Sunday, June 13, 2021

Mark 4.35-41 Translations and Notes (RCL 4th Sunday after Pentecost Year B)

Sea of Galilee from Mt. of Beatitudes, 2014, mgvh

The designated passage for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, of the RCL (20 June 2021) is Mark 4.35-41. It's the story of Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As I've been doing in previous posts, I provide a collection of English translations along with my own translation and commentary on translation matters. It's part of the project I'm working on, Let the Hearer Understand: A Translation and Performance Guide for Hearing the Gospel of Mark

My point is that the standard English versions turn Mark's oral storytelling into literary English. They seek to smooth out the Greek, but in doing so they lose both the oral character and the narrative cues in the text. For Mark 4.35-41, there are three "greats / μεγα- forms" in the story: a great windstorm, a great calm, and a great fear. They provide narrative structure to the story, but they rarely are evident in English versions which tend to use synonyms that are more dramatic or sound better or work more closely with the object described. (E.g., the NIV has: "a furious squall... completely calm...terrified.") In particular, note that the fear happens after the calm, not during the storm.

Attention to performance of the text also highlights choices of attitude that the performer must make. In v38 are the disciples desperate or angry at Jesus for sleeping? In v40, was Jesus angry? Disappointed? Frustrated? Exasperated? Resigned to the fact of the disciples’ incomprehension? The choices one makes affect translation, performance, and reception.

Here are my notes both in DOCX and PDF.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Mark 4.26-34 Translations and Notes (RCL 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Year B)
Mark 4.26-34 includes two fascinating parables of Jesus: The Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed. The Growing Seed is somewhat obscure, but it affirms the certainty of the harvest = the full realization of the Dominion of God. Personally, I think Matthew found it confusing, and the result is his version of it known as the Weeds and the Wheat (Matthew 13.24-30) For the Growing Seed, I've suggested it be used as a kind of Lectio Divina. See what you think with this video I created that can be as long or short as you want.

For the Mustard Seed parable, it most certainly is not about "From small beginnings come great endings." It's much more about the scandal of depicting God's dominion to what is basically a weed and contrasting it to the more typical image of a mighty cedar tree. (The image at the top of this post by Masaccio is one I like to use as an example of a scandalous tree which is also a tree of life.)

Here are is my handout of Mark 4.26-34 with a variety of translations and my translation notes. 

I include my own translation, and it should be noted that my translation is actually very close to the oral character of Mark’s Greek. My rendering is not good literary English which most English versions turn it into. It does work, however, as casual, spoken English. Try reading it out loud, and experiment with pacing and pauses in the text. E.g., in 4.30-31, you can almost hear Jesus thinking and engaging with a crowd when he asks two questions of them about what God's dominion is like. He pauses, and then in v31 he comes up with his answer: A mustard seed! The Greek is grammatically awkward, but it sounds perfectly fine when read out loud.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Mark 3.20-35 Translations and Notes (RCL 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Year B)


"Peter's House" in Capernaum - Apparent location of Mark 3.20-35

Below is a PDF and DOCX of Mark 3.20-35, the appointed text in the Revised Common Lectionary for the 2nd Sunday after Easter in Year B. As I've been doing with previous texts, you'll find a number of translations laid out in parallel, organized from most 'literal' to most 'dynamic.' I've also included my own translation which is part of a project I'm working on which is intended for the performance of the Gospel text. You'll see my full translation at the end of the document. 

A couple things to note in Mark 3.20-35.

  • Verses 20-21 indicate Jesus' family's concern for him, but they don't arrive until v31. I.e., it forms a frame, with the issue of Jesus' state of mind in v21, for the controversy about Jesus' authority in vv22-30.
  • The logic of vv23-27 can be a bit confusing. I think my notes help sort it out. Do also note that there are three different conditional types in vv24-26. Attention to those helps clarify what's going on.

Here you go: