Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Holy One in Unholy Places

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments regarding Mark 1:29-39, the gospel reading for Sunday, February 8.
29 Καὶ εὐθὺς ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς ἐξελθόντες ἦλθον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν Σίμωνος καὶ 
Ἀνδρέου μετὰ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωάννου. 
And immediately having left out of the synagogue, he came into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. 
ἐξελθόντες : AAPart npm, 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
ἦλθον : AAI 3p, 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
1. I know that “having left out of …” is redundant, but Mark has ἐξ-ελθόντες (having gone out, with the prefix ἐξ) as well as the preposition ἐκ (out).
2. The word “immediately” may be more of a rhetorical connective tissue than a reference to any sort of urgency – it’s hard to say. However, the change of location is a way of transitioning from one pericope to another. 

30  δὲ πενθερὰ Σίμωνος κατέκειτο πυρέσσουσα,καὶ εὐθὺς λέγουσιν αὐτῷ περὶ 
Yet Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down fevering, and immediately they spoke to him about her. 
κατέκειτο:  IMI 3s, κατάκειμαι, 1) to have lain down, i.e. to lie prostrate  1a) of the sick  1b) of those at meals, to recline 
πυρέσσουσα: PAPart nsf, πυρέσσω, 1) to be sick with a fever
λέγουσιν: PAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
1. Simon Peter was married. Paul notes the same in I Corinthians 9:5: “Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife,* as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”
2. A fever, of course, can be quite a serious symptom, indicative of anything from a terminal illness to a passing illness. The fact that Simon’s mother-in-law begins serving them as soon as she is well makes the healing sound almost strategic, as if the problem at hand is that because she is in bed, she is unable to tend to them properly. It could be that her illness was much more severe than that and her ‘serving’ is the indicator that the illness is completely gone.

31 καὶ προσελθὼν ἤγειρεν αὐτὴν κρατήσας τῆς χειρός: καὶ ἀφῆκεν αὐτὴν  
πυρετός, καὶ διηκόνει αὐτοῖς. 
And having gone to her he raised her taking the hand; and the fever left her, and she was serving them. 
προσελθὼν: AAPart nsm, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach  2) draw near to  3) to assent to
ἤγειρεν: AAI 3s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake
κρατήσας: AAPart nsm, κρατέω, 1) to have power, be powerful  1a) to be chief, be master of, to rule  2) to get possession of 
ἀφῆκεν: AAI 3s, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire
διηκόνει: IAI 3s, διακονέω, 1) to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon  1a) to minister to one, render ministering offices to  1a1) to be served, ministered unto  1b) to wait at a table and offer food and drink to the guests,
1. I don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it, but one of the dangers of tending to a feverish person is contagion. That may be why the act of Jesus taking her hand is significant. Or, it may just be a way of helping someone get up.

 32  Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης, ὅτε ἔδυ  ἥλιος, ἔφερον πρὸς αὐτὸν πάντας τοὺς κακῶς  ἔχοντας καὶ τοὺς δαιμονιζομένους: 
Yet evening having come, when the sun was setting, they were bringing to him all of those who have illness and those who are demonized,
γενομένης: AMPart gsf, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ἔδυ: AAI 3s, δύνω, 1) to go into, enter 2) go under, be plunged into, sink in  2a) used in the NT of the setting of the sun 
ἔφερον: IAI 3p, φέρω, 1) to carry   1a) to carry some burden   1a1) to bear with one's self   1b) to move by bearing; move or, to be conveyed or borne, with   the suggestion of force or speed  
ἔχοντας : PAPart apm, 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.), to hold fast keep, to have or comprise or  involve, to regard or consider or hold as   
δαιμονιζομένους: PMPAart apm, δαιμονίζομαι, 1) to be under the power of a demon.  
1. Mark uses a redundant time marker of ‘evening’ and ‘when the sun was setting.’ Perhaps the second comment specifies that it was not early evening, since ‘evening’ can be loosely interpreted. See the comment of v.35 below.
2. I think “demonized” refers to a kind of oppressiveness that cuts persons off from fully engaging in community – especially when the demonized person is living out in graveyards and subject to violent outbursts. But, these persons are evidently not entirely bereft of community, since they are not coming of their own accord, but are being brought to Jesus by someone.

33 καὶ ἦν ὅλη  πόλις ἐπισυνηγμένη πρὸς τὴν θύραν. 
And all of the city was being gathered to the door. 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐπισυνηγμένη: PerfPPart nsf, ἐπισυνάγω, 1) to gather together besides, to bring together to others already assembled  2) to gather together against  3) to gather together in one place
1. The verb for “gather” (ἐπισυνάγω) is in the passive voice. I wonder if that implies a kind of compelling force that is drawing them, as opposed to casual onlookers.
2. It's a good thing Simon Peter's mother-in-law was better - these folks are gathered at her door! I'll bet she was as hospitable toward each one of them as humanly possible. It would be fun to invite a congregation to imagine being part of this gathering and witness the range of emotions or expectations or despair or desperation or joy or ... that was present there.   

34καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν πολλοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας ποικίλαις νόσοις, καὶ δαιμόνια πολλὰ ἐξέβαλεν, καὶ οὐκ ἤφιεν λαλεῖν τὰ δαιμόνια, ὅτι ᾔδεισαν αὐτόν. 
And he healed many who have illness of varied diseases, and threw out many demons, and was not allowing the demons to speak, because they had seen/known him.
ἐθεράπευσεν : AAI 3s, θεραπεύω, 1) to serve, do service  2) to heal, cure, restore to health
ἔχοντας : PAPart apm, 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.),
ἐξέβαλεν: AAI 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
ἤφιεν : IAI 3s, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire  
λαλεῖν : PAInf λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak  2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech 
ᾔδεισαν : PluAI 3p, 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. When Mark uses the pluperfect (they had known/seen him) is reminds us of v.24 from this chapter when a demon uses the perfect tense to say to Jesus “I have seen/known you who you are …” I do not know the significance of the perfect or pluperfect tense when speaking of the demons having seen/known Jesus. But, Mark’s use of that language seems consistent in this chapter and seems consistently ignored by many translations.

35Καὶ πρωῒ ἔννυχα λίαν ἀναστὰς ἐξῆλθεν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς ἔρημον τόπον κἀκεῖ 
And in the morning while it was still very dark having risen he went out and went up into a deserted place and there he was praying. 
ἀναστὰς: AAPart nsm, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up   
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 
ἀπῆλθεν : ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart  1a) to go away in order to follow any one, go after him,
προσηύχετο: IMI 3s, προσεύχομαι, 1) to offer prayers, to pray
1. The three word phrase, πρωῒ ἔννυχα λίαν, is interesting. Roughly, πρωῒ means ‘morning’ or ‘early’ in general. ἔννυχα means ‘night’ and could be a reference to darkness. λίαν means ‘exceedingly’ or ‘very.’ Hence, the KJV, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day”; the YLT, “And very early, it being yet night”; and the NIV, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark.”
2. This is Jesus’ second visit to a place that can be described as a ‘deserted’ or ‘wilderness’ place. Mk 1:12-13 reads, “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the desert/wilderness. He was in the desert/wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” It is also the location of the voice of which Isaiah spoke (Mk. 1:3) and of John the Baptizer’s baptism (Mk.1:4).
3. Verses like these are why Marcus Borg (of blessed memory) refers to Jesus as a mystic with deep prayer habits.

36καὶ κατεδίωξεν αὐτὸν Σίμων καὶ οἱ μετ'αὐτοῦ, 
And Simon stalked him and those with him,
κατεδίωξεν : AAI 3s, καταδιώκω, 1) to follow after, follow up 
1. Okay, I shouldn’t have “stalked,” but the definition of καταδιώκω per is “to pursue closely, as an enemy; follow closely in order to find.” There is the sense that Jesus is quite deliberately trying to find a deserted place and the disciples’ attempt to find him seems intrusive as a result.

37καὶ εὗρον αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ ὅτι Πάντες ζητοῦσίν σε. 
and found him and say to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”
εὗρον: AAI 3p, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with  1a) after searching, to find a thing sought 
λέγουσιν: PAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ζητοῦσίν: PAI 3s, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find  1a) to seek a thing 

38καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ἄγωμεν ἀλλαχοῦ εἰς τὰς ἐχομένας κωμοπόλεις, ἵνα καὶ ἐκεῖ 
κηρύξω: εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ ἐξῆλθον. 
And he says to them, “Let us go elsewhere into the surrounding towns in order that I may preach there also; for into this I was sent out. 
λέγει: PAI 3s, 1) to say, to speak
Ἄγωμεν: PAS 1p, ἄγω, 1) to lead, take with one  1a) to lead by laying hold of, and this way to bring to the  point of destination. This is a hortatory subjunctive, typically translated as “let us.”
ἐχομένας : PMPart apf, 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
κηρύξω: AASubj 1s, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald  1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald 
ἐξῆλθον: AAI 1s, 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 participle ἐχομένας – used to modify ‘towns’ – brings the sense of connectedness, similar to when Jesus took Simon’s mother-in-law’s hand.

39 καὶ ἦλθεν κηρύσσων εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς αὐτῶν εἰς ὅλην τὴν Γαλιλαίαν καὶ τὰ 
δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλων.
And he went preaching in their synagogues in the Galilean region and throwing out the demons. 
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 
κηρύσσων : PAPart nsm, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald  1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald
ἐκβάλλων: PAPart nsm, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out  1a) with notion of violence  1a1) to drive out (cast out) 
1. In opposition to a simplistic supersessionism, Jesus is fully immersed in the life of the synagogue, not off starting a new and better religion apart from the Jewish place and manner of faith. Putting Jesus words of vv.38 and 39 together, Jesus was sent to synagogues in Galilee. I consider this to be the first major phase of Jesus’ calling and work: To proclaim the gospel and expel oppression in Galilean synagogues. The second major phase Jesus discloses in Mk.8, that he must go to Jerusalem to be rejected, handed over, killed, and raised.
2. “synagogue” (which I like to think of as “gaggle together”) does not necessarily mean a “house of religious worship” yet. The institutionalization of synagogues increased after the diaspora of the late 60s. A synagogue can mean anything like a ‘town hall meeting,’ a ‘gathering,’ and not necessarily a religious event, although when a people who share a single faith gather for a town hall meeting, it often tacks toward a kind of religious event. And, certainly, a gathering for a religious event would be called a synagogue. The emphasis, at this point in history, seems to be more on the gathering than the building. Of course, that was true for “church” (‘called out’) once too.

To understand the significance of Jesus’ words, that he was sent to preach in the Galilean synagogues, it is helpful to compare Mark's description to 1st century Judaean understanding of purity - to the extent that I am grasping it aright. The Judaean view saw purity as both a centralized and radiating reality. The holy of holies, at the center of the temple, was where the most highly concentrated deposit of purity was. Radiating out from there, the temple itself was holy, particularly the portion where only undefiled priests could enter, then the area where cleansed Jewish men could enter, then the outer courts where cleansed Gentiles and women could gather, then the city of Jerusalem itself (the "holy city"), then the whole region of Judea, emanating outward in decreasing intensity. Galilee, sometimes called "Galilee of Gentiles" by Judaeans, was certainly better than far-off and non-Jewish lands like Assyria, but likewise was certainly no Jerusalem. For Mark to say that Jesus was sent to preach in synagogues in Galilee is to write a defiant theology of God's presence and holiness, where the beloved on is sent to the hinterlands of purity. This view would also explain Mark's reference to various religious persons being sent "from Jerusalem" to question Jesus. Even after the resurrection, the disciples were to join him in Galilee, as he had instructed them. 

(I think these rival forms of Judaean and Galilean piety are rooted in the telling of the split into the northern and southern kingdoms in I Kings 12. But I cannot find any biblical scholars of repute to back me up on that one. Ah well.)

(Among other sources, see the description of Jerome Neyrey’s "Idea of Purity," in Robert R. Beck, Nonviolent Story, chapter 4, "The Symbolism of Power").  

My Reflection: 
Mark 1:29-34 is a story that poses an enormous problem for me. In this reading, it seems like everyone in sight who is sick or oppressed by demons come to Jesus and he heals them right and left. It all seems to instantaneous and complete. The lame walk, the deaf hear, and those who are oppressed by destructive forces are suddenly no longer struggling. The Easter message of the Christian church is that the spirit of the risen Christ continues to be present with us today. But, our lame limp, and our deaf sign, and those of us who are oppressed by destructive forces cope and seek help. It seems like these stories are either untrue or that if the spirit of the risen Christ is present among us – if – then Christ is among us in a way quite different from how the body of the living Christ once walked among us.

You may recall that I was raised in the kind of church that would occasionally host traveling evangelists, many of whom regaled congregations with stories of how Christ really is present among us, healing the sick instantaneously and casting out demons right and left in the very same way that the story in Mark’s gospel implies. I never quite understood those evangelists and their ministries. All of their stories were of people far away and none of the real persons whom I knew experienced any of those kinds of miraculously magic moments when those evangelists would call us all forward for healing. Even in a Pentecostal church, where one of our “cardinal doctrines” was a belief in “instantaneous healing through the blood of the cross,” our lame limped and our deaf signed and our oppressed coped and sought help.

It was enough to make me a skeptic – skeptical of those supposed healing stories both modern and ancient; skeptical of the implication that Jesus would be healing right and left, even raising the dead today, if we only had the right amount of faith; and at times skeptical of whether the spirit of the risen Christ is anything more than an inspiration. 

Through the years, my original naive faith was chastened by reality, but the ensuing skepticism has been tempered. I've begun to see that the joy of wholeness is not measured by physical or even psychical perfection, but by connection to human community. When, in the NT, the person with leprosy was declared clean, it was her/his ticket to re-enter community, to be engaged again in work, family, worship, life. When the demonized person was set free, s/he was set free to fully connect again with others. Peter's mother-in-law was raised to do the things that gave her purpose and meaning. The person who carried a sick one to Jesus walked home arm-in-arm with that one. These are not stories of magic; they are stories of human community being healed from the brokenness that sickness, disease, and mental illness can bring. 

This Sunday, the church that I serve is going to have a time of "Healing and Wholeness" in response to this gospel lesson. We will not aspire to ask deaf people to say "Baby" or have ushers line up to catch people as they are "slain in the spirit." That's what "healing service" meant in my past. We will, however, honor the power of being in community with one another in the face of our weaknesses, our fragilities, and our brokenness. We will honor the power of a human touch, when someone anoints the head with oil and embraces another, as the community is gathered in prayer. Then, when our lame limp, we will slow our gait to walk together. When our deaf sign, we will sign back, to communicate. When our oppressed seek help, we will provide the space for counseling, for meetings, for ways to live in hope. And for those who are too far gone physically to walk, too far gone mentally to converse, too far gone psychically to engage, we will be gathered at their door, so they will not be alone. That's healing and wholeness. 


  1. Thanks Mark. I'm really benefitting from all the background study work you are doing.

  2. I love your reflection and the description of what your healing worship will be like. I preach this lesson, and all healing stories, as restoration of community, but your current example is very helpful!

    1. Thanks. Keep my congregation in your prayers, if you would.

  3. Mark, I enjoy reading your reflections and this week's will help me as I try to relate this text in preaching on Sunday. You and I share a common historical religious background, I think. I came from a similar religious upbringing so your idea of healing through the community is one I want to share, having been exposed to those same folks who came through the church I grew up in who had "miracles" to offer those who would come to the revival meetings. I read your book this summer and enjoyed it very much. Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Jerry. I appreciate your remarks about the blog and the book.

  4. Mark thank you for these comments. I too will be leading a time of special prayer for healing and wholeness and I too, struggle with what exactly that means. Your words have helped me think about the ways in which the kingdom "cures" and "sets free" and "raises up", even though we are all still limping along.

  5. Thank you, wise sir. Your word studies are very helpful! And, this week, I am very grateful for your honest reflection on (yet another) healing story. I do not know what it means, though we offer healing prayers each week in our chapel, during communion. Jesus said do it, and so we do. And I struggle between seeing how important it is (in Mark particularly?) in the gospels and how far we seem from that day. I do not want to dismiss those stories and turn it all into psycho-babble. And yet, healing through bringing wholeness, connection, community is all I can understand of it. I live in the mystery and the quandary. We pray and we limp. Pray and stumble.

    1. Thanks Vic. Living the mystery is part of the joy, isn't it? Blessings,

  6. Beritanya bermanfaat gan. Saya tunggu berita selanjutnya


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