Monday, October 29, 2012

The Law Prioritized and Relativized


Mark 12:28-34
The gospel reading for Sunday, November 4, is Mark 12:28-34, a well-known text containing parts A and B of what is often called “the great Commandment.” This text sits between two groups of texts. The first are texts of challenging questions. The Chief Priests, Scibes, and Elders question the authority by which Jesus acts. Jesus not only silences the question but tells the parable of the wicked tenants, which these leaders perceive as being directed against them. Then, they send others to question Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar and some Sadducees question him about the resurrection. So, when the Scribe in our story questions Jesus, it is embedded within other contentious debates, part of the purpose of which was to entrap Jesus.
The second set of texts, following our pericope, is a series of Jesus decrying the Scribes for misusing the law and exploiting others. I would even argue that the observation of the Widow giving all that she has to the temple is part of that argument against the Scribes.
And, of course, since the beginning of chapter 11, Jesus has been in and about Jerusalem, where he expressly has traveled to be betrayed, suffer, die, and be raised. This would be “Tuesday” of the last week, I believe, and it is a very contentious day.
Here are my rough interpretation and initial notes. Your comments are always welcomed.

28 Καὶ προσελθὼν εἷς τῶν γραμματέων ἀκούσας αὐτῶν συζητούντων, ἰδὼν ὅτι καλῶς ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς, ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτόν, Ποία ἐστὶν ἐντολὴ πρώτη 
πάντων; 
And one of the Scribes having come having heard them debating, having seen that he answered them well, interrogated him, “What commandment is first of all?”
προσελθὼν : AAPart nsm, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach  2) draw near to  3) to assent to
ἀκούσας: AAPart nsm, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
συζητούντων: PAPart gpm, συζητέω, 1) to seek or examine together  2) in the NT to discuss, dispute, question
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
ἐπηρώτησεν: AAI 3s, ἐπερωτάω, 1) to accost one with an enquiry, put a question to, enquiry of,  ask, interrogate
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The word I have translated “interrogated” repeats in v.35 below. See the note there.

29 ἀπεκρίθη  Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν, Ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, κύριος  θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν, 
Jesus answered him “First is, ‘Hear, Israel, The lord our God is one lord, (or: The lord God our lord is one),*
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
Ἄκουε: PAImpv 2s, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
* The nouns here (except for “our”) are all nominative. With the verb ‘to be,’ nominative nouns can be either subject or predicate. Hence, it is the translator’s judgment over which of these nouns is the subject of ‘is’ and which is the predicate.

30 καὶ ἀγαπήσεις  κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου. 
And you will love the Lord your God out of all of your heart and out of all of your soul and out of all of your mind and out of all of your strength. 
ἀγαπήσεις: FAI 2s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
2. Some later manuscripts add to verse 30, “This is the first of the commandments.”

31 δευτέρα αὕτη, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. μείζων τούτων ἄλλη ἐντολὴ οὐκ ἔστιν. 
Second this, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.  No other commandment is greater of these.”
Ἀγαπήσεις: FAI 2s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The Septuagint of Leviticus 19:18b reads:  
The full quotation from Lev 19:18 is, "You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." As you can see, by adding the phrase “I am the lord,” Leviticus itself already implies a connection between this command and the command of Deuteronomy 6 regarding God’s lordship. It is also the case that loving the neighbor is set as the alternative to taking vengeance.
2. The verbs “you will love” in vv.30 and 31 are in the future tense of the indicative voice, not the imperative voice. The only imperative is “Hear!” in v.29.
3. Because δευτέρα is a numerical ordering number, I have been translating πρώτη as ‘first’ while translating μείζων as “greater.”
4. The last phrase is kind of awkward, partly because the grammar seems caught between whether these are two commandments or one commandment. “These” is plural, but “greater” is singular.
5. 1 Sam 15:22: But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

32 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ  γραμματεύς, Καλῶς, διδάσκαλε, ἐπ' ἀληθείας εἶπες ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ: 
And the Scribe said to him, “Good, teacher, in truth you said that he is one and no other is beside him;
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶπες: AAI 2s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἐστιν : PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

33 καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν αὐτὸν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς συνέσεως καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν τὸν πλησίον ὡς ἑαυτὸν περισσότερόν ἐστιν πάντων τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσιῶν. 
And to love him out of all of the heart and out of all of the understanding and out of all of the strength and to love the neighbor as oneself is greater than all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 
ἀγαπᾶν: PAInf, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
ἐστιν : PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. ὁλοκαυτωμάτων This word literally means “burnt offerings.” It is transliterated into English as “holocaust.”
2. The infinitive “to love” has a definite article and could also be something like “the loving”.
3. The Scribe leaves out “all of the soul,” but includes “all of the strength,” which is not in the Septuagint (at least not in the version that I have).
4. Jesus did not explicitly mention burnt offering and sacrifices, but they would fall under the 613 laws of the Old Testament.

34 καὶ  Ἰησοῦς ἰδὼν [αὐτὸν] ὅτι νουνεχῶς ἀπεκρίθη εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Οὐ μακρὰν εἶ ἀπὸ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι ἐτόλμα αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι. 
And Jesus having seen [him] that he answered mindfully said to him, “You are not far from the reign of God.”  And nobody was any more emboldened to interrogate him.   
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐτόλμα : IAI 3s, τολμάω,1) not to dread or shun through fear  2) to bear, endure  3) to bring one's self to  4) to be bold  5) bear one's self boldly, deal boldly 
ἐπερωτῆσαι: AAInf, 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. See v.28 
1. I am translating νουνεχῶς as “mindfully”(literally: mind-having) to pick up on the root  νοί, which is already present in the pericope as “mind”( διανοίας) in v.30
2. I am tempted to go with the KJV translation of this last phrase, “And no man after that durst ask him any question,” simply in order to use the word “durst”.
3. The verb ἐπερωτῆσαι could be simply “to ask,” but in Mark it is often used in a confrontational setting:  
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...
4. It is curious to see that both the Scribe and Jesus seem to feel entitled to have the last word, commending the other. There is unusual accord in their views of the law.

3 comments:

  1. You write " και εξ ολης της δυναμεως σου. The phrase “with all your strength” is not there. " I think that sentence should read "The phrase "with all your mind" is not there." 'dianoia' (mind) is the missing word.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, for the good work that you do. I have found it to be very helpful in my own study of the scriptures.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Alan. I have made the correction.

    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