Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mark 1:40-45, The Cleansing of a Leper (The Study of Mark)

Μάρκον 1·40 Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν λεπρὸς παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν [καὶ γονυπετῶν] καὶ λέγων αὐτῷ ὅτι ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι. 41 καὶ σπλαγχνισθεὶς ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἥψατο καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· θέλω, καθαρίσθητι· 42 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα, καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη. 43 καὶ ἐμβριμησάμενος αὐτῷ εὐθὺς ἐξέβαλεν αὐτὸν 44 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ὅρα μηδενὶ μηδὲν εἴπῃς, ἀλλὰ ὕπαγε σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ σου ἃ προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς. 45 ὁ δὲ ἐξελθὼν ἤρξατο κηρύσσειν πολλὰ καὶ διαφημίζειν τὸν λόγον, ὥστε μηκέτι αὐτὸν δύνασθαι φανερῶς εἰς πόλιν εἰσελθεῖν, ἀλλ ̓ ἔξω ἐπ ̓ ἐρήμοις τόποις ἦν· καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτὸν πάντοθεν.


     40 And a leper1 comes to him begging him, kneeling before him, and saying to him, “If you would be willing2 , you are able to cleanse me." 41 And being compassionate3, stretching out his hand, he touched him and says to him, “I am willing. Be cleansed.” 42 And immediately the leprosy departed4 from him and he was cleansed. 43 And strictly warning5 him, he immediately threw6 him out, 44 and says to him, “See that you speak nothing to anyone7, but go show yourself to a priest and offer what Moses commanded concerning your cleansing as evidence to them8. 45 But going out, he began to proclaim and to spread the word around a lot, so that he was no longer able to openly go into a city, but was outside in deserted places, but they were coming to him from everywhere9.

1 Introduction

This is one of the most dramatic scenes where Jesus heals a person in the book of Mark. What makes it dramatic is the language that is used and the variant reading that may possibly be original. There are two things that you need to be known before going into this scene. 1. Touching a leper was against Jewish law. 2. A leper was not suppose to approach non-leprous people. In fact, lepers were “cut off” from society and had to announce that they were unclean if anyone came near to them.

2 ἐὰν θέλῃς (if you would be willing)

The verb θέλῃς is in the subjunctive. That adds a probability factor to the verb, thus the translation “if you would or may be willing”. In other words, the leper doesn’t know if Jesus will heal him or not. The way that the leper asked the question indicates that he doesn’t know what to expect from Jesus’ by way of a response. This teaches us that the leper had heard of Jesus even though he was cut off from the rest of society and was hoping for a miracle.

3 σπλαγχνισθεὶς (being compassionate)

This may be one of the most interesting variant readings in Mark. It is found in most documents, but the oldest documents has “being angry”. The scholars are back and forth on this one. Most agree that “being compassionate” is the original, but there is still much evidence to suggest that “being angry” could be the original. As one would not have to argue for “being compassionate” since Jesus was know for that, one could argue that “being angry” is original for the following reasons: 1. The leper was no suppose to approach “clean” people according to Jewish Law. 2. The leper was suppose to shout “unclean, unclean” if anyone came near. 3. The language that is used following the healing.

4 ἀπῆλθεν (departed) Or “went away”. The text indicates that the leprosy vanished before
their eyes.

5 ἐμβριμησάμενος (strictly warning)

This is a stunning passage! We don’t know what Jesus was “strictly warning” him about, it could just have been "speak nothing to anyone", but it could have been more than that.  It could have been that Jesus didn’t want him to speak to anyone about this, or it could be because Jesus was angry with him. More insight comes in the very next line.

6 εὐθὺς ἐξέβαλεν αὐτὸν (he immediately threw him out)

ἐξέβαλεν is the same verb that is used when Jesus casts out demons. It is very surprising and stunning to see it used here against a man that Jesus just healed. This may add to the debate that Jesus was angry with the leper.

So why would Jesus be angry? There are several valid reasons.

• The leper was breaking Jewish law by coming 
• Jesus could have been angry with the situation of the man being sick 
• Jesus could foresee that the man wouldn’t do what he told him to do

7 μηδενὶ μηδὲν (nothing to anyone)

Greek: “nothing to no one” The double negative was used to reinforce “no” or “don’t”. It may not be good english, but it’s great greek.

8 εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς. (as evidence to them)

Who is them? Well, the text doesn’t say, but we can assume that Jesus is referring to the priests. In order for the man to do what was required by Moses, he had to go to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the only place he could become “clean” in Jewish law. He had to go to the temple. It is possible that the man didn’t do this which made Jesus angry, but we don’t have any evidence of such. If he did make the journey to Jerusalem, can you imagine what he told those priest!

9 Final notes

This was such a big deal that Jesus was not able to go into any city, but the crowd still found him where ever he was. The phrase “but they were coming to him from everywhere” indicates that Jesus had become so popular during this time, that he was never alone. This may also account for the journey of the healed man. If he went to Jerusalem, he would have told many people what had happened to him including priests! We can be assured that it did take some time for all of this to calm down.


  1. A difficult passage. It may highlight the humanity of Jesus as He dealt with the crowds and the insistent needs found at every turn.

  2. As I was reading 'Jesus Mean and Wild' and came across the difference in this passage where Jesus threw him out and scolded him, I was greatly confused and troubled. So naturally after reading the verse in context, I went searching for the scriptures Greek context.
    In sharing that, I am very thankful I came across your blog - it's helpful to see you've posted the greek then broken it down. Please continue to do this as it helps other believers to dig deeper as well. Not everyone has this gift of understanding biblical Greek the way you do.