Monday, January 26, 2015

Separating a Man from His Cage

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Mark 1:21-28, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Sunday, February 1. My rough translation is in bold, my comments are in blue. There are occasional red letter texts, which are for the structural note that I have at the bottom. Feel free to ignore them.

21 Καὶ εἰσπορεύονται εἰς Καφαρναούμ. καὶ εὐθὺς τοῖς σάββασιν εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν ἐδίδασκεν.
And they are entering into Capernaum. And immediately on the Sabbath having come into the synagogue he was teaching. 
εἰσπορεύονται: PMI 3p, εἰσπορεύομαι, 1) to go into, enter  1a) of persons  1b) of things  1b1) to be carried into or put into  
εἰσελθὼν: AAPart nms, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  1a) of men or animals, as into a house or a city  \
ἐδίδασκεν: IAI 3s, διδάσκω, 1) to teach  1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them
1. I am using ‘entering’ for εἰσπορεύονται because it is in the middle voice.
2. The subject is “they,” indicating that Jesus is accompanied by the four followers whom he has called.
3. There is some question about the meaning of Mark’s frequent use of “immediately.” In this case, it cannot mean that this encounter happened ‘immediately’ after the previous pericope, when Jesus calls the fishers, because they would not have been mending nets on the Sabbath. Likewise, ‘on the Sabbath’ seems to indicate a new time context for the story, so ‘immediately’ seems unnecessary as a referent to time.
4. The place context for this encounter is the synagogue, pointing to the irony of an unclean spirit in a holy place.

22 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ, ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς.
And they were astounded at his teaching, for he was teaching them as having authority and not as the Scribes.   
ἐξεπλήσσοντο: IPI 3p, ἐκπλήσσω amazed, to be exceedingly struck in mind (from ἐκ intensive, and πλήσσω to strike).
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
διδάσκων: PAPart nms, διδάσκω, 1) to teach  1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them,
ἔχων: PAPart nms, 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.)
1.  Are the ‘they’ of v.22 and the ‘they’ of v.21 (both implied by the plural form of the verb) the same? I typically see this a referring to those who are gathered for teaching at the synagogue on the Sabbath, but could it mean the four new followers? I suspect it is a larger crowd, who come back into play in v.27.
2. The two options here are ‘teaching as having authority’ or ‘teaching as the scribes.’ I don’t take this to be a harsh criticism of the scribes, as if their teaching were boring, wrong, or weak. In fact, my suspicion is that “teaching as the scribes” is exactly what people expect in the synagogue – their teaching is a close adherence to the scripture, their authority is subordinated to the authority of Moses or the prophets, etc. The scribes’ teaching would be biblical teaching. For Jesus to be ‘teaching as having authority,’ might be something like the Matthean phrase, “You have heard it was said (in the scriptures) …, but I say to you ….”
3. If Jesus is teaching as if he, and not Moses, has authority, it is not unusual that the listeners would be ‘astounded,’ the root of which is ‘to strike.’ At this point, the astonishment may be an impressed, bewildered, or scandalized sort. 

23 καὶ εὐθὺς ἦν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ αὐτῶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἀνέκραξεν
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man in an unclean spirit, and it squawked out. 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀνέκραξεν: AAI 3s, ἀνακράζω, 1) to raise a cry from the depth of the throat, to cry out
1. “A man in an unclean spirit,” what a powerful description. My spouse recently alerted me to an article, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It’s Not What You Think” (Johann Hari, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html), which separated persons with addiction from their addictions. The entire article is worth reading, but this comment is especially poignant with reference to this man: “It's not you. It's your cage.” I find the gospels to be very perceptive in their language about persons with demons, acknowledging that the demonization is part of the person’s reality, but not the person himself.
2. For that reason, I am translating the implied subject of “cried out” as “it” and not as “he.” I attribute the voice to the unclean spirit, in which the man is caged, as opposed to the man himself. (I will continue using ‘it,’ even when the gender of future references are male).
3. I have read that the verb ἀνακράζω is something like an onomatopoeia, to capture the loud croaking of a bird. Hence, “squawked,” which does the same.
4. We should notice that there is an unclean spirit in the sanctuary. I wonder if this is a criticism, as some commenters suggest, because the sanctuary is supposed to be holy and this one is defiled; or, if it is an apt description of human worship: The place where we encounter the holiness of God is always also a place where we encounter human uncleanliness.
5. This verse is awkwardly separated from the next verse, even though together they complies one single sentence. I will suggest below that whoever added verse separations to this text is trying to reflect Mark’s chiastic structure.

24 λέγων, Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ.
Saying, “What to us and to you, Jesus Nazarean?  Have you come to destroy us?   I have seen who you are, the holy of the God.
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἦλθες: AAI 2s, 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
ἀπολέσαι: AAInf, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin
οἶδά: PerfAI 1s, εἴδω, ἴδω, an obsol. 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.
1. The question – “What to you and us?” – is a curious one, but not without some precedent. II Kings 3:13a in the LXX reads, καὶ εἶπεν Ελισαιε πρὸς βασιλέα Ισραηλ Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί; And Elisha said to a King of Israel, “What to you and to me?” According to John Donohue and Daniel Harrington (The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. 2002), this is a question of whether the speaker and listener share a common community.
2. “I have seen you who you are”: The unclean spirit's words could be “I have known you who you are,” since the word ἴδω, which means ‘see,’ can signify ‘knowing’ just like the English phrase, “Oh, I see.” Either way, it is in the perfect tense, even though most translations make it present tense.
3. There is a change of voice in the words of the unclean spirit. From “us and you … destroy us  to “I have seen.” Again, I see this as a way or recognizing the complexity of someone “in” an unclean spirit, where the man and the unclean spirit are one in some ways, and are not one in others.
4. I do not know what the title “Jesus Nazarene” implies. It puts me in mind of Nathanael’s question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” in John 1 – not as an intertextual reference but to suggest that Nazareth might have carried a notably questionable reputation among some of the communities to whom the gospels were addressed.
5. “The holy one of God” could be translated “the saint of God” if one wants to stir things up a bit.

25 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων, Φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτοῦ.
And Jesus censured it saying, “Be silent and come out out of him.” 
ἐπετίμησεν: AAI 3s, ἐπιτιμάω, 1) to show honor to, to honor 2) to raise the price of  3) to adjudge, award, in the sense of merited penalty
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Φιμώθητι: APImpv 2s, φιμόω, 1) to close the mouth with a muzzle, to muzzle   2) metaph.   2a) to stop the mouth, make speechless, reduce to silence
ἔξελθε: AAImpv 2s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs 
1. The verb ἐπιτιμάω, which I have translated as “censured,” is very curious because its primary meaning is “to honor” but a tertiary meaning is “to penalize.” The context here simply does not allow “honored.” However, I will be wondering this week about how a word can mean both “to honor” or “to censure.” For example, must Jesus recognize the unclean spirit as a genuine force and take it seriously before commanding it to be silent and to exit?
2. At the narrator, Mark is using the singular to refer to the unclean spirit. Jesus is not talking to “them” as the unclean spirit and the man, but is separating them.
3. The command to “be silent” is one of those moments in Mark’s gospel that is categorized as part of the “messianic secret.” Since Bible readers suppose that it is a good thing to tell the good news to everyone everywhere, Mark’s frequent commands to silence seem to show a very deliberate approach on Jesus’ part. What we don’t know is “Why?” Some of the answers I have heard are:
a. Jesus is trying to control the extent of the message. Mark makes several references to Jesus’ popularity and at times it seems to be getting out of control and interfering with his purposes of training the 12, going to Jerusalem, etc.
b. Jesus is trying to control the timing of the message. Based on Mark 9:9, where Jesus orders Peter, James, and John to tell no one about the transfiguration “until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead,” some argue that the issue of the messianic secret is timing.
c.  Mark is trying to explain answer the question, “If this Jesus is so great, why have we not heard about him before?” Some of the folks in the Jesus Seminar seem to be moving in this direction, that the ‘messianic secret’ motif is basically an apologetic move on the narrator’s part.
d. My sentiments lie with a 4th possibility: Jesus is trying to control the shape of the message. In numerous places in Mark’s gospel – particularly Jesus’ rough exchange with Simon Peter in 8:31-38 and the entry into Jerusalem in 11:1-11, Jesus will not separate any notion of his messiahship, kingship, or lordship apart from his destiny to be rejected, suffer, die, and be raised on the 3rd day – all of which are things that happen to him, which he endures as the messiah.

e. Having said that, I have lately begun to favor a 5th possibility, which I have not read among scholars, so one ought to take it with two grains of salt. My sense is that the gospel of Mark is doing two things: 1) Heralding the good news about Jesus; and 2) Propagating the movement of the Reign of God. Obviously the two cannot be fully separated and each is interactively dependent on the other. But, my feeling is that Mark is not promoting a Jesus cult; where Jesus alone is the location of God and Jesus alone is the message itself. Jesus himself says, “If any will be my disciple, let them take up their cross ….” The way to follow Jesus is to participate, to be part of the movement that Jesus is announcing. The reign of God is realized in Jesus; and Jesus points beyond himself for his disciples to be a part of it. I see the occasional “tell no one” events less as a “secret” than a redirection, away from simply being amazed at and broadcasting how greatly Jesus is the embodiment of the reign of God toward participating in it oneself.

26 καὶ σπαράξαν αὐτὸν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον καὶ φωνῆσαν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐξῆλθεν ἐξ αὐτοῦ.
And having convulsed him and having cried out a great cry the unclean spirit went out of him. 
σπαράξαν: AAPart nns, σπαράσσω, 1) to convulse, tear 
φωνῆσαν: AAPart nns, 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
ἐξῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
1. “a great cry”: the noun φωνῇ is often translated “voice,” but I am trying to keep the etymological connection with the verb φωνέω that is paired with it.
2. In this verse, the identity of the unclean spirit and the man caged in that spirit is utterly broken and become thoroughly separated.
3. The verb “went out” is repeated in v.28 below. See the comment there.

27 καὶ ἐθαμβήθησαν ἅπαντες, ὥστε συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς λέγοντας, Τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; διδαχὴ καινὴ κατ' ἐξουσίαν: καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασι τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις ἐπιτάσσει, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ.
And all were amazed, so that to ask to each other saying, “What is this?  This teaching with authority?  Even to the unclean spirits he commands, and they listen to him.” 
ἐθαμβήθησαν: API 3p, θαμβέω, 1) to be astonished
συζητεῖν: PAInf, συζητέω, 1) to seek or examine together 2) in the NT to discuss, dispute, question
λέγοντας: PAPart apm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐπιτάσσει: PAI 3s, ἐπιτάσσω, 1) to enjoin upon, order, command, charge 
ὑπακούουσιν: PAI 3p, ὑπακούω, 1) to listen, to harken  1a) of one who on the knock at the door comes to listen who it is
1. The verb θαμβέω (amazed) here is different from the verb ἐκπλήσσω (astounded)  in v.22. Both are in regard to Jesus “teaching with authority.”

28 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εὐθὺς πανταχοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν περίχωρον τῆς Γαλιλαίας.
And the report of him went out immediately all places in the whole region of Galilee. 
ἐξῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
1. The verb ἐξέρχομαι (“went out”) appears again, as in v.26. The unclean spirit goes out; the report (or ‘the hearing’) about Jesus goes out. I’m not sure what to make of this observation.  

This text has a chiastic structure (from the Greek ‘chi’, which is shaped X). Chiasms appear fairly often in the NT, but this is one of the most obvious ones that I’ve ever seen. What I don’t know yet, is how identifying the chiasm helps to interpret the meaning of the text. If you have any insight into that, please let me know.

21. And he was coming into Capernaum.  And immediately on the Sabbath having come into the synagogue he was teaching. 
22. And they were amazed about the teaching of him, for he was teaching them as having authority and not as the Scribes.  
23. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man in an unclean spirit, and it squawked out 
24. saying, “What to us and to you, Jesus Nazarean?  Have you come to destroy us?  I have seen who you are, the holy of the God.
25. And Jesus censured him saying, “Be silent and come out of him.” 
26. And convulsing him the unclean spirit and crying out a great voice went out of him.  
27. And were amazed all, so that to ask to each other saying, “Who is this?  This teaching with authority?  And to the unclean spirits he commands, and they listen to him. 
28. And the report of him went out immediately all places into the whole region of Galilee. 


9 comments:

  1. The noise of it all strikes me on this reading. We've hushed so much. For me the chiasm links teaching with deed like in Mark 6:30 - 44. We list Jesus' ways linearly; Mark intertwines them. (like to the possessed and the demons, but that's too much). Say more about "immediately."

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    1. IMMEDIATELY:
      his fame spread throughout the region. This triplet of uses of euthus seems to have a sense far more interesting than some temporal sequencing along the lines of “First this happened and then this happened and then this happened . . . it cannot mean that this encounter happened ‘immediately’ after the previous pericope, when Jesus calls the fishers, because they would not have been mending nets on the Sabbath. Likewise, ‘on the Sabbath’ seems to indicate a new time context for the story, so ‘immediately’ seems unnecessary as a referent to time.
      “ No, Mark seems to say that it is the very presence of Jesus himself that more or less causes or in some deep sense leads to these other things happening. It all has a kind of holy inevitability, which is just what you’d expect when the Son of God is near!

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  2. The chiasm is indicating movement throughout to the climax of the interior verses. Jesus who is on the loose as God on the loose- the one for whom at his baptism by John the heavens were torn open-also rends apart the unclean spirit from the human.

    That Jesus comes into Capernaum and this is his first miracle seems to relay the calling of Jesus at his baptism, as well as the action of the call in casting out those things in the world that enslave the world. The chiasm attempts to emphasize the action of coming into the world to separate that which has put creation/humanity in a cage-in this instance, a demon. This coming of Jesus is one which identifies him. At the baptism the heavens rend and a voice sounds. Here the person will be freed by rending the unclean spirit from the human. Both actions are divine enactments of the presence of God being let loose upon the realities faced in the world. God is on the loose in Jesus: Jesus is on the loose in the world.

    Verses 21 and 28 are the movement of Jesus- with the “entering” in verse 21 {εἰσπορεύονται, they are entering} corresponding to the exiting of him via report {ἐξέρχομαι, “went out”} presumably by multiple carriers in verse 28.

    Verses 22 and 27 deal with authority and identity, as one unknown teaching with authority. The irony is that the unclean spirit of course knows.

    Verses 23 and 26 remind us of unclean spirits expressing out of the man, both squawking {the onomatopoeia sounding ἀνακράζω} and the great cry that exits {φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐξῆλθεν ἐξ αὐτοῦ} from the man- an exit that completely rips out of the man.

    Verses 24 and 25 provide the height of the drama between the let loose God in Jesus and the unclean spirit who identifies who Jesus actually is-the holy of God {ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ} who has more power than the unclean spirit making the identification. Leave him {ἔξελθε: AAImpv 2s, ἐξέρχομαι} reminds again that there is a binding of the unclean one by exile from the man- a separation that reminds us that the people who are chained up with issues are in a jail or a controlled environment- they are not the issues themselves. People are considered separate from their ailments.

    Jesus who is entering Capernaum rends apart an unclean spirit which enslaved a man. This is God loose upon the earth, the Beloved Son/Holy one of God, who speaks with authority in teaching, over demons, and in the affairs of humanity.

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  3. Excellent framing of the chiasm, David. Thanksl!

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  4. Thanks. I think there may be more than indicated above in my first stab. The second issue embedded in the prominent interior section of the chiasm (verses 24 and 25) is the use of “destroy” {ἀπολέσαι: AAInf, ἀπόλλυμι}. It is interesting that the interior clause of the chiasm has this word where in Jesus' first week of ministry goes from the demons asking Jesus not to destroy them (1:24) to the Pharisees conspiring with the Herodians on destroying Jesus (3:6). The cleansing of the temple scene ends on the same note: "And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill destroy him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching" (11:18). Notice, too, the linkage here to 1:21-28 around Jesus' "teaching" {διδάσκων}. The destruction of the Holy One will of course be an attempt to silence the Holy one over against the unclean ones- the chief priests and scribes, as well the Pharisees and Herodians.

    A third issue: Is it possible that the interior section of the chiasm is also contains a chiasm in miniature? Thus: Destroy + Silence Him are actions that will become the very things that are done to the Holy One of God, Jesus. And perhaps, this statement that runs in its own parallel is one where the unclean spirit is destroyed- but this will also be the activity done against the Holy One of God in time. This gives the messianic secret even more warrant in that Jesus at this point silences the demon and no longer allows him to speak.

    Jesus who is entering Capernaum rends apart an unclean spirit which enslaved a man. This is God loose upon the earth, the Beloved Son/Holy one of God, who speaks with authority in teaching, over demons, and in the affairs of humanity. The rending of the heavens will also rend the brokenness and shroud of uncleanness in the earth, even to the point of the curtain of the temple being ripped open from top to bottom {Mark 13:48, τοῦ ναοῦ ἐσχίσθη εἰς δύο}}as Jesus is crucified. Yet the open tomb- also a rending- will cause the women to run away in fear- for indeed the Holy One is once again loose.

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  5. Thanks. I think there may be more than indicated above in my first stab. The second issue embedded in the prominent interior section of the chiasm (verses 24 and 25) is the use of “destroy” {ἀπολέσαι: AAInf, ἀπόλλυμι}. It is interesting that the interior clause of the chiasm has this word where in Jesus' first week of ministry goes from the demons asking Jesus not to destroy them (1:24) to the Pharisees conspiring with the Herodians on destroying Jesus (3:6). The cleansing of the temple scene ends on the same note: "And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill destroy him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching" (11:18). Notice, too, the linkage here to 1:21-28 around Jesus' "teaching" {διδάσκων}. The destruction of the Holy One will of course be an attempt to silence the Holy one over against the unclean ones- the chief priests and scribes, as well the Pharisees and Herodians.

    A third issue: Is it possible that the interior section of the chiasm is also contains a chiasm in miniature? Thus: Destroy + Silence Him are actions that will become the very things that are done to the Holy One of God, Jesus. And perhaps, this statement that runs in its own parallel is one where the unclean spirit is destroyed- but this will also be the activity done against the Holy One of God in time. This gives the messianic secret even more warrant in that Jesus at this point silences the demon and no longer allows him to speak.

    Jesus who is entering Capernaum rends apart an unclean spirit which enslaved a man. This is God loose upon the earth, the Beloved Son/Holy one of God, who speaks with authority in teaching, over demons, and in the affairs of humanity. The rending of the heavens will also rend the brokenness and shroud of uncleanness in the earth, even to the point of the curtain of the temple being ripped open from top to bottom {Mark 13:48, τοῦ ναοῦ ἐσχίσθη εἰς δύο}}as Jesus is crucified. Yet the open tomb- also a rending- will cause the women to run away in fear- for indeed the Holy One is once again loose.

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  6. Excellent outline of the chiasm! I remember studying chiastic structure in David Tiede's Luke class almost 30 years ago now! I remember him teaching us to find the central message at the very center of the chiasm: In this case,
    "You are the Holy One of God."

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  7. My mind and spirit has just been torn open by your excellent exegesis. Thank you so much!
    Barbara Heck

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  8. wow! great stuff. my sermon is about words...and here you go about silencing and speaking...thanks.

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