Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
|1: It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him; 2: for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people." 3: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4: But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment thus wasted? 5: For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor." And they reproached her.||6: But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7: For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. 8: She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying. 9: And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." 10: Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11: And when they heard it they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.|
|1: It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him; 2: for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people."|
|v1-2: are Markan redaction, v2 harking back to earlier comments about Jesus' popularity being the reason that the Pharisees refrain from taking action (12:12).|
|3: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.|
|v3: the location is in the probably fictional town of Bethany. Gundry (1993, p812) notes that flasks were often broken over the dead and left shattered in coffins.|
|v3: in the OT kings were annointed by prophets who were male. The writer reverses that convention to great effect here (Myers 1988, p359).|
annointing with costly oil recalls the annointing of Aaron the high
priest, whom the writer of Mark has recalled on other occasions in the
Gospel. Psalm 133:2 describes it thus:
Sawicki (1992) writes:
Sawicki also observes that a compilation of later Jewish writings, the Mishnah, knows it is customary for women to wear perfume bottles containing nard, for it contains rules regarding them. .
|7: For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.|
|v7-8: contain a prediction of Jesus' own death. It is not necessarily supernatural, in that it contains no detailed features that would require supernatural knowledge. However, this prediction is made in response to an event most probably created off the Elijah-Elisha cycle, the annointing of Jesus.|
Donahue and Harrington (2002) state "In its more familiar
'the poor you will always have with you,' this is one of the most
verses in the NT" (p.387). According to their interpretation, the verse
refers back to the instructions on how to treat the poor in
|8: She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying.|
Sawicki (1992) notes;
|9: And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."|
|v9: Crossan (1991, p416) has noted that one could make a much better case for the woman here being the author of Mark, than for the young man in 14:51-2. Her confession of Jesus' identity opens a frame that closes with the centurion's confession in 15:39. Though her memory will last forever, her name is never given. Markan irony again? Wills (1997, p117) points out that she is an ironic counterpart to the disciples, who do not understand (as usual). It should be added that the irony is increased because we know the disciples' names, while hers is not recorded.|
|10: Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11: And when they heard it they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.|
"Judas." Judas occurs but three times in the Gospel of Mark, in once in
Mark 3 and twice in Mark 14. Some exegetes, such as Helms, see this as
a creation from Zech 11, but while Matthew's Judas is clearly partly
related to that passage,
the link is more tenuous in Mark. Mark's account is quite simple;
that Judas is not possessed by the devil, nor does he actually ask for
money. Nor are we informed how Judas knew the chief priests were
to do away with Jesus quietly.
Mark scholar Ted Weeden (2001) summarizes the reasons why Judas' betrayal should be considered fiction in a short essay posted to the discussion group Kata Markon.
(1) Paul, whose letters predate the Gospel of Mark in most dating schemes, does not appear to have known of Judas' betrayal. 1 Cor 11:23, where Paul is often held to have said Jesus was "betrayed" in reality says only that he was "handed over or delivered up" (parededideto). The passage is often translated with the Gospels in mind. Weeden points out that it is strange that if a trusted disciple in the inner circle did betray Jesus, Paul does not use that information to attack the "false/super apostles" in 2 Cor. 10-13, particularly in 2 Cor. 11:13-15 (13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.(NIV)). Note how perfectly Judas would serve as an example here. Further, when Paul discusses the the resurrection appearances to various early Christian leaders in 1 Cor. 15, Paul cites "Peter and then to the Twelve"--- not "Peter and then to the eleven." Weeden argues that Paul's citation, which must date before the 50's, suggests that the Twelve are a coherent and faithful body of original disciples whose original integrity is in tact. Weeden sees the election held for Judas' replacement in Acts to be a fiction, invented to counter the invention of the story that an insider betrayed Jesus into the hands of his enemies. Note that while almost all exegetes believe that the famous passage in 1 Cor 15 where Jesus appears to the apostles is in fact genuine, some have argued that it is an interpolation and thus, this piece of evidence for Weeden's argument would fail. In fact, in addition to the arguments of Price, the fact that the passage contains a reference to the Twelve, the only one in the entire Pauline corpus, when it should say 11. Recognizing this as an "error," numerous ancient manuscripts have been corrected by scribes from "12" to "11."
(2) Other ancient Christian traditions that many scholars believe to be early, such as the Q traditions and the Gospel of Thomas, also do not appear to know the Judas story. Further, as Weeden observes, there is one Q saying, incorporated into Matthew, (19:28): where Jesus says "when the Son of the human shall sit on his throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It is difficult to imagine how Jesus could be believed to have said that if the developers of this tradition had known of a betrayal by Judas. In Luke 22:21 Jesus sits down with the apostles and tells them that they will also sit on the twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel.
(3) In addition to the lack of evidence from early Christian literature, the literary background of Mark is also a strike against Judas. The Gethsemane scene, as Weeden and many other scholars have noted, is built out of 2 Sam 15-17 and 2 Sam 20:4-10. In that sequence David is betrayed by his right-hand man, Ahithophel. Weeden argues that Mark modeled Judas after Ahithophel. In addition to the connections to the David epic, Weeden summarizes Shelby Spong's arguments for OT creation:
Weeden, following Spong, also points to the traditional hostility between northern and southern Palestine, writing:
One does not have to buy into Weeden's argument on the location of the community of the Gospel of Mark in order to see the force of his comments.
Weeden's analysis of the name IOUDAS raises another issue, the
Markan polemic against the Jews. All of the canonical Gospel writers
engage in polemics against the Jews
to varying degrees. Although the majority of scholars hold that the
Markan polemic against
the Jews is not as strong as that of John or Matthew, certain evidence
indicates that may not be the case. Here we see Judas in some way
representing Judaism, surely a strong polemic against the Jews. In the
sequence that the writer
builds out of the Elijah-Elisha
Cycle in Mark 12 and 13, the Jewish authorities are paralleled by the
Priests of Ba'al. That is a powerful polemic, which may indicate a date
when Jews and Christians had greater mutual animosity, well after 75.
Against this, the writer may simply be heightening his portrayal of the
evil of the Jewish ruling classes.
Jesus in Mark, while portrayed as superior to other Jewish teachers, still remains within established Jewish tradition. The Markan Jesus may have been critical of the Temple authorities, but no more so than other Jewish groups of the first century. The writer often portrays Jews in a positive light. For example, Jesus instructs his disciples not to interfere with an exorcist working in Jesus' name. Joseph of Arimathea, in the heart of Jesus' enemies on the Council, is portrayed as a righteous man looking for the Kingdom of God, who buries Jesus' body as Jewish law and custom demand. Jesus instructs the rich man to keep the Torah commandments and love God (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p36-7). Like so much else about the Gospel of Mark, the depiction of Jews in Mark resists a simple solution.
Tom Shepard (1995) points out that in contrast to Judas, for whom Jesus
is worth little, not even a fixed sum of cash, the woman annoints Jesus
with a valuable and costly ointment, clearly showing how highly she
Once again, the Elijah-Elisha Cycle is the basis for the plot of the Gospel of Mark:
This pericope has a chiastic structure like many Markan pericopes. Because of the shifting targets in the second half of the chiasm, bracketing is difficult. Note how the speech of Jesus has the dual function of answering the disciples at one level, while talking directly to the reader at another level.
As Mack (1988) points out, Jesus is not dead, so the neither the woman nor the those objecting to her action could have known its significance. Such a significance exists only for the reader of the Gospel. The pericope is a construction aimed at the reader. Further, given that Jesus' prediction of his own death is based on an event that is probably created out of the Elijah-Elisha Cycle, and that the second section where Judas appears is based on the OT as well, nothing in this pericope indicates support for historicity.
|12: And on the first day of
when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him,
will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?" 13: And
sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a
carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14: and wherever he
enters, say to the householder, `The Teacher says, Where is my guest
where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' 15: And he will show
you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us." 16:
And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had
told them; and they prepared the passover. 17: And when it was evening
he came with the twelve. 18: And as they were at table eating, Jesus
"Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one
||who is eating with me."19: They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?" 20: He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21: For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." 22: And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24: And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25: Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."|
|12: And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?"|
|v12: follows the dating of v1. For the first time the writer shows concern with chronology. The author here has confused his Jewish customs. The Passover Meal was prepared on the day of rest prior to Passover, not during the day of Passover (which began in the evening, recall). Thus the meal served in v22-25 cannot be a Passover meal (Ludemann 2001, p94). This chronology is thus a creation of the writer's confused understanding of Jewish practices.|
|13: And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him,|
These verses are a doublet of 11: 2-6, containing similarities
in structure and vocabulary (Robbins 1976, Donahue and Harrington 2002,
|v13: As Steve Carr (2004) observes, the writer of Mark states that the disciples were to be met by a man carrying a pitcher of water. Matthew 26:18 drops the idea that a Jewish man would do a woman's work.|
|17: And when it was evening he came with the twelve. 18: And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." 19: They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?" 20: He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21: For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."|
|v17-21: contain a supernatural prophecy and are unhistorical.|
|v17-21: the denigration of the disciples now reaches its climax as Judas goes off to betray Jesus even as Peter denies him.|
|20: He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.|
Usually see as a reference to Psalm 41:9 (LXX 40:5):
But may also be related to Psalm 55 (Donahue and Harrington, p394):
|v20: Price (2003, p184) points out that the reference to the Twelve in this verse is missing from Matthew and Luke and may be from the hand of a later redactor. This is significant because this is the only time in the Gospel of Mark in which the term "the Twelve" is found on Jesus' lips. All other instances occur in verses created by the writer of Mark.|
|v20: Jesus does not mention Judas by name. Nor is his departure indicated.|
|21: For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."|
"better for that man...." The Jesus Seminar (Funk et al 1997, p117)
argued that Jesus' words here consist largely of dialogue that would
not have been able to survive transmission through the oral period. The
one exception identified was the curse on the betrayer. This, however,
the Seminar saw as a proverb likely to suit any number of contexts.
|22: And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."|
The whole idea of a ritual Last Supper is in essence a
prediction of Jesus' own death, and is not likely to be historical. The
similar passage in 1 Cor 11:23-25 accepts the meal as symbol but not
"[Paul] is a skilful, if sometimes free-swinging, rhetorician and he
the difference between saying that Yehusa was put to death at Passover
and that his death was iconically similar to the events of Pessah. He
the latter and implicitly rejects the former" (Akenson 2000, p203).
(1995) notes that communal meals with sacred overtones were common in
Mack (1988) also observes:
|24: And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.|
Almost a direct cite of Exodus 24:8
Some manuscripts of Mark add "new" before "covenant" but that is not generally accepted by scholars.
Zechariah 9-14 figures prominently in the scenes before and
the Garden of Gethsemane. Here the verse may also reflect Zech 9:11:
with the "Kingdom of God" there is no discussion in Mark about what the
"covenant" mentioned here might mean. Aside from a remark about "ransom
for many" there is little explanation in Mark about why Jesus had to
die. To understand these cryptic comments requires an interpretive
scheme that does not exist in Mark.
Psalm 23:5 may also lie behind events in this sequence.
|25: Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."|
Doherty (1999, p251) identifies this as coming from Isaiah 25:6:
The underlying structure is 1 Samuel 10:1-7, where an
followed by a command to carry out a task which displays the prophet's
amazing predictive power. In 1 Sam 10:1 Saul is annointed by
just as Jesus has just been annointed by the woman:
1 Sam 10:1 in the Septuagint has:
Jesus then commands the disciples:
The basic parallel with 1 Sam 10:1-7 should be clear:
Not only is there a parallel in the structure here, but 1 Sam 10:2 even contains a reference to a father who is worried about his son, perhaps a hint from Mark about Jesus the Son and God the Father.
At the higher level, the author of Mark has organized the
trips of Jesus, three healings, and two feeding miracles and the last
into progressive triadic structures (Klosinski 1988, p207-8).
This pericope is two chiastic structures, lumped together. The first chiasm has a neat doublet at its center, a Where? question:
The second structure looks like this.
At first glance these chiasms are difficult to grasp. But the writer has neatly balanced the two halves of each chiasm. First, overlapping geographical movement marks the border of each chiasm. The first half of each chiasm concerns betrayal, first by Judas, and then by all the disciples. The second half of each chiasm then matches Jesus' commitment to die to the the disciples' betrayal, producing some remarkable dramatic irony in the BCD brackets.
The literary structure, the strong presence of the OT, and the supernatural together indicate that there is no support for historicity from this pericope.
|26: And when they had sung a
hymn, they went
out to the Mount of Olives. 27: And Jesus said to them, "You will all
away; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep
be scattered.' 28: But after I am raised up, I will go before you to
Galilee." 29: Peter said
||to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." 30: And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." 31: But he said vehemently, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.|
|26: And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.|
|v26: Most scholars start the famous Passion Narrative with this pericope or the next one. Since the early 1900s scholarship has argued that this story was constructed on the basis of a source, since, unlike the previous portions of the gospel, it is composed of continuous narrative, rather than pericopes. As redaction-criticism and narrative criticism rose to prominence, Mark was more and more seen as the creator of the story (Theissen and Merz 1998, p445-6).|
|v26: The Mount of Olives is playing its expected role based on Zech 14:4 and current Jewish belief about where the Messiah would come from. The Mount of Olives, about 5 kilometers long, lies outside of Jerusalem along the Kidron valley. To get to there, one must pass over the brook of Kidron, which is in a ravine with steep sides. Mark has Jesus and the disciples doing this at night.|
|v26: the Greek verb exelthon, from exerchesthai, is the same as used in the LXX of David's flight from Jerusalem in 2 Sam 15:16 (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p401).|
as Raymond Brown (1994, p123) notes, the term "hymn" here most
probably refers to a prayer after a meal, and not the hymns sung after
the Passover meal. It would be odd of the writer of Mark not to include
an explanation if this were a typical Jewish practice, when he does so
elsewhere. In any case the singing of hymns after the Passover Meal is
not attested to at that time, but only in the Mishnah at least 150
later. Typically the hymns sung were Psalms 114-118. The writer cites
Psalm 118 twice.
|v26: "and they went out." It was Passover custom to spend the night in the city; for that reason the boundaries of Jerusalem were temporarily enlarged for the festival. Mark shows no cognizance of this practice (Brown 1994, p124).|
And Jesus said
"You will all fall away; for it is written, `I will strike the
and the sheep will be scattered.'
contains a reference to Zech 13:7:
|v27: The direct cite of Zech 13 here may recall the description of John the Baptist in Mk 1:1-8.|
|28: But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee."|
|v28: This prediction of an appearance in Galilee is a strong indicator that the current ending of Mark is truncated.|
v28: Most exegetes see this verse and Mk 16:7 as having a very intimate relationship. Bultman, Dibelius, and Taylor all argued that 16:7 was a later insertion to harmonize with Matthew's account of Jesus appearing in Galilee, while other exegetes have taken the view that both are late insertions (see discussion in Brown 1994, p132). 14:28 is missing from the Fayum Fragment, a late second century text that seems to be harmonizing Matt and Mark.
|29: Peter said to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." 30: And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." 31: But he said vehemently, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.|
|v29-31: The author's classic theme of what clods the disciples of Jesus were has reached its height: they will deny even knowing Jesus, let alone understanding him.|
|30: And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times."|
|v30: the word "twice" may be an interpolation here. Some manuscripts omit it. However, the idea that dawn came only after the second cockcrow is found in Greco-Roman literature (Brown 1994, p137).|
Jesus makes three prophecies, one after another, all presented
This pericope also has a chiastic structure.
This chiasm should be very clear. The A brackets once again contain geographical movement. The B brackets have Jesus promising that all will betray him, and then they all deny that. In the C brackets Jesus' promise to see them after his death (kept) is contrasted to Peter's promise to stick with Jesus (failed). The D brackets contain the famous prophecy of Peter's denial. As with the previous pericopes in this chapter, once again the halves of the pericope contrast Jesus' commitment with the disciples' betrayal.
The presence of supernatural prophecy, OT construction, and
Markan redaction all indicate that nothing in this pericope indicates
|32: And they went to a place
which was called
Gethsem'ane; and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I pray."
And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly
distressed and troubled. 34: And he said to them, "My soul is very
even to death; remain here, and watch." 35: And going a little farther,
he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour
pass from him. 36: And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible
to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou
37: And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter,
||"Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 39: And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40: And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him. 41: And he came the third time, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42: Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."|
|32: And they went to a place which was called Gethsem'ane; and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I pray."|
|v32: "Gethsemane" is yet another place name with no known referent. Brown (1994, p148-9) argues for its historicity on the grounds that its likely derivation, from the Hebrew/Aramaic Gat-semani ("oil press"), has no known theological significance.|
Raymond Brown (1994, p219-220) shows how this passage is
a set of doublets:
|v32: Note that the writer does not
specify where Gethsemane is; its location on the Mount of Olives is a
deduction made by later readers.
|33: And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.|
v33: Many scholars have seen a parallel to the Transfiguration, where the same three disciples are taken to the mountain to witness Jesus transfigured as the Son of God. This identification is inverted here when Jesus refers to God as "Abba" or "father." In the former scene Peter does not know what to say and was afraid, while in the Garden the disciples'"...eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him."
|34: And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch."|
Very close to the Septuagint version of Jonah 4:9. Various Psalms,
including Ps 42:6,12, and Ps. 43:5. (Psalm 42:50 in the LXX), are also
the context of Judas' betrayal, one might also note Sirach
Mary Ann Tolbert (1989) writes:
|35: And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.|
|v35: Is the writer of Mark using the term "hour" in the eschatological context of 13:32, or does this usage of "hour" reflect only Jesus' anguish at his impending suffering and death.|
|36: And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt."|
|v36: There are no statements in Mark in which Jesus refers to God as "my father." There are 36 such statements in John. The Gospel does not provide witnesses to this scene, so the words here must be from the writer of Mark.|
perhaps "cup" is a reference to 1 Cor 10:16. Brown (1994),
on the work of earlier scholars, notes both an OT and a Near Eastern
of the wrath of gods either drunk or served in a cup to be drunk. The
"cup of death" is also found in some Aramaic targums (Brown 1994,
Socrates was another tekton
and teacher of wisdom who also died from a poisoned cup he drank
because he had to.
"Abba" here strongly echoes Galations 4:6 and also Romans
8:14-17. The term has Jewish precedents. Tomson (2001) writes:
|37: And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?|
|v37: may be a continuation of the Jonah theme, reflecting the Septuagint Jonah 1:6, where the ship captain wakes Jonah up, surprised that he is sound asleep.|
|v37: nowhere else in Mark does Jesus address Peter as "Simon."|
|38: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."|
echoing the "willing spirit" found in Psalm 51:12 (Senior 1987,
|v38: the parallel with Mark 13:34-37 is strong, for after being admonished to watch, the disciples slept, and now the master has returned suddenly to rouse them, just as he had warned in Mk 13:34-7 (Brown 1994, p196).|
|v38: the distinction between "spirit" and "flesh" is Semitic in origin, and refers to two different perspectives of the human being as whole (Brown 1994, p198).|
Jeffrey Gibson (2001) suggested that this verse refers to Psalm
78:39-41, noting that
The verses run:
In keeping with the writer's preoccupation with plundered temples, there is a reference to the destruction of the first "tabernacle" at Shiloh which was destroyed. Additionally, the Psalm ends with a reference to David, whose story the writer is paralleling in the Gethsemane section.
Ted Weeden (2001), responding to Gibson, adds
|40: And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him.|
|v40: shows the disciples in their usual Markan framework, incompetently falling asleep.|
|41: And he came the third time, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.|
|v41: The opening clause is obscure: katheudete to loipon kai anapauesthe apechei. The verbs "sleep" and "rest" can be read several ways, as a plain statement of observation "You are still sleeping"; or as a question "Are you...?"; or as a command "Sleep...and take your rest." (Brown 1994, p207). Many scholars go with the second, for Luke, who copied Mark, has Why do you sleep?. The word apechei has many meanings but most apt is probably the fact that it is a technical term meaning "paid in full" that was written on bills in the Hellenistic world.|
The Elijah-Elisha Cycle forms the skeleton of the narrative
p109) while the Psalms supply the dialogue:
In Luke, who borrowed this story from Mark, the parallels are even clearer, and Luke adds the angel and language from the Septuagint.
Like the Syro-Phoenician woman, this pericope will also sink any positive criteria of Jesus' historicity. Some exegetes argue that it is formed in the later Christian community as an edifying story of Jesus, while others argue that it must be historical because the idea of Jesus crying is offensive to his status as the Son of God. There is no way to choose between these two clashing criteria, one of historical interpretation, the other of Christological interpretation.
A second line to take is that the pericope is unhistorical because no one was with Jesus in Gethsemane, but that is clearly low-grade skeptical nonsense, for the disciples rejoin Jesus and the marks of tears and prayer would have been obvious to them. Since the disciples flee Jesus at this point, however, there is no way they could have known the content of Jesus' prayer. It is simply Markan invention.
The reality is that this pericope is shot through with OT
based on weeping in the Psalms (Ludemann 2001, p98). One source if
22:24 (v25 in some translations)
Another is Psalm 31:
Psalm 69 also plays a role:
Helms (1988, p111) points out that Jesus has just finished the
meal, at which Psalms 113-188 were recited. Look at Psalm 116...
..which contains certain elements of the Gethsemane passage --
(death to Jesus but salvation to all), calling out to God, and a
to a death in faith.
The chiastic structure of this pericope is as follows:
The parallels should be obvious.
The strong presence of the OT in this passage, both at the
level of the details and at the structural level (see below), indicates
that nothing in this pericope supports historicity.
|43: And immediately, while he was
Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and
from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44: Now the
had given them a sign, saying, "The one I shall kiss is the man; seize
him and lead him away under guard." 45: And when he came, he went up to
him at once, and said, "Master!" And he kissed him. 46: And they laid
on him and seized him. 47: But one of those who stood by drew
||his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48: And Jesus said to them, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49: Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled." 50: And they all forsook him, and fled. 51: And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, 52: but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.|
|43: And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.|
Having moved the plot, Judas disappears here. The kiss, which is
implausible (why would they need someone to identify Jesus, who was
publicly in the Temple?), may come from 2 Sam 20: 9-10, where another
betrayed by a kiss:
Luke borrowed the story of the death of Judas from this passage (his language echoes the Greek of the Septuagint story), indicating an early Christian interest in it.
See also Proverbs 27:6:
v43: The writer of Mark does not indicate how Judas knew where Jesus was. Given that the author never mentioned that Judas left the Last Supper, surely the reader must be surprised to have him show up here.
|v43: Brown (1994, p247) notes that the Greek makes clear the crowd is a delegation from the authorities, not a rabble.|
|v43: Why does the writer of Mark repeat the information that Judas was "one of the Twelve?" Surely the reader could not have forgotten that! Brown (1994) argued that the author included that because it was part of his source. Perhaps, however, the writer is simply emphasizing the disciples' betrayal of Jesus.|
Tate (1995) points out that after having refused to arrest Jesus out of
fear of the crowd, the leadership then arrests Jesus in front of a
crowd of people.
|44: Now the
had given them a sign, saying, "The one I shall kiss is the man; seize
him and lead him away under guard."
|v44: There are numerous interpretations of this kiss. At one extreme scholars have argued that Judas regrets his act, and the warmth of the kiss (kataphilein = kiss warmly) indicates he was trying to show his love. At the other extreme, the warmth of the kiss is interpreted as Judas embracing Jesus so he couldn't escape (see discussion in Brown 1994, p252-253).|
v44: Brown (1994), after reviewing some of the evidence for kisses as greetings in Jewish and Greco-Roman culture, remarks:
"the betrayer." The Greek word for betray
never appears in Mark, and elsewhere in the NT only in Luke 6:16
Modern readers are conditioned by two thousand years of legend to see
Judas as the "betrayer." Yet exegetes have found it extremely difficult
to pin down exactly what Judas "betrayed." The word used to describe
Judas' action more correctly means "handed over" and carries this
meaning in the Old Testament as well (Klassen 1998, p395-7, 404).
|47: But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.|
|v47-48: E. A. Abbott (1914) argued that there was a line missing here, in which Jesus says something like "put it back in its place." Matt and John have that line referring to the sword, while Luke has read it to mean the ear that has just been cut off. As it is, the transition from v47 to v48 is extremely abrupt and the situation in which violence has broken out is left unresolved. The existence of this line is supported by the fact it completes the parallel with the OT.|
The existence of the Lukan error in reading the ear here instead of the
sword may constitute a weak argument for Q. If Luke had Matthew in
front of him with the correct reading of this line, why did he adopt
the wrong one?
|v47: many conservative commentators have argued that the use of the vague term "bystander" shows that Mark is concealing the identity of a disciple of Jesus. The reality is that the Greek word used by the author of Mark is only used to identify bystanders (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p415).|
|v47: the carrying of weapons on Passover was permissable, although the chronology is vague. It is not clear whether weapons would have been necessary in the Jerusalem environs. The author does not name the "bystander" with a sword as a disciple, so the attack on the chief priest's party need not have had anything to do with Jesus.|
|v47: the writer labels the victim "the slave of the high priest." The presence of the definite article "the" is unusual for a character who has not been introduced prior to this moment. Some scholars interpret this as a reference to Judas, who made himself a slave of the high priest.|
|48: And Jesus said to them, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?|
|v48: Although some exegetes have seized upon the word "robber" here (which might also mean "insurrectionist") to say that Jesus was arrested as a political revolutionary, Paula Fredriksen (1988, p116) pointed that if Jesus had been arrested for political reasons, he would have been taken straight to Pilate. There would have been no trial before the Sanhedrin, and no need of one. However, the cogency of Fredriksen's argument hinges on whether the reader accepts that the Sanhedrin Trial is historical. If the writer invented it, then her argument is null.|
|49: Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled."|
|v49: day by day. Some exegetes have argued that that this implies a much longer period of teaching than is present in Mark's gospel, leading to the conclusion that John's chronology is superior. But the Greek could simply mean "by day" as opposed to "by night' (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p417).|
|v49: "...let the scriptures be fulfilled." These are the last words of Jesus to his followers.|
Emerson B Powery (2004) observes:
|51: And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, 52: but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.|
this verse, difficult to understand and the subject of intense
by exegetes, spawned numerous textual variants. As Brown (1994, p295),
notes, the fact that Matthew and Luke both eliminated the reference to
nudity while generations of scribes edited it is evidence that it was
as scandalous in antiquity. See the Excursus at the end of this chapter
for more discussion.
At the intermediate level the Gethsemane passages seem to be a
of 2 Samuel 15 and 16 (Price 2003, p304; see also Donahue and
2002, p401; and Brown 1994, p125-6). The parallels are:
Mark may have already prepared us for this scene with Jesus'
error of "Abiathar" in 2:26, for in 2 Samuel it is Abiathar who escapes
back to Jerusalem carrying the Ark of the Covenant, just as it is
who brings the new covenant to Jerusalem.
There is also the use of the Greek from the LXX in v26 (see earlier comments on v 26)
Donahue and Harrington (2002, p418) point out that another
parallel is a first century Jewish document, the Wisdom
of Solomon. Even if the writer of Mark did not use it as a source,
it nevertheless illustrates some of the currents in Jewish traditions
the time. The numerous parallels should be obvious.
Aside from the bare fact of betrayal and fleeing disciples,
appears to be Markan creation. It contains typical Markan features,
denigration of the disciples (v50), Markan doublets (v46 "seized him"
"laid hands on" and structurally, v 46 doubles v44). The mysterious
young man of Mark 14:51-52 is discussed
Adelle Yarbro Collins (1994) observes of the arrest of Jesus:
The subjectivity of such arguments from embarrassment should
be clear. An exegete could argue that a story is too painful to be
false, while another could point out that theology and the Old
Testament demand such a story. Here Collins points out that if the
Crucifixion is a true tale, the author might be motivated to invent a
story to explain how such a thing could occur.
Richard Carrier (2005, p180-1) points out that a Roman
ceremony decribed in Plutarch is remarkably similar to the tale from
Mark. Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, is killed by a conspiracy
of the Senate, and ascends to Heaven amidst portents of darkness. Later
he returns to earth, saying that he was a god sent down to earth to
establish a mighty kingdom. Plutarch relates that at the Roman ceremony
of Romulus' ascent, names were recited: the names of those who had fled
his vanishing in fear. Their fear and flight were then acted out in
public. Carrier observes that this is :
<>Carrier's example sheds light on the problem of embarrassment in this passage. If we concede that the story of the disciples' flight must be true because it is too embarrassing to be false, the same argument should apply to the story of the flight from Romulus' ascent. However, the existence of the Romulus story as a prior model obviates any ability of the embarrassment crierion to turn this story into history.
The chiastic structure of this pericope is broken out below.
Once the missing line has been restored to the chiasm, the parallels are clear and obvious.
This pericope as written contains no support for historicity,
being derived entirely from OT sources. Some exegetes have argued that
the historical kernel here is that Jesus' disciples must have fled, or
else they would have been executed with him. Against this, there is no
external source that explains or apologizes for this flight. Further,
Judas is most probably an invention off of the OT, indicating that
perhaps some of the other disciples are invented as well.
|53: And they led Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes were assembled. 54: And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, and warming himself at the fire. 55: Now the chief priests and the whole council sought testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56: For many bore false witness against him, and their witness did not agree. 57: And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58: "We heard him say, `I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" 59: Yet not even so did their testimony agree.||60: And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" 61: But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62: And Jesus said, "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." 63: And the high priest tore his garments, and said, "Why do we still need witnesses? 64: You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65: And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, "Prophesy!" And the guards received him with blows.|
|53: And they led Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes were assembled.|
Scholars have identified some of the problematical historical issues
with the Sanhedrin Trial as (1) capital trials can only take place in
(2), court proceedings may not take place on the sabbath, on festivals,
and the corresponding days of rest; (3) A death sentence may not be
on the first day of a trial, but can only in a new session on the
day; (4) Blasphemy consists solely of speaking the name of YHWH, which
Jesus does not do in Mark; and, (5) the regular place of assembly is a
hall within the Temple (the writer is usually seen to imply that the
met at the house of the High Priest). The Temple gates are closed at
night. Other scholars take issue with all these points, however.
|v53: Mahlon Smith (1998) points out additional problems. (1) the court proceeding in Mark takes place on the evening of the busiest day of the year for the Temple priests. It is unlikely that they would have been willing to gather for a late-night trial; (2) the festival celebrations involved wine-drinking, further impairing the willingness and ability of the Sanhedrin to gather; (3) in Jewish jurisprudence witnesses had to be examined days prior to the trial to ensure that they would be present for the trial; (4) the correct penalty for blaspheming is stoning, not crucifixion; (5) any Jew, including Peter or any supporter, could have appealed his case and delayed the death sentence.|
|v53: The Pharisees, depicted throughout the gospel as the enemies of Jesus, have disappeared from the narrative. The Herodians, also mentioned as his enemies, vanish like fog on a summer morn. The writer has permitted the scribes to be in on the kill, however.|
|v53: Due to the various contradictions between the behavior of individuals as depicted in the narrative, and behavior proscribed on feast days, Theissen and Merz (1998, p427) suggest that the chronology is wrong and Jesus was executed prior to Passover.|
Doherty (1999, p253) points out that the Septuagint version of
Psalm 22, from which so much of the imagery of the Passion Narrative is
drawn, actually reads "Synagogues of the wicked have circled me round."
Our current OT is different:
v53: the writer of Mark does not name the high priest. Steve Mason (1992) underlines the problem of this lack of identification:
The reality is that Caiaphas was the longest-lasting of the Jewish high priests, serving more than a decade under two Roman governors (Rivkin 1991, p231). That the gospels are unsure who presided, despite the fact that he was the longest-serving high priest of the era, is a sign that they did not know and that this account is fictional.
|v53: The number of individuals actually in the Sanhedrin appears not to have been fixed at this time, and may have consisted of representatives of elite groups rather than a fixed set of individuals (Brown 1994, p348-9).|
|54: And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, and warming himself at the fire.|
|v54: details like this fire in a courtyard in front of the Sanhedrin play a role in Jan Sammer's maverick reconstruction of the Passion being based on a Roman play.|
"at a distance." The Greek phrase here is identical to that
in the Septuagint version of Psalm 38:11 (Senior 1987, p87):
|v54: "courtyard of the high priest" The Sanhedrin probably met in or adjacent to the Temple. It is difficult to say where the writer of Mark has placed this meeting.|
|55: Now the chief priests and the whole council sought testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none.|
Compare Daniel 6:4
|56: For many bore false witness against him, and their witness did not agree.|
follows Psalm 27:12
The Septuagint version of this Psalm is slightly different, and instead of "breathing out violence" has "and injustice has lied within herself." (Helms 1988, p118)
|57: And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying,|
follows Psalm 35:11
|58: "We heard him say, `I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'"|
|v58: the three days may reference the Passion prediction. There is an OT expectation (Isaiah 40-60, Ezekiel 40-48) that the earthly Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed and replaced with a perfect sanctuary. An Aramaic targum of Isaiah 43:5 adds the words "and the messiah will build the sanctuary."|
|v58: the writer of Mark uses the Greek naos, or sanctuary, not "Temple" as the RSV would have it.|
|v58: The Greek term "made by hands" is a technical term of contempt for idols in the Hebrew scriptures; they are "made by hands" (Brown 1994, p439). Much scholarly ink has been expended over the interpretation of what sanctuary is "not made by hands." Brown (1994, p440-443) lays out the choices. Is it the Christian community? A sanctuary of divine origin such as that of Exodus 15:17 and other Hebrew writings? Or the body of the Risen Christ?|
Brown (1994, p446), asks, if this testimony is false, why is it
repeated later in the gospel by passers-by at the crucifixion who
been to the Sanhedrin Trial? Surely that means that the writer intends
for us to infer that at least this part of the testimony is true
testimony. Tolbert (1989, p277) observes that the testimony is true in
a distorted and conflated sense, for Jesus has stated in 13:1-2 that
the Temple would be destroyed, and several times spoken of raising
after three days. However, he has never linked those two ideas.
also relate to 1 Cor 3:16-7
|60: And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?"|
|v60: "This is an example of the double negative (ouk....ouden) construction, a favorite Markan technique. It is possible to take 14:60b as comprising either one or two questions: 'Have you nothing at all to answer? What (is it that) these men are witnessing against you?'" (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p422) as the RSV does here. The presence of the distinctive style of the writer of Mark argues that the line is a fiction from his hand.|
|61: But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"|
|v61-2: are the writer's expression of Jesus' true identity as Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man, working in all three Christological titles. Jesus quotes Daniel 7:14 and Psalm 110:1 (Collins 1995, p143, Donahue and Harrington 2002, p423).|
encapsulates themes from Psalm 38:13-4, 39:9. Doubled in Mark
May also be influenced by Lam 3:28-30, in which the suffering one
both silence and the cheek for striking:
Constrast John, whose Jesus engages in a relatively lengthy debate with Pilate.
|v61: "the blessed." This is the only instance in the NT of that phrase being used as a title for God. The title "Son of the Blessed" is not found anywhere in NT or Jewish literature (Brown 1994, p469).|
John Collins (1995, p154-169) discusses at length the Danielic
context of the messiah as Son of God in the Aramaic fragment 4Q246.
reviewing the "Son of Man" concept, Brown (1994) observes:
The intersection of the Son of Man, Son of God, and the Book
was made long before the Gospel of Mark was ever set to
David Seeley (1998) notes that Jesus death also fulfills Cynic
ideals and models of the proper way to die.
Several exegetes have noted that the thrust of the Greek here indicates
contempt for Jesus himself. Jeff Gibson (Function) writes:
|62: And Jesus said, "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."|
Note that in Matthew and Luke Jesus deflects the question of his
refusing to answer directly (Mt 26:64 ="Yes, it is as you say," Lk
I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not
answer." ). Based on this agreement, Price (2003) speculates that our
version of Mark is incorrect and in the original version of Mark Jesus
deflected his identity instead of admitting it. Grant (1963) notes:
Myers (1988, p376), points out that the short version of Jesus' answer could even be translated ironically: "Am I?" Crispin Fletcher-Louis (1997) points out that Jesus' assertion that he is the true High Priest automatically disqualifies the current high priest as a false one, making it clear just what blasphemy Jesus is engaged in. In a longer piece, Fletcher-Louis (2003) also argues that Jesus' claim to be high priest was a "blasphemous negation"(p27) of Caiaphas' position.
|v62: David Hindley (2004) speculates that the writer of Mark may be engaged in a bit of sly word play. The Gospel of Mark is written in Greek. However, anyone familiar with Jewish scripture would immediately realize what "I am" meant in Hebrew: YHWH. And it is blasphemy to utter the name of God.|
"Cloud" imagery is associated with God's presence in the Temple in
several texts, such as 1 Kings 8 (Fletcher-Louis 1997).
the Book of Watchers (3rd century BCE) a model high priest is described
who would ascend to heaven on the clouds (Fletcher-Louis 1997).
"seated." Psalm 110:1, cited in Mk
12:36,, has the addressee raised to heaven and seated at the right
hand of the Lord.
The Psalm was a crucial one for nascent Christianity.
Robert Fowler (1996, p118) suggests that the comment "and
you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and
with the clouds of heaven" is actually meant to be a parenthetical
aside to the reader, not the words of Jesus. "I am" is a formulaic term
of self-revelation commonly used by gods and goddesses in the
Greek-speaking world, according to Fowler, and would itself have been
sufficient to trigger the high priest's response.
This is the last time "Son of Man" is used in the gospel.
|63: And the high priest tore his garments, and said, "Why do we still need witnesses?|
This calls to mind 2 Kings 11:14:
Athaliah, the Queen, is standing at the Temple when the true
who had been hidden there, is brought out. The full text runs:
In this scene Athaliah tears her robes when she sees the True King publicly revealed, just as the Chief Priest does. Whether this is an intended parallel or simply a coincidence is difficult to say. There is no question that the writer of Mark is intimately familiar with the text of Kings and has used it throughout his gospel. The passage connects the true king and the temple in a dramatic way, and may contain an indirect prophecy of the deaths of the destruction of the priests at Roman hands (in the death of the one who tore her robes).
|v63: 2 Kings 18-19 also offers a sequence in which an uttered blasphemy results in clothes torn (18:37, 19:1).|
|64: You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death.|
|v64: Blasphemy: there is no evidence that it was blasphemy to claim to be, or to have claimed on one's behalf, to be the messiah, the Son of God. Since the charge as presented is clearly nonsense, the actual charge remains a mystery. Or perhaps, by emphasizing the lack of valid charge, the writer wishes to present the proceedings as a kangaroo court, showing that the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus unjustly.|
|v64: Scholars have objected to this scene on two grounds. First, Jesus did not commit any blasphemy, and second, crucifixion was an inappropriate punishment for blasphemy.|
|v64: The writer of Mark reports that they all condemned him, although later Joseph of Arimathea is represented as a secret believer. Note that although Jesus is generally represented as facing the trials alone by commentators, in the Sanhedrin Trial Joseph of Arimathea is present as a secret believer in Jesus.|
Jeff Gibson (Function) has
observed parallels between the trial of Zachariah, son of Baruch,
described in Josephus' The Jewish War,
and the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin in Mark:
Here, Gibson argues, the writer of Mark was attempting to compare the Sanhedrin to the Zealots who had rebelled against Rome and attempted to realize God's kingdom on Earth in a way that the Markan Jesus had rejected.
|65: And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, "Prophesy!" And the guards received him with blows.|
From Isaiah 50:6
1 Kings 22, where lying prophets denigrate the Lord's true
Micaiah, is also playing a role here:
|v65: Only Mark and Matthew have parallel mockery scenes to go with the parallel Jewish and Roman trials. Such parallelism is literary, not historical, in origin.|
|v65: Even as the guards slap him and mock him for being a false prophet ("Prophesy!") his prophecy of Peter's denial is coming true in the courtyard outside.|
This account is secondary creation by the author of Mark or
a doublet that is a classic Markan feature, doubling the trial before
in the next chapter. Ludemann (2001, p101) lays out the
Ched Myers (1988, p370) adds other parallels: both trials end
in consultations, the Sanhedrin with its members, and Pilate with the
crowd. Each offers an immediate verdict and then mockery. As
Myers (p372) notes, the double trial presents a problem. If the Jews
did not need to consult Rome to have a troublemaker executed, then
there is no need for the second trial before Pilate. If Roman approval
was required, then why was Jesus executed by the Romans?
The predominance of OT construction at all levels, and the creative presence of Markan style and literary structures, ensure that there is no support for historicity from this pericope. Whether Jesus was ever tried by the Sanhedrin is now impossible to know, at least from the information given in Mark.
The numerous historical problems with this scene have led some exegetes to regard it is an unhistorical later addition to the Passion Narrative.
|66: And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the maids of the high priest came; 67: and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, "You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus." 68: But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you mean." And he went out into the gateway. 69: And the maid saw him, and began again to say to the bystanders, "This man is one of them."||70: But again he denied it. And after a little while again the bystanders said to Peter, "Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean." 71: But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know this man of whom you speak." 72: And immediately the cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, "Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." And he broke down and wept.|
|70: But again he denied it. And after a little while again the bystanders said to Peter, "Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean."|
|v70: Peter is identified as a Galilean
here. Galileans were lampooned for being dull-witted and provincial.
Here the only way they could have identified him as a Galilean is by
his accent. Perhaps this is another example of the writer's denigration
of the apostles, this time depicting them as thick-headed provincials
with marked accents.
|72: And immediately the cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, "Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." And he broke down and wept.|
Ted Weeden (2001), one of world's foremost experts on the Gospel
Another major Markan scholar, Werner Kelber, has also argued that the writer's negative depiction of the disciples implies that he was engaging in polemic against the Jerusalem centered Church of which James and Peter were pillars. Against this, Ched Myers (1988) has read Peter's failure as tragic rather than negative and polemical, arguing that Peter is eager, and protective, but also dense, excitable, and stubborn and deluded. "Just like us," concludes Myers (1988, p106). In Myers' view this take on the disciples reduces the narrative distance between the disciples and the reader.
George Young (2000) similar notes:
As Camery-Hoggat (1992, p49), surely there is something ironic about a
man named "Rock" who falls apart at the end.
The embarrassment criterion is often invoked here, dating back to Origen, who used the story to demonstrate how trustworthy the Gospels were, as they did not hide the disgrace. The scene represents supernatural prophecy fulfillment. Note the beautifully ironic touch of Jesus' prophecy of Peter's denial coming true even at the very moment when Jesus is being mocked for being a false prophet.
Paul makes no mention of this event in
despite his clashes with Peter. As Weeden (2001) notes:
Joe Wallack (2004) points out:
I have worked out the chiastic structure of this pericope and the preceding one. Here it is:
This one has a variant on the usual Markan ABBA center. Instead, it goes ABAB.
The lack of external support for this event, and the fact that it is a supernatural prophecy fulfillment, indicate that there is no support for historicity in this pericope.
|Excursus: Who is the Naked Young Man of Mark
Few verses in Mark have inspired more speculation than the identity of the naked young man who flees when Jesus is arrested. In conservative and apologetic circles, where the writer of Mark is often interpreted as little more than a stenographer of Peter, the naked young man is sometimes seen as someone the author knows, but does not name because the young man, now old, is still alive when the Gospel was written, and the author fears reprisals. Dibelius (1949) is a good example of this common and naive argument for historicity: "This inglorious episode would not have been told (Mark 14:51, 52) if the young man had not been known to the earliest narrator."
Among mainstream exegetes the young man is often seen as OT
creation on Amos 2:16:
along with perhaps Micah 2:8:
Genesis 39:12 has also been tagged, beginning with the Church
(Brown 1994, p301):
Note that while each of these proposals
accounts for the Young Man's scandalous state of undress, none accounts
either for the linen or the presence of the Young Man himself.
Exegetes have often proposed that the
young man here
is connected to the young man in Mk
16:5, who announces that Jesus is
gone. Others have argued that he is Mark himself. Koester views the
man in the context of Secret Mark and believes him to be an insertion
later redactor (2000, p173). However, as Brown (2003, p108) noted, the
use of "a certain young man" rather than a definite article ("the"
man) indicates that Mark has not introduced the character. Some
the young man's disappearance as an allegory representing the flight of
and his reappearance at the tomb as representing their restitution and
eventual success (Brown 2003, p108-9). Haren (1998, p526), arguing that
the young man is actually the raised Lazarus from John, sums up the
with this passage:
Fowler (1998) also makes the same identification, based, like Koester, on an analysis of Secret Mark. Another point of view, summarized in McVann (1994), sees the young man as a baptismal initiate, who begins naked, as initiates do, and then reappears clothed in white, like a successful initiate, in Mark 16:5. Tate (1995, p69)) points out that the theme of clothing links the Young Man at the Tomb, and the Naked Man in the Garden, with the Gerasene Demoniac, who appears fully clothed.
Howard Jackson (1997) points out that the motif of running away naked when faced with the necessity of violent action is practically a type scene in ancient literature. After giving several examples, he closes with two he suggests are pertinent, arguing:
Jackson does not argue that the writer is directly paralleling the Greco-Roman examples, but instead is drawing on a common motif in order to vivify his narrative. As Jackson notes, Bar-Timaeus also shed his clothing after Jesus cures his blindness, which, Jackson argues, was done to make the narrative more interesting and energetic. However, Jackson's solution, while accounting for the nudity and the flight, cannot account for the presence of the young man.
Any analysis of the presence of the young man must begin where the writer of Mark began, with 2 Sam 15-17. The basis of the solution offered here is that the young man of Mark 14:51-2 relates to the young man of 2 Sam 17:18, who betrays David, just as the young man betrays Jesus running away when Jesus is threatened.
Note that this passage not only contains
a young man who betrays David, but also a well into which those hunted
are placed, a motif that echoes the Tomb story of Mk
16:1-8. This yields the following
However, the linen must still
be accounted for. One possibility is 2 Sam 6:14-15, which offers:
In that passage David is rebuked by Michal for disrobing in
public. Note how well the figure of David fits the quotation from Amos,
since David is of course a person that is "courageous among the
mighty." Could the young man be an allusion to David? This possibility
is further suggested by the fact that the Gethsemane scene implicitly
links Jesus to David by paralleling 2 Sam 15-17, where David is
betrayed. Moreover, in the underlying parallel to the Gethsemane scenes
14:32-42, the Ark of the Covenant is alluded to, for in 2 Sam 15-17
Abiathar is charged by David with taking the Ark back to Jerusalem,
while in 2 Sam 6:14-15 it is David himself who is bringing the Ark back
to Jerusalem. Finally, recall that in the Mk
14:24 during the Last Supper Jesus has specifically described
himself as the "covenant" using Moses' words from Exodus. This swirl of
allusions accounts for the appearance of the young man in Mk 14:51-2
quite neatly, yielding a complete set of parallels:
If the Naked Young Man is David, that also provides another
piece of literary fallout. The writer has Jesus cross Palestine as
Elijah, get arrested as David, and crucified as Daniel. Here, when the
Naked Young Man flees, the allusions to 2 Samual 15-17 and David also end. The next section covers
Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin and has other origins.
If you are among the exegetes who link the young man of
14:51-52 with the young man who appears to the woman at the Tomb in Mk
16:5, then the solution based on 2 Sam 6:14-15 is incomplete, for
it does not encompass the young man of Mk
16:5. However, there may be a solution that does. In the Old
Testament a messenger of God is of course an angel, few of whom are
named, just as the young man of Mk 16:5 goes unnamed. In Daniel 8 an
angel named Gabriel appears as the messenger of God who explains to the
"Son of Man" the meaning of a vision. In Jewish tradition Gabriel is
seen as the messenger in linen of
Ezekiel 9-10, who accompanies 6 others to the Temple in Jerusalem where
he announces the wrath of God on Israel:
If we see the messenger in Mk 16 as the angel Gabriel then the linen is explained, and the idea of "fleeing naked" is explained by the allusion to Amos. Under this solution it is easy to see a clever reference here to the horrors of the siege and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem that culminated the Roman-Jewish War of 66-70 CE, which the writer of Mark is almost certainly aware of (or perhaps the second conflict of 135 CE). This would also nicely fall in with the writer's Temple-focused hypertextuality. Finally, those who are wont to argue that the writer of the Gospel is mentioned in the passage may take heart from the fact that in Ezekiel 9:2 and 9:11 the man in linen is said to carry a writing case at his side. Hint, hint.
However, Richard Carrier (2004) pointed out to me that the Greek of the LXX uses the word for "cloth" instead of "linen" in the Septuagint version of Ezekiel 9-10. Richard is not getting invited to any parties at my house.
Having offered my solutions, I, like Poirot, will now have the honor of retiring from the case. Whoever the young man of Mark 14:51-52 was, he has certainly left behind a great deal of dirty linen.
Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
|Chapter 1||Chapter 9||Home|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 11||Topical Index|
|Chapter 4||Chapter 12|
|Chapter 5||Chapter 13||References
|Chapter 6||Chapter 14|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 15||Contact Author
|Chapter 8||Chapter 16|