Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mark 10:20-21, Thinking it Through

Μάρκον 10·20 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ· διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα πάντα ἐφυλαξάμην ἐκ νεότητός μου.  21 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἕν σε ὑστερεῖ· ὕπαγε, ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι.  22 ὁ δὲ στυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος· ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά. 
And he affirmed to him, “Teacher, I’ve kept all these things from my youth.”  And Jesus, after gazing directly at him, loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing.  Go, sell as much as you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  And shocked by the word, he departed grieving; for he had many possessions. Mark 10:20-22

Part of my mission to learn greek is to get people to think through things that they read in the New Testament.  Since not everyone knows greek, we have to rely on translations.  Those translations can’t fully describe what is going on in a particular passage and certainly doesn’t fully portray the author’s intent or what he is thinking or how he is being inspired as he writes.  Learning greek allows us to “get into the head” of the author.  The below comments tries to demonstrate some of that.
ἔφη means “to say” or “to affirm”  based on the context, the man was “affirming” that he had kept the commandments.
ἐμβλέψας is a aorist participle that means “to gaze upon directly” or “to consider”.  Since it is aorist, the action of the participle was done prior to Jesus loving him.  So, after Jesus looked at him, considered him, Jesus loved him.  It’s possible that the construction allows for the aorist participle’s action and the aorist verb’s action, ἠγάπησεν (loved), to be happening at the same time, but the context doesn’t seem to allow it.  Even if it does, the following questions still need to be asked as we stay within the context of the passage:
Why does Jesus love him?  Did Jesus love him before they met or only after they spoke?  Did Jesus know that the man would not accept his saying?  How do you think Jesus felt about the man after he departed?  Does thinking though this change how you would view the scene?  What do you think of Mark’s theology based on this passage?
στυγνάσας means “sad, shocked, or appalled”.  “Shocked” seems to fit the context better.
ἦν γὰρ ἔχων really says “for he was having (continually)”.  Mark is using this construction to indicate that the man had many, many possessions.  In other words, he was very, very wealthy.

We should always arm ourselves with the understanding of our scriptures so that we can help new students of the Bible as well as current students of the Bible.  The Bible has a purpose.  We are charged with understanding it for ourselves.  Understanding it better will help us in our mission to save souls.
Please check out my friend Stephen’s excellent blog on the same passage.  Obviously, he is more devotional in his approach and I’m more technical in my approach to the text.

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