Monday, September 27, 2021

Mark 10.1-16 Translations and Notes (RCL19th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

View of Bethany beyond the Jordan looking east from Jordan. Jordan river and traditional site of Jesus' baptism in green area in center of picture. Judea in the distance beyond it. This is setting of as described in Mark 10.1.

The designated text in the RCL for 19th Sunday after Pentecost (3 October in 2021) is 10.2-16, but verse 1 includes meaningful context that should be included. The passage includes two events: the issue of divorce and the welcoming of children. The divorce matter appears to me to relate to Herod Antipas' divorcing Phasaelis in order to marry Herodias. Remember that John the Baptizer had been arrested and ultimately killed for criticizing what Herod did. (Mark 6.17-19) But if Jesus figuratively took up the mantle of John, why doesn't Jesus also criticize Herod? It appears to me that Mark 10.l-12 actually does address it, and Jesus basically affirms John's criticism of Herod, but Jesus is more discrete about. (Jesus is only explicit when he is "in the house.")

As for the matter of children, Mark is counting on people remembering the incident in 9.33-37 where Jesus welcomed children. Here in 10.13-16, the disciples once again demonstrate their failure to comprehend. In terms of translation and performance, how can one remind hearers of that earlier incident?

Also in terms of performance, in 10.6-8, how does one convey to the modern listener that Jesus is actually quoting from Jesus and distinguish the quotations from Jesus' own conclusions? I have suggested that holding up a Bible when quoting the OT is one possible way to do so.

See what you think... Here is a collection of translations including my own along with my notes on the translation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Mark 9.38-50 Translations and Notes (RCL18th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

Salt crystals on the shore of the Dead Sea
Mark 9.38-50 is the appointed RCL text for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost in Year B. If the goal is simply to translate words, there is no problem. But translating for good sense and making evident the intricate weaving of repeated words turns out to be complicated. And even if one can produce a satisfactory translation, there still remains the problem of figuring out what it actually means!

The brief anecdote culminating with the memorable saying of Jesus serves as the starting point for a string of loosely connected sayings linked by catchwords. There is plenty of repetition, but there is also slight variations. The textual tradition reflects both the desire to make the wording more consistent and also to clarify.

Close attention to the Greek shows evidence of how the text was pieced together, but also that the pieces do indeed come from different settings. There are changes in the word order, pronouns, perspectives, and descriptions. My color-coded translation at the end of the linked document shows both the repetitions and where the repetitions are broken.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Mark 9.30-37 Translations and Notes (RCL17th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

"Peter's House" in Capernaum where the action of Mark 9.35-37 is located
Linked below are my notes to Mark 9.30-37 which happens to be the appointed RCL text for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost Year B. Last week (Mark 8.27-9.1) recorded Jesus' first passion pronouncement and Peter's negative response. 9.30-37 is the second pronouncement, but this time the disciples "weren't understanding what he was talking about, and they were afraid to ask him about it." It is followed by a dispute among themselves about who was the greatest which leads to Jesus speaking and demonstrating that to be first is to be last and servant of all.

It should be noted that "welcoming" a child was not normal in a society focused on honor and shame. "Welcoming" was reserved for people who had honor and who could dispense or gain honor by welcoming someone. Children had no honor to share

The Greek of this passage is marked by quite a few imperfects, but the one historical present is in verse 35 highlighting Jesus' statement: “If anyone is wanting to be first, they will have to be last of all and servant to all.”

Here is my collation of translations including my own along with notes and introduction: 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Mark 8.27-9.1 Translations and Notes (RCL16th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

Caesarea Philippi (mgvh 2012)

Mark 8.27-9.1 is the well-known passage of Peter's confession of Jesus as the Messiah. (Note that the RCL appointed reading only goes to 8.38, but the unit really does extend one more verse and includes 9.1. I suspect it may have been omitted because it is such a challenging verse.) It also includes Jesus' first of three passion pronouncements in Mark, and Peter's failure to understand that Jesus' suffering and death are precisely what it means for him to be the Messiah. 

There are some fun nuances in the Greek that I try to capture in my translation.

  • The use of the historical present highlights Peter's confession in v29 and Jesus' rebuke to him in v33.
  • The use of nominative pronouns focuses both questions and responses.
  • The word ἐπιτιμάω = epitimaō occurs 3 times in quick succession marking reversal of expectations. 

The big question remains today: Who do people / you say that Jesus is? And once you make that identification, what do you think it means? Jesus defines true discipleship, but he also requires us to imagine what the dominion of God coming in power looks like.

Here is my collation of translations including my own along with notes and introduction: 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Mark 7.24-30 Translations and Notes (RCL15th Sunday after Pentecost Year B )

The text for this coming Sunday (5 September 2021) is Mark 7.24-37, and I am providing translations and notes for the first part, Mark 7.24-30, the story of the Syrophoenician woman. There are some critical interpretive issues, and this is a text where the 'performance' of it can significantly change the reception of it. I think it can be agreed that the point of a story is not simply to indicate that Jesus can cast out unclean spirits.

The biggest issue is how one perceives Jesus' role in the story and thus how one 'performs' his words.

  • Is he aware of how it will all turn out and intends to help her all along, so that one perceives him gently provoking or merely testing the woman to get her to express her confidence in him? (But note that "faith" is never mentioned in the story at all! Matthew's version in 15.21-28 is quite different, and he does make faith the final point.) 
  • Or is Jesus genuinely annoyed at being disturbed, affronted by the woman's boldness (in that culture, no woman, especially this non-Jewish one, should interrupt or initiate a conversation with a man) and intentionally insulting her? In that case, the woman genuinely changes his mind.

IMO, the latter is more likely.

  • In the story, there is one use of the historic present to introduce the woman's response. I.e., more attention is given to her statement than to Jesus'. 
  • I parallel this story to the sort of verbal sparrings that occur throughout Mark. E.g., in 12.13-17 the Pharisees and Herodians test Jesus asking about taxes. Jesus replies with a question, and that results in a conclusion that was not anticipated but opens new perception. Similarly, you'll see in my translation that I take a small liberty in the Greek and set her statement as a question to Jesus.
  • I also think this story ties in directly with the preceding 7.1-23 where Jesus has been talking about impure/unclean foods, hand, and pots and such. In a way, the woman forces Jesus to acknowledge that what he said about what comes out of a person is the defiling factor (not the externals or what goes in) also applies to people. And remember it's an "unclean spirit" that comes out of her daughter. The woman and her daughter are not impure because of their race, gender, or ethnicity.

As an example of the way performance affects interpretation, check out this collection of performances collated by Phil Ruge-Jones.  

Here is my collation of translations including my own along with notes and introduction: