be “but.” I’ve made the δὲ ‘yet’ and the ἀλλ' ‘but,’ since ἀλλ' usually marks a stronger contrast.
2.  This verse raises the prospect that Jesus’ right and left have been prepared for someone, without ever answering – as far as I can tell – who.
3. It also speaks to Mark’s understanding of Jesus’ power. Even in his glory Jesus is not the one who gets to choose who will be to his right or his left. Since Jesus uses the passive voice, “for whom it is prepared,” there is no indication of who has the agency to prepare the seating. However, if Mark 15:27 is what is intended by this saying, perhaps it was the Roman soliders: “And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.”

 41Καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ δέκα ἤρξαντο ἀγανακτεῖν περὶ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωάννου.
And having heard the ten began to be indignant about James and John.
ἀκούσαντες: AAPart nmp, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, 2) to hear 
ἤρξαντο: AMI 3p, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule 
ἀγανακτεῖν PAInf, ἀγανακτέω, ) to be indignant, moved with indignation, be very displeased 
1. With no obligation by the narrator to tell us how the others might have heard, the effect of the hearing and the indignation of the ten is that Jesus will speak to “them” in the next verse.  

 42καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι αὐτῶν κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν.
And having called them to himself, Jesus says to them, “You have known/seen that those who want to be considered to rule the Gentiles exercise lordship on them and the great ones among them wield authority over them.
προσκαλεσάμενος  AMPart, nms, προσκαλέομαι, 1) to call to  2) to call to one's self 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
Οἴδατε: PerfAI 2p, εἴδω, ἴδω, an obsolete form of the present tense, the place of which is supplied by ὁράω. The tenses coming from εἴδω and retained by usage form two families, of which one signifies to see, the other to know.
δοκοῦντες PAPart, nmp, δοκέω, 1) to be of opinion, think, suppose  2) to seem, to be accounted, reputed 
ἄρχειν: PAInf, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule 
κατακυριεύουσιν PAI 3p of κατακυριεύω, 1) to bring under one's power, to subject one's self, to subdue, master  2) to hold in subjection, to be master of, exercise lordship over 
κατεξουσιάζουσιν PAI 3p of κατεξουσιάζω, 1) to exercise authority, wield power 
1. Is Jesus speaking to all twelve and including James and John in his comments regarding the way of the Gentiles? Or, is the indignation of the ten more egregious and reflective of the Gentile means of trying to attain greatness than the request of James and John?
2. “exercise lordship” κατακυριεύω could simply be translated “subject” or “subdue,” but I want to retain the word “lord” (κυριε) that is contained in the verb κατακυριεύω, just like I retain the word “authority” (εξουσιά) in the verb κατεξουσιάζω.
3. One wonders if Galilean folk like Jesus saw this description as how Rome operated, with Caesars being killed, Generals vying for the title, Senators asserting themselves, local kings like Herod marrying a brother’s wife, etc. For Jesus’ followers, one of the awful effects of living under the Empire is the temptation to imitate them. For example, some of the apocryphal books from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean revolution show that there was a lively debate among the Jews on whether to imitate the Greek educational, athletic, artistic, and militaristic activities or to maintain their own unique culture as an expression of their faith.
4. This is a very awkward sentence to translate word for word.

 43οὐχ οὕτως δέ ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν: ἀλλ' ὃς ἂν θέλῃ μέγας γενέσθαι ἐν ὑμῖν, ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος,
Yet it is not so among you; but whoever may desire to become great among you, will become your servant,
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
θέλῃ: PASubj 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend
γενέσθαι: AMInf, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 
ἔσται FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. Here the pericope gets back to the volitional language of vv. 35-6. V.42 describes how exercising lordship and pursuing authority is how “the Gentile” world operates. “You” (presumably followers of Jesus) are different - whoever desires greatness will become a servant. It would have been easy to say “will serve,” but the emphasis here is not on the action that follows volition but the being, the identity of who one is.
2. This note by Narry Santos is helpful:
Three related instances of verbal paradox in the Gospel of Mark include 8:35 ("whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it" and "whoever loses his life . . . shall save it"); 9:35 ("If any one wants to be first, he shall be last of all"); and 10:43-44 ("whoever wishes to become great . . . shall be your servant" and "whoever wishes to be first . . . shall be slave of all"). These statements occur within the context of Jesus' three Passion predictions (8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34), the disciples' misunderstanding of His passion predictions (8:32; 9:32; 10:35-41), and the ensuing three discipleship discourses of Jesus (8:34-9:1; 9:35-50; 10:42-45).
Jesus’ Paradoxical Teaching in Mk, BlBLlOTHECA SACRA 157 (January-March 2000) 15-25

 44καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος, ἔσται πάντων δοῦλος:
And whoever may desire to be first among you, will be a slave of all;
θέλῃ: PASubj 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend
εἶναι: PAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. Likewise, as the thought continues from v.43, the desire leads to being.

 45καὶ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.
For even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his soul a ransom for the cause of many.” 
ἦλθεν: AAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come
διακονηθῆναι: APInf, διακονέω, 1) to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon
διακονῆσαι: AAInf, διακονέω, 1) to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon
δοῦναι: AAInf, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
1. This could read, “the son of man also ...” to show Jesus in solidarity with those who become servants; or it could read “even the son of man” to show Jesus as exemplary in becoming a servant.
2. The word λύτρον (ransom) is only used 2x in the NT: Here and in the parallel text in Mt.
3. This note by Adela Yabro Collins is helpful:
…Those members of the audience intimately familiar with the Jewish scriptures probably would have perceived allusions to Isaiah in this saying. According to the Septuagint version of Isa 53:11, the servant of the Lord is a just man who serves many well (δίκαιον εύ δουλεύοντα πολλοίς). The following verse adds that "his life was given over to death" (παρεδόθη εις θάνατον ή ψυχή αυτού) and that "he bore the sins of many" (καί αυτός αμαρτίας πολλών άνήνεγκε).  The language of "bearing sins" casts the servant in the role of the scapegoat, and the Hebrew version describes him as an offering for sin, as well as a scapegoat. The image of ransom, however, does not occur in this passage. It does of course appear elsewhere in the Jewish scriptures, and informed members of the audience may well have interpreted Mark 10:45 in light of one or more of those occurrences.
The Signification of Mark 10:45 among Gentile Christians, Adela Yarbro Collins,


5 comments:

  1. Thanks to Dave Clark who pointed out Ched Myers' insight that the identity of those for whom the right and left hand of Jesus in his glory was given is in Mark 15:27 "And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am very surprised that the lectionaries leaves out the next six verses with the healing of Bartimaeus, since those stories always frame the discples' inability "to see." Somehow Bartimaeus "gets it" where the rich man and the disciples don't. So what, exactly is it that Mark expects of the disciples (and us, the reader)? Is it simply to believe? ("Your faith has made you well.") Mark tells us all the things the rich man had done--except for "one thing"--so the expectation is not "to do."
    --Dwight

    ReplyDelete
  3. I appreciated your work and thought. Helped me to prepare to prepare my sermon.
    --Michael

    ReplyDelete
  4. My dad recalled not the Roman Soldiers drinking the cup before battle, to symbolize a willing ness to die, but the drinking of the cup of ones victims' blood, after battle. And the confusion this produces with the Sacrament of drinking Christ's Blood and eating Christ's flesh. It is still connecting with the one who died. Each are deeply symbolic and in anthropological terms, humanly common. We call it behemouthly violent, when it is more symbolic than necessarily meaning offense.

    ReplyDelete

If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive