Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Legal, Intended, and Permitted


Below is my rough translation and some comments regarding Mark 10:1-12, which is part of the lectionary reading for Sunday, October 7. The lectionary also includes vv.13-16, but I see those verses as a separate pericope and will not treat them here.

I view these conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees, then Jesus and the disciples, as arguments over the nature of interpreting Scripture, namely Deuteronomy 24:1-4. As usual, your comments are welcomed.

Mark 10:1-12
1 Καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἀναστὰς ἔρχεται εἰς τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδαίας [καὶ] πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ συμπορεύονται πάλιν ὄχλοι πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ὡς εἰώθει πάλιν ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς. 
And having gone up from there he entered into the region of the Judeans [and] beyond the Jordan, and again crowds gathered to him, and as he had been accustomed again he was teaching them.
ἀναστὰς: AAPart, nms, ἀνίστημι,1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, 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
συμπορεύονται: PMI 3p, συμπορεύομαι, 1) to go or journey together  2) to come together, to assemble
εἰώθει : PluperfectAI 3s, to be accustomed, to be wont
ἐδίδασκεν: IAI 3s, διδάσκω, 1) to teach

2 καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνδρὶ γυναῖκα ἀπολῦσαι, πειράζοντες αὐτόν. 
And Pharisees having approached were interrogating him if it is lawful a man to divorce a woman, while testing him.
προσελθόντες: AAPart npm, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach  2) draw near to  3) to assent to
ἐπηρώτων: IAI 3p, ἐπερωτάω, 1) to accost one with an enquiry, put a question to, enquiry of,  ask, interrogate  2) to address one with a request or demand  2a) to ask of or demand of one 
ἔξεστιν: PAI 3s, ἔξεστι, 1) it is lawful
ἀπολῦσαι: AAInf, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer)  … 4) used of divorce, to dismiss from the house, to repudiate.
πειράζοντες: PAPart npm, πειράζω, 1) to try whether a thing can be done  1a) to attempt, endeavor  2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining  his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself 

3  δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,Τί ὑμῖν ἐνετείλατο Μωϋσῆς; 
Yet answering he said to them, “What did Moses command to you?”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἐνετείλατο: AMI 3s, ἐντέλλομαι,1) to order, command to be done, enjoin
The participle, ἀποκριθεὶς, is an aorist passive participle, which I typically phrase as “having …” (e.g. “having approached” above). But, in this verse it does not appear that Jesus has answered the question before posing the question about Moses’ command. In fact, he has asked them about Moses’ command instead of answering their question.

4 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Ἐπέτρεψεν Μωϋσῆς βιβλίον ἀποστασίου γράψαι καὶ ἀπολῦσαι. 
Yet they said, “Moses permitted to write a writ of divorce and to divorce.”
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
Ἐπέτρεψεν: AAI 3s, ἐπιτρέπω, 1) to turn to, transfer, commit, instruct  2) to permit, allow, give leave
γράψαι: AAInf, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters  … write down, record 
ἀπολῦσαι: AAInf, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer)  … 4) used of divorce, to dismiss from the house, to repudiate.
1. At this point, the original question posed by the Pharisees has been answered and it is the answer that they knew all along. However, the story continues, indicating that there is a greater point to this story than what the law actually says.
2. The reference here is to Deuteronomy 24:1-4: Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man’s wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.
As one can see, the point of this law is not whether or not one can get a divorce. The point is that one cannot re-marry a former spouse who has been married and divorced by someone else along the way. While the passage does not suggest that she – by virtue of having been through a first marriage and divorce – is ‘defiled’ to her second husband, it does suggest that by going through the second marriage and divorce she is now defiled for a repeat marriage to her first husband. The matter of “writing a bill of divorce” is taken for granted here as a practice. Perhaps it is this status of “things taken for granted” that the word “permit” signifies.
I like how the ‘olde English’ versions translate Ἐπέτρεψεν as “suffer” – as in “Suffer the little children to come unto me” or “Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement.” This is not the same word as παθεῖν , as in Mark 8:31 “the Son of Man must suffer.” My interest is in how this older usage of the English language displays some relationship between ‘permitting’ and ‘suffering.’ Does is suggest that granting permission exacts a cost of some sort by the one permitting?

5 δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πρὸς τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν ἔγραψεν ὑμῖν τὴν 
ἐντολὴν ταύτην. 
Yet Jesus said to them, “To your hardened heart he wrote to you this law.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἔγραψεν: AAI 3s,  γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters  … write down, record 
For the Pharisees to recognize that divorce is “permitted” and for Jesus to show that there is context for this permission, suggests that this conversation is about how to interpret Scripture, and not just about whether the law says this or that. This is a much more sophisticated approach to reading Scripture than to repeat II Timothy 3:16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God) as some kind of mechanical event, whereby God dictates every word of Scripture as equally inspired. Jesus suggests a keen interdependence behind this law. The law not only reflects God’s way to God’s people, but it was written with at least some sensitivity to the human situation – in this case, hard-heartedness. This law is not the apodictic law that simply expresses a requirement or prohibition; it is the conditional law that is given ‘by Moses’ in a way that befits human experience, limitations, and sinfulness.
The word for “hard hearted” σκληροκαρδίαν (sclero-cardia), is would be familiar to the medical profession, which continue to use these Greek words to describe calcification of the heart (or arteries, etc.).
In the end, the “permission” of Deuteronomy 24 is not a reflection of what God wills as much as it is a concession by Moses to human failings. Is it lawful? Yes, but not in the same way that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is lawful.

6ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς: 
Yet from the beginning of creation male and female he made them;
ἐποίησεν: AAI 3s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc
Jesus moves to the first creation story as a way of reaching for something more fundamental than a proviso that is rooted in Moses’ concession human hard-heartedness. The original community of male and female were, in some way, a reflection of the image and likeness of God (who, in this story, speaks in plurality – “Let us make humanity in our image…”)

7ἕνεκεν τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα 
[καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ], 
For this a man will leave behind his father and the mother [and will hold fast to his woman.]
καταλείψει: FAI 3s, καταλείπω, 1) to leave behind  1a) to depart from, leave 
προσκολληθήσεται: FPI 3s, cleave, hold fast
The latter [bracketed] portion of this verse is not in many of the earliest manuscripts.

8καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν: ὥστε οὐκέτι εἰσὶν δύο ἀλλὰ μία σάρξ. 
and the two will be into one flesh; so they are no longer two but one flesh.
ἔσονται: FMI 3p, 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 
This verse is about sex, right? The word “flesh” is used twice, two fleshes becoming one flesh and, in the first half of this statement, two will be into one flesh. My sense is that the preposition into indicates that this is talking about copulation. The only reason I find this important to note is that we often romanticize this text to make it “two hearts that beat as one,” or something like. What is at stake in Deut.24 is whether a woman who has been married and divorced, then married and divorced to a second husband, can be re-married to the first husband. The permission to divorce in Deut.24 is based on human failure, not what God wills. What I don’t know is whether the proviso “she does not please him” in Deut. 24 is an explicit reference to sexual pleasure. If that is the case, the whole notion of desire, boredom, then desire to re-conquer the same woman who has been another man’s woman means that this a law concedes to some forms of human vagary, but not to all of them.


9 οὖν  θεὸς συνέζευξεν ἄνθρωπος μὴ χωριζέτω. 
Therefore whom God has joined together no person may separate.
συνέζευξεν: AAI 3s, συζεύγνυμι, 1) to fasten to one yoke, yoke together  2) to join together unite  2a) of the marriage tie
χωριζέτω: PAImpv 3s, χωρίζω, 1) to separate, divide, part, put asunder, to separate one's self from,  to depart  1a) to leave a husband or wife  1a) of divorce  1b) to depart, go away 
I wonder what people hear whenever a pastor says these words at a wedding. This verse – if I am reading the context of Deut.24 correctly – suggests that this is a 3rd person imperative saying that nobody is allowed to pursue either of the married couple any more as a sexual partner and that neither of the couple is allowed to pursue others as sexual partners, even if they grow bored with one another.

10Καὶ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν πάλιν οἱ μαθηταὶ περὶ τούτου ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν. 
And in the house again the disciples interrogated him about this.
ἐπηρώτων: IAI 3p, ἐπερωτάω, 1) to accost one with an enquiry, put a question to, enquiry of,  ask, interrogate
When the Pharisees interrogated Jesus (for my use of “interrogate” see below) they did so in order to test him. Does the word “again” indicate that the disciples, likewise, are testing Jesus in some way?

11καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην 
μοιχᾶται ἐπ' αὐτήν, 
And he says to them, “Whoever might divorce his woman and might marry another is adulterated by/against her.”
λέγει: PAI 3s, , λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἀπολύσῃ: AASubj 3s, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer)  … 4) used of divorce, to dismiss from the house, to repudiate.
γαμήσῃ: AASubj 3s, γαμέω, 1) to lead in marriage, take to wife  1a) to get married, to marry  1b) to give one's self in marriage  2) to give a daughter in marriage
μοιχᾶται: PPI 3s, μοιχάω to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife, to commit adultery with
1. The verb “adulterate” is in the passive voice. Most translations make it an active – indeed a very strongly active – voice, “commits adultery.” But to say, “commits adultery” makes adultery the object of a verb that is not actually here. I am trying to retain the passive voice, but there is very little company here among other translations.
2. What is the antecedent to the pronoun ‘her’? Is it ‘his woman’ or ‘another’? Both potential antecedents and the pronoun are feminine singular.
3. The preposition ἐπ' can mean a variety of things, depending on the context. If one chooses ‘by’ or ‘against’ that would sway the meaning of the verse and create its own context. This is a really fine area for translators.

12καὶ ἐὰν αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς γαμήσῃ ἄλλον μοιχᾶται.
And if she having divorced her man might marry another she is adulterated.
ἀπολύσασα: AAPart nsf, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer)  … 4) used of divorce, to dismiss from the house, to repudiate.
γαμήσῃ: AASubj 3s, γαμέω, 1) to lead in marriage, take to wife  1a) to get married, to marry  1b) to give one's self in marriage  2) to give a daughter in marriage
μοιχᾶται: PPI 3s, μοιχάω to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife, to commit adultery with
The question arises whether it was even a real option for a woman to divorce a man legally. Part of the answer would like in whether by ‘legal’ one is referring to the Law of Moses or to the Romanic law in force in 1st century Palestine.


Looking at how Mark uses the verb ἐπερωτάω, which could simply mean “to ask” but also carries the connotation of a challenge, I have translated it as “interrogate.” Because it is Mark’s word for confrontational conversations – Jesus and demons, Pharisees and Scribe and Jesus, etc. – I translate it confrontationally – at least in the rough translation.

And he asked him, What is...
...Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk...
...people, his disciples asked him concerning the...
And he asked them, How many...
...hands upon him, he asked him if he...
...by the way he asked his disciples, saying...
And he saith unto them, But...
And they asked him, saying, Why...
And he asked the scribes, What...
And he asked his father, How...
...house, his disciples asked him privately, Why...
...and were afraid to ask him.
...in the house he asked them, What was...
...to him, and asked him, Is it...
...house his disciples asked him again of...
...to him, and asked him, Good Master...
...unto them, I will also ask of you one...
...no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,
...answered them well, asked him, Which is...
...after that durst ask him any question...
...John and Andrew asked him privately,
...the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest...
...the high priest asked him, and said...
And Pilate asked him, Art thou...
And Pilate asked him again, saying...
...him the centurion, he asked him whether he...

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