Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Beloved Tested Son

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments regarding Mark 1:9-15, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent, February 22, 2015.

Those who follow this blog or the lectionary will see that this reading overlaps a reading from this past January 11, when the gospel text was Mark 1:4-11. At the end of my translation and comments, I will babble briefly on what it might mean to preach about the baptism of Jesus when the parameters of the pericope are shifted from vv.4-11 to vv.9-15. Your comments are always welcomed.

9Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς 
Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην ὑπὸ Ἰωάννου. 
And it happened in those days Jesus went from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
ἐγένετο : AMI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
ἦλθεν : AAI 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 
ἐβαπτίσθη : API 3s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)  2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean  with water, to wash one's self, bathe  3) to overwhelm 

10καὶ εὐθὺς ἀναβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος εἶδεν σχιζομένους τοὺςοὐρανοὺς καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα ὡς περιστερὰν καταβαῖνον εἰς αὐτόν: 
And immediately coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the spirit as a dove coming down into him;
ἀναβαίνων: ἀναβαίνω to cause to ascend, to go up, climb up, mount, ascend (from βαίνω used of all motion on the ground, go, walk, tread, step, the direction being determined by the preposition prefixed; here by ἀνά up or back).
σχιζομένους: PPPart apm, σχίζω, 1) to cleave, cleave asunder, rend  2) to divide by rending  3) to split into factions, be divided 
καταβαῖνον: καταβαίνω 1. come down, 2. descend to go or come down, to descend from a higher to a lower place (from βαίνω used of all kinds of motion on the ground, as go, walk, step).
1. Jesus and the spirit move in contrasting directions. The verb for “coming out” and for “coming down” have the same root with opposing prefixes.
2. The verb σχίζω is where we get the English prefix for schizo-phrenia, a ‘divided’ mind. It also is related to schism, a ‘divided’ people. I can’t help but feel a tone of force – like the heavens were “being torn apart” – more that simply a separation – that the heavens were “being opened.”
3. The word σχίζω is used in Mk.15:38 to refer to the veil of the temple that is torn in two.

11καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου  ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ 
And a voice happened out of the heavens, “You are the my son the beloved (or ‘my beloved son’), in you I am well pleased.”
ἐγένετο : AMI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
εὐδόκησα: AAI 1s, εὐδοκέω, 1) it seems good to one, is one's good pleasure, 2) to be well pleased with, take pleasure in, to be favorably inclined towards one
1. The words spoken on the mountain in the “transfiguration” story are Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ - “This is my son the beloved (or ‘my beloved son’), listen to him.” Mark 12:6 also speaks of a “beloved son” in the parable of the evil tenants.

12Καὶ εὐθὺς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον. 
And immediately the spirit throws him out into the wilderness.
ἐκβάλλει: PAI 3s, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out  1a) with notion of violence  1a1) to drive out (cast out)  1a2) to cast out  1a2a) of the world, i.e. be deprived of the power and  influence he exercises in the world  1a2b) a thing: excrement from the belly into the sink  1a3) to expel a person from a society: to banish from a family  1a4) to compel one to depart; to bid one depart, in stern  though not violent language  1a5) so employed that the rapid motion of the one going is  transferred to the one sending forth  1a51) to command or cause one to depart in haste  1a6) to draw out with force, tear out  1a7) with implication of force overcoming opposite force  1a7a) to cause a thing to move straight on its intended goal  1a8) to reject with contempt, to cast off or away  1b) without the notion of violence  1b1) to draw out, extract, one thing inserted in another  1b2) to bring out of, to draw or bring forth  1b3) to except, to leave out, i.e. not receive  1b4) to lead one forth or away somewhere with a force which he  cannot resist 
1. I’ve included an extended set of definitional possibilities of ἐκβάλλω (from, because this word is used so often in the gospels and presents the translator with some decisions. Some of the translations try to describe ‘force’ without ‘violence’ (perhaps the reference to vomiting is the best way to imagine a forceful action that is not carried out with swords or spears.)  Other definitions describe violent force.
2. In that respect, the NRSV and ESV say “the Spirit drove him” and the KJV says similarly “the Spirit driveth him.” They are opting with the stronger sense of ἐκβάλλω. The NIV says “the Spirit sent him” and YLT says the Spirit “put him forth.” They are going with a softer sense of ἐκβάλλω.
3. If one sees the stronger form of ἐκβάλλω at play in this story, then I would suggest looking at the Definition of “Harpies” from In earlier versions of Greek myth, Harpies were described as beautiful, winged maidens. Later they became winged monsters with the face of an ugly old woman and equipped with crooked, sharp talons. They were represented carrying off persons to the underworld and inflicting punishment or tormenting them. Those persons were never seen again. Certainly Jesus was seen again, but the transformation of the Spirit alighting like a dove to the Spirit throwing Jesus into the wilderness for testing is not a small thing.

13καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, 
καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ. 
And he was in the wilderness 40 days being tempted by the Satan, and was with the wild beasts and the angels served him.
πειραζόμενος : PPPart nsm, πειράζω, 1) to try whether a thing can be done  1a) to attempt, endeavour  2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining  his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself  2a) in a good sense  2b) in a bad sense, to test one maliciously, craftily to put  to the proof his feelings or judgments  2c) to try or test one's faith, virtue, character, by  enticement to sin  2c1) to solicit to sin, to tempt  1c1a) of the temptations of the devil  2d) after the OT usage  2d1) of God: to inflict evils upon one in order to prove his  character and the steadfastness of his faith  2d2) men are said to tempt God by exhibitions of distrust,  as though they wished to try whether he is not justly  distrusted  2d3) by impious or wicked conduct to test God's justice and  patience, and to challenge him, as it were to give proof  of his perfections. 
διηκόνουν: IAI 3p, διακονέω, 1) to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve.
1. Again, I am including an extended set of definitional possibilities from in order to show the decisions that face the translator regarding the ‘temptation’ or ‘testing’ of Jesus which includes ‘in a good sense’ or ‘in a bad sense.’ Because he was ‘tempted’ by Satan, we may hear the strongest and worst sense of the term. But, when we do so, we have to remember that Jesus was thrown into this situation by the Spirit, so there is divine complicity in these trials.
2. I think the reference to “wild beasts” may be an echo of the distinction in the 2nd creation story (beginning in Genesis 2:4b) of domesticated and wild animals. That distinction, I think, was a way of describing animals after certain breeds of animals had been domesticated – not just the seemingly harmless animals like sheep, but also strong and potentially lethal animals like the oxen and bulls. Those “wild beasts” that had yet to be domesticated posed danger.
3. The ‘wilderness’ here is a place of wild beasts and angels, temptations by Satan and service by angels. The other synoptics will add details.   

14Μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν Ἰωάννην ἦλθεν  Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν 
κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ 
Yet with the arresting of John Jesus came into Galilee preaching the good news of God
παραδοθῆναι: APInf, παραδίδωμι, 1) to give into the hands (of another)  
κηρύσσων: PAPart, nms, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald  1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald 
1. While παραδίδωμι can be as harmless as a tree ‘bringing forth’ its fruit, it is a very significant verb in Mark’s Gospel aligning John’s and Jesus’ fates:
Mark 1:14     Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into...
Mar 3:19  ...Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they...
Mar 4:29  ...when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth...
Mar 7:13  ...your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such...
Mar 9:31  ...Son of man is delivered into the hands...
Mar 10:33     ...Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief...
Mar 10:33 death, and shall deliver him to the...
Mar 13:9 yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils;
Mar 13:11     ...lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought...
Mar 13:12     Now the brother shall betray the brother to...
Mar 14:10     ...chief priests, to betray him unto them...
Mar 14:11     ...he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
Mar 14:18     ...eateth with me shall betray me.
Mar 14:21     ...Son of man is betrayed! good were it...
Mar 14:41     ...Son of man is betrayed into the hands...
Mar 14:42 go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at...
Mar 14:44     And he that betrayed him had given...
Mar 15:1  ...him away, and delivered him to Pilate...
Mar 15:10     ...the chief priests had delivered him for envy...
Mar 15:15     ...unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he...
2.  There is significance to this timing – John’s arrest precedes Jesus’ coming to preach. At this point, we do not know the story of John’s arrest (that comes in c.6), so the parallel is that John came preaching a very similar message and was arrested; now Jesus comes, taking up that same message.

15καὶ λέγων ὅτι Πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν  βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ: 
μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ. 
and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the reign of God is at hand. Repent and believe/trust in the good news.”
λέγων: PAPart nms, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain 
Πεπλήρωται: PerfPI 3s, πληρόω, 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full 1a) to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally
ἤγγικεν: PerfAI 3s, ἐγγίζω, 1) to bring near, to join one thing to another  2) to draw or come near to, to approach
1. The participle “saying” in v.15 corresponds with “preaching” in v.14, since those two verses are one sentence.
2. Note the temporal and spatial references. Temporally, the ‘time’ is fulfilled. Spatially, the Reign of God is ‘at hand’ (or ‘near’).
3. Robert Gundy: The Greek for "believe in" occurs nowhere else in Mark, once in John, and then nowhere else in all of Greek literature or Greek papyri (Gundry 1993, p70).

So, what are the differences of reading about Jesus’ baptism when in one case the pericope is vv.4-11 and in another case the pericope is vv.9-15? When the pericope ends with v.11, it seems to be a proclamation text, demonstrating that Jesus is the son of God, that Jesus is beloved by God, and – perhaps to some of John the Baptist’s disciples – that Jesus is the greater one to whom John was pointing.  When the pericope begins with the baptism, includes the testing in the wilderness, and ends with Jesus stepping in after John’s arrest and calling for the great turnaround because the time is fulfilled and the reign of God is at hand. Christologically, this pericope combines the baptism and the testing in the wilderness. The beloved son is the sone who is tested. Pneumatologically, the spirit is both the alighting dove and the harpy. Kerygmatically, to turn around and participate in the reign of God is to ascribe to the message that resulted in John the Baptizer’s arrest. My sense is that when the pericope includes vv.9-15, the tone is more ominous and urgent, the wonder of the proclamation tempered by the immediate testing in the wilderness.


  1. Much thanks for your continued good work. Appreciate your faithfulness to the text.
    Mark Quanstrom, Ph.D.

  2. I am in a Lay led worship team and value your points on how the text is translated. Your comments make it easier when I find myself with the task of a sermon/talk for next Sunday

    1. Thank you, Bronwyn. I hope your ministry flourishes.


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