Below is my rough translation and some exegetical notes for Mark 8:27-38. Because this text comes up several times in the common lectionary, I am not approaching it quite as naively as I usually try to approach the texts. My comments will contend that this story is wrongfully identified as “Peter’s Declaration,” which is quickly shut down because of the “Messianic Secret.” And in the end, I think the phrase “Jesus’ First Prediction of His Death” should be “Jesus’ First Disclosure of His Death.” The point: I believe this is a heated roadside argument between Peter and Jesus over which direction they should take. Peter seems to have a triumphalistic view in mind of what it means to call Jesus “the Christ.” Jesus insists on taking another kind of path, using the language “Son of Man.” I will explain my position at the end of the translation, but throughout I will go with the most intense interpretation of the words in this story which demonstrate how contentious I believe Mark intends it to be.
27 Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς κώμας Καισαρείας τῆς
Φιλίππου: καὶ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐπηρώτα τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγων αὐτοῖς, Τίνα
με λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι;
And Jesus and his disciples went into the village of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he was interrogatinghis disciples, saying to them, “Who are the people saying me to be?”
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
ἐπηρώτα ,IAI 3s, 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
λέγων: PAPart nsm,λέγω1) to say, to speak
λέγουσιν PAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶναιPAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The verb “interrogate” (ἐπερωτάω) could be translated as “asked” (KJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV), but it also could take on a more intensive meaning because of the prefix (ἐπἱ). In Mt. 16:1, for example, the NRSV translates this verb that the religious leaders “ask” Jesus for a sign, but the editors make the subheading that they “demand”a sign. There are other words that could carry a much less ambiguous simple request or casual inquiry.
2. If we go with “interrogating,” then this conversation is not merely a matter of curiosity.
28 οἱ δὲ εἶπαναὐτῷ λέγοντες [ὅτι] Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, καὶ ἄλλοι, Ἠλίαν,
ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι εἷς τῶν προφητῶν.
Yet they answered him saying, [“]John the Baptist; and others, Elijah, yet still others one of the prophets.[”]
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω1) to say, to speak
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω1) to say, to speak
1. This verse has evidently been worked over a bit in the scribal process. The brackets around the [ὅτι] signify that other manuscripts do not have this word. I use the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition (1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart) that is available via www.greekbible.com. It is simply not a part of my exegetical work to compare Greek texts, so some help on this score would be appreciated.
2. It seems – just from a quick glance and gut feeling – that the scribal edits here have to do with locating whether the participle “saying” is part of the quote or introduces the quote. The difference could look like this: “The disciples answered, saying ‘John the Baptists …’” or “The disciples answered, ‘They are saying John the Baptist …’”
3. The phrase “still others” is how the NRSV and NIV try to interpret the “δὲ ὅτι ” phrase.
3. The phrase “still others” is how the NRSV and NIV try to interpret the “δὲ ὅτι ” phrase.
29 καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπηρώτα αὐτούς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ
Πέτροςλέγει αὐτῷ, Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός.
And he was interrogatingthem, “But who are you saying me to be?” Having answered Peter says to him, “You are the Christ.”
ἐπηρώτα, IAI 3s, 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
λέγετε, PAI 2p, λέγω1) to say, to speak
εἶναιPAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Usually I translated the particle “δὲ” as “yet” because I try to keep the meaning as neutral as possible in the naïve translation. Then, perhaps, after word studies, contextual studies, etc. it might be appropriate to go with “and” or “then” or “but” – all of which are perfectly acceptable translations of δὲ. Since I am building a case here, I have interpreted Jesus’ use of δὲ as “but,” to show that he is expecting something different from the disciples.
2. Peter’s response, that Jesus is “the Christ,” seems to be a great breakthrough moment in Mark’s gospel, given how often the twelve are said not to understand what is going on. However, see my comments below the translation on why I think this may be incorrect.
30 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ λέγωσιν περὶ αὐτοῦ.
And herebukedthem in order that they should be saying nothing about him.
ἐπετίμησεν:AAI3s, ἐπιτιμάω See v. 32, 1) to show honour to, … 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely 4a) to admonish or charge sharply
λέγωσιν: PASubj 3p, λέγω1) to say, to speak
1. The verb “rebuked” (ἐπιτιμάω) gets curious treatment in this passage from translators. ἐπιτιμάω appears here and in v.32 and in v.33. In vv.32-3 almost all translations have “rebuke” (NRSV, NIV, ESV, YLT, KJV). But, in v.30, all of them soften the word to “warned” (NIV), “charged” (KJV), “strictly charged” (YLT, ESV). The NRSV doesn’t use “rebuke,” but it does maintain some of the edginess of the verb with “sternly ordered.” Why are the translations not consistent on translating this word? Why do they see Jesus’ response to Peter in v.30 differently than they see Peter’s response to Jesus in v.32 and Jesus’ other response to Peter in v.33?
2. I think the reason for the translation choices is because we typically see this as Peter’s breakthrough moment. By using the same word consistently throughout the translation, we raise the question: If this is Peter’s great breakthrough moment, why would Jesus immediately rebuke him?
31 Καὶ ἤρξατο διδάσκειν αὐτοὺς ὅτι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ
παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ τῶν ἀρχιερέων
καὶ τῶν γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστῆναι:
Then he began to teach them that it is binding that the Son of Man to suffer much, and to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise.
ἤρξατο : AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
διδάσκειν: PAInf, διδάσκω, 1) to teach 1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses
δεῖ: PAI 3s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten 1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains 1b) metaph. 1b1) Satan is said to bind a woman bent together by means of a demon, as his messenger, taking possession of the woman and preventing her from standing upright 1b2) to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc
παθεῖν:AAInf, πάσχω, 1) to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo 1a) in a good sense, to be well off, in good case 1b) in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight 1b1) of a sick person
ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι: APInf, ἀποδοκιμάζω, 1) to disapprove, reject, repudiate
ἀποκτανθῆναι: APInf, ἀποκτείνω, 1) to kill in any way whatever 1a) to destroy, to allow to perish 2) metaph. to extinguish, abolish 2a) to inflict mortal death 2b) to deprive of spiritual life and procure eternal misery in hell
ἀναστῆναι: AAInf, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up 1a) raise up from laying down 1b) to raise up from the dead 1c) to raise up, cause to be born, to cause to appear, bring forward
1. The verb “binding” (δέω) is typically translated as “must,” but it is a verb and it has the primary meaning of something being in chains – which gives it intensity and necessity.
2. What is absolutely necessary for the Son of Man? To suffer, to be rejected, to be killed, and to rise. No interpretation of who Jesus is apart from that destiny is correct.
32 καὶ παρρησίᾳ τὸν λόγον ἐλάλει. καὶ προσλαβόμενος ὁ Πέτρος αὐτὸν ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ.
And he was saying the word openly. And having taken him aside, Peter began rebuking him.
ἐλάλει: IAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound 2) to speak 2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech 2b) to utter articulate sounds
προσλαβόμενος: AMPart nsm, λαμβάνω with πρός towards: to take thereto, that is to say in addition, to take besides. In NT middle, to take or receive to and for one's self
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
ἐπιτιμᾶν,v 3sg, PAI 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 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely 4a) to admonish or charge sharply
1. My guess is that Mark is positing Jesus speaking ‘openly’ over and against the charge to the disciples to stop chiming in to the conversation about who is he with the answer “the Christ.” Suffering, rejection, death, and rising are the talking points, not whatever others meant by the term “the Christ.”
2. Now it’s Peter’s turn to “rebuke.” Mark does not say what Peter said in his rebuke, only that Peter rebuked Jesus. Whatever Peter said, it was in response to and a vehement denial of the suffering, rejection, death, and rising of v.31.
33 ὁ δὲ ἐπιστραφεὶς καὶ ἰδὼν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἐπετίμησεν Πέτρῳ καὶ
λέγει,Υπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ, ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν
But having turned and having seen his disciples, he rebukedPeter and says, “Get behindme,Satan! Because you are not minding the things of God but the things of people.”
ἐπιστραφεὶς: APPart nsm, ἐπιστρέφω, 1) transitively 1a) to turn to 1a1) to the worship of the true God 1b) to cause to return, to bring back
ἰδὼν: AAPart nsm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes 2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 3) to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience
ἐπετίμησεν: AAI 3s, ἐπιτιμάω, 1) to show honour to, to honour … 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely 4a) to admonish or charge sharply
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Υπαγε: PAImpv 2s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under 2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
φρονεῖς: PAI 2s, φρονέω, 1) to have understanding, be wise 2) to feel, to think 2a) to have an opinion of one's self, think of one's self, to be modest, not let one's opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty
1. I’m curious as to what role the “having turned and having seen his disciples” plays in this conversation. Is that Mark’s way of explaining the “Satan” reference, that although v.32 implies that Peter took Jesus aside, his remark needed a strong reaction because the others were hearing it (and perhaps agreeing)? I’m speculating, but I suspect the “Get behind me Satan” remark is connected to Peter ‘taking him aside’ in v.32.
2. “Get behind me Satan” is an interesting phrase. We think of it as the way Jesus actually addressed Satan, because of Luke’s version of the temptation story (Lk. 4:8). But, the phase “behind me” (ὀπίσω μου) is used in 1:17 and 1:20 and in the next verse (8:34) to describe following as a disciple. Is Jesus calling Peter to become a disciple and not to presume anything more?
3. The verb “minding” (φρονέω) is a very rich term in philosophy. Hans-Georg Gadamer, in Truth and Method, for example, talks about how “phronesis” is a kind of reflective ‘wisdom.’ The KJV translates this verb as “savoring.” I think that’s better than the NIV’s weak “have in mind”. The problem is Peter’s philosophy, not his passing thought.
34 Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενοςτὸν ὄχλον σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,
Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἀκολουθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθωἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν
σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.
And having called the crowd with his disciples, he said to them, “If any wants to follow behind me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
προσκαλεσάμενος: AMP nsm, προσκαλέομαι, 1) to call to 2) to call to one's self 3) to bid to come to one's self 4) metaph. 4a) God is said to call to himself the Gentiles, aliens as they are from him, by inviting them, through the preaching of the gospel unto fellowship with himself in the Messiah's kingdom
θέλει: PAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose 1b) to desire, to wish 1c) to love 1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing 1d) to take delight in, have pleasure
ἀκολουθεῖν: PAInf, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him 2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple 2a) side with his party
ἀπαρνησάσθω: AMImpv 3s, ἀπαρνέομαι, 1) to deny 1a) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone 1b) to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's own interests.Could this be the opposite of φρονέω in v.33?
ἀράτω : AAImpv 3s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up 1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones 1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand
ἀκολουθείτω: PAImpv 3s, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, accompany him 2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple 2a) side with his party
1. I apologize for the male language. In a refined translation, I would strive to make this more gender-inclusive, but since it is singular and since saying “If anyone wants … that one must …” sounds so different from plain speech, I’m translating this literally at this point.
2. For those of us who read this story two millennia after the fact, the referent for “taking up a cross” is the crucifixion of Jesus. Perhaps we can assume that was the case for Mark’s readers as well, especially since Jesus has just made the first disclosure about his impending death. Within the narrative itself, however, this is a curious reference. What did it mean – prior to the crucifixion of Jesus – to “take up your cross”? Even in disclosing his impending death, Jesus only says that he will be killed, not crucified on a cross. Did this phrase have meaning prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, or it is only meaningful as a post-crucifixion text – which would indicate that it is not a direct, real-time quote of what Jesus said?
35ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ' ἂν
ἀπολέσει τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ καὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου σώσει αὐτήν.
For whoever wants to save his soulwill lose it; but whoever will lose his soulon account of me and the gospel, will save it.
θέλῃ: PASubj 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose 1b) to desire, to wish 1c) to love 1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing 1d) to take delight in, have pleasure
σῶσαι: AAInf, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction 1a) one (from injury or peril) 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
ἀπολέσει: FAI 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy 1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin 1b) render useless 1c) to kill 1d) to declare that one must be put to death 1e) metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell 1f) to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed 2) to destroy 2a) to lose
σώσει: FAI 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction 1a) one (from injury or peril) 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
1. It is always a challenge for me to translate “soul” (ψυχὴν). It may be translated “life,” although there are other terms that more easily translate that way. The Greek word is the root for the English words “psyche,” “psychology,” etc., referring to the mind or that part of our existence that seems identifiably different from the body, however interconnected. And, of course, in Greek philosophy, the “immortality of the soul” reified and elevated the psyche to that part of human existence that both pre-existed our birth and continues to exist after our death. One of the challenges of the early church was to translate the Hebrew concepts of life, breath, nephesh, etc., and interpret them alongside of Greek terms. I’m not sure that the process should be as finalized as it appears to be these days.
36τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖ ἄνθρωπον κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον καὶ ζημιωθῆναι τὴν
For what profits a man to acquire the whole worldand to endanger his soul?
ὠφελεῖ: PAI 3s, ὠφελέω, 1) to assist, to be useful or advantageous, to profit
κερδῆσαι: AAInf, κερδαίνω, 1) to gain, acquire, to get gain 2) metaph. 2a) of gain arising from shunning or escaping from evil (where we say "to spare one's self", "be spared") 2b) to gain any one i.e. to win him over to the kingdom of God, to gain one to faith in Christ 2c) to gain Christ's favour and fellowship
ζημιωθῆναι: APInf, ζημιόω, 1) to affect with damage, do damage to 2) to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss
1. This verse could be heard in economic terms: what ‘profit’ to ‘gain’ and yet ‘lose’?
2. My sense is that the use of the word Christ/Messiah in the Roman Empire was all about “gaining the whole world.” I think Jesus has not drifted off into a teaching about spiritual matters, but is continuing the strident corrective conversation that began with his and Peter’s radically different views of how to define who Jesus is.
37τί γὰρ δοῖἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ;
For what might a man give in return for his soul?
δοῖ: AASubj 3s, δίδωμι, to give, present (with implied notion of giving freely unforced; opposed to ἀποδίδωμι). Hence, in various connections, to yield, deliver, supply, commit, etc
38ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους ἐν τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ
μοιχαλίδι καὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται αὐτὸν
ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων τῶν ἁγίων.
For whoever might be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of man also shall be ashamed when he may come in the glory of his father with the holy angels.”
ἐπαισχυνθῇ: APSubj 3s, ἐπαισχύνομαι, 1) to be ashamed
ἐπαισχυνθήσεται: FPI 3s, ἐπαισχύνομαι,1) to be ashamed
ἔλθῃ: AASubj 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
1. There are several levels at which we can apprise what it means to “be ashamed” of Jesus and his words. It could speak to the boldness with which we proclaim a gospel that is ‘foolishness’ to some. It could speak to the situation facing Mark’s church, during a time of the diaspora caused by the destruction of Jerusalem. Some people see it as a foreshadowing of Peter’s denial and all of the disciples’ fleeing from Jesus at his arrest. In the story, however, it seems to refer to Peter’s rebuke because Peter did not accept Jesus’ disclosure that he was to suffer and die.
As I indicated in the beginning remark, I believe this story is wrongly coded as Peter’s great confession, where Peter – for the first time of any disciple – gets it right in calling Jesus “the Christ.” Matthew seems to see it that way, with Jesus blessing Peter and saying “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you …” etc. But, in Mark, I don’t believe Peter’s answer is correct – at least it is not what Jesus wanted the disciples to be telling people that he was (the question was “Who are you saying me to be?”) Working under the “messianic secret” motif, many interpretations say that Peter got it right, but Jesus “sternly warned” or “charged” the disciples to keep the “Christ” identification mum because … well, the reason for the messianic secret is not so clear.
A plain reading would say that Jesus rebuked them for telling others that he was the Christ. The interpretive question is, why would Jesus rebuke them for saying that about him? We, of course, accept it as the right proclamation about Jesus. And, Mark says so in his very first verse, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ …” So, what’s the problem?
There are seven times that “Christ” (or “Messiah” in some translations) appears in Mark. I am not including Mark 1:34, since it seems to be a late addition in some manuscripts. I will also take them a little out of order, which I hope is not confusing.
- The first is in Mark 1:1, as I mentioned above.
In three instances the term “Christ” seems to indicate something other than what Jesus intends to be.
- In Mark 12:35, Jesus is teaching in the temple and asks, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” The Scribes have a Christology that Jesus will challenge in this curious teaching.
- In Mark 13:21, Jesus says, “And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Christ!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it.” It seems that Mark’s community needed to be on guard against false Christological claims.
- In Mark 15:32, the chief priests and the Scribes taunt Jesus, saying, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” To me, this is the significant indicator that there was a Christology in effect among the Jews at that time, which was a Christology apart from the cross.
In one instance, Jesus uses the term “Christ” to indicate the dependency of his disciples.
- In Mark 9:41, Jesus says, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
In another instance, Jesus will accept the title “Christ,” but redefine it from one meaning to another.
- In Mark 14:61 the high priests ask him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus will answer, “I am,” but then he will follow with “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power” and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”
And in our pericope, Peter will use the term “Christ,” and Jesus respond with a charge to keep silent, then a disclosure of his impending suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. I would argue that Peter is claiming a false Christology and Jesus discloses his impending death as a way of wrestling the term “Christ” away from it cross-less interpretation.
Jesus’ response to Peter is vehement and Peter’s reaction is vehement. He rejects Jesus’ suffering and death as a necessary part of what Jesus has been preaching about the presence of the Reign of God. And, of course, Jesus’ response to Peter’s rebuke is to demand that if they want any part of what he is about, they too must be willing to die.
There are two distinct views of discipleship in contention here: One is a godly reflective decision to accept rejection, suffering, dying, and rising; the other is a human reflective decision to “gain the whole world.” I have to think that the Roman Empire is the primary example of this second kind of thinking. Imperial thinking is domination thinking; the imperial leader is the Christ/Messiah but not the Son of Man. That’s the path that Peter wants to take and it is a sore temptation to Jesus – that is my take of the “Satan” reference. In the end, this is not a straight road, but a crossroad. The disciples – at this point – are not yet disciples because (led by Peter) they are not yet behind Jesus, but are imagining themselves on a different path in the manner of imperial dominion. Jesus is going the other way. It will lead to Jerusalem, his rejection, suffering, death, and rising.