A key for Mark 4?

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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:56 am

jude77 wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:50 pm
Hello Stefan;
When I first read your original post I misinterpreted it and thought you were experiencing some type of existential crisis and were in need of consolation (by training I am both a psychologist and clergyman so I tend to see that almost automatically!). Anyway, as I've re-read this thread I see you're seeking something entirely different. If I understand you correctly you are looking for a "key" that will reveal not only a consistent meaning for the parable, but also for all of chapter 4. That will be an exercise well worth following and I'll watch this thread with great interest and I hope, in some small way, to be of help.
Who says I'm not experiencing an existential crisis! :D Seriously, though, that was extremely thoughtful of you. Thank you!

Yes, I assume there is a way to interpret all the different elements in Mark 4:1-34 so that everything connects to the same message as closely as possible. I need to answer everything. What is "the secret of God's kingdom", who are insiders/outsiders in relation to the parable, what is "the lamp", "the hidden" things, "the measure", the "addition" to the measure, who are the one's who "don't have", what is "taken away from them", etc.
This, incidentally, is an excellent point you made in responding to my thoughts that soil #32 represented the disciples:
"Peter could also be said to exemplify the first soil in 8:32-33. Jesus "spoke the word openly", i.e. the very first so-called passion prediction, and what follows can well be described by the the description of the first soil, with Satan removing the Word from Peter. So is Peter also the first soil? Or is there a connection between the first and second soils? But this event in 8:32-33 could also be considered an example of the second soil, because it is precisely the Word concerning persecution, that Peter reacts to."
After reading the above I have had to reconsider my position. That paragraph is a superb observation, and I think you are definitely going in the right direction.
Thanks alot :)

Stefan Kristensen
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:00 am

Btw, there is an article on Mark's use of εις/εν. I think he concludes that these two are used interchangeably in gMark. Therefore we should also not overinterpret the εις at Jesus' baptism, where the spirit "came down into him" (Mark 1:10). With Mark's use of εις it can well be translated as "the spirit descended upon him" (see the other Gospels). On the other hand, it is indeed possible that Mark actually means "into him", so that the εις in 1:10 is reversed with the "εκ-" in 15:37 ("breathed out", εξεπνευσεν), framing Jesus' ministry as the work of the Spirit (or cooperation of Jesus and the spirit)?

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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:57 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:09 am
Okay, I can agree with you that the connection between the various soils and characters in the rest of the gospel is generally tenuous. I can also sympathize with your reluctance specifically to dismiss Peter from the second soil, since that is where the pun comes in (Πέτρος and πετρώδης), making this potential connection by far the strongest of any between the soils and actual characters elsewhere in the gospel. The evidence is uneven. The pun for the second soil comes off as almost brilliant, encouraging the reader to look for connections in the other soils, as well, only to be disappointed that the connections there are less than brilliant, to say the least.

The resulting confusion is, in my view, a phenomenon to be explained in its own right. Had Mark wished to correlate the four categories of soils with characters in the gospels, he could easily have done so. And yet one of the soils does seem to find a representative, so to speak, in the person of Peter.

This is my current best explanation for the unevenness, and for the parable as a whole with relation to its Marcan context:
  1. The parable is not of Marcan origin. Mark likes to simplify spectra of humans into binary categories: insiders and outsiders, those "with me" and those "against me," those who will enter the kingdom and those who will not. (Mark is not alone in this Christian predilection.) The parable, however, dwells upon nuances. A similar process can be seen in Matthew and Luke with respect to the parable of the pounds/talents, vis-à-vis the version in one of the Jewish-Christian gospels, which I argue to have preceded the canonical version: an original array of three separate outcomes has been flattened into only two outcomes, acceptance and rejection.
  2. But the parable is colorful and meaningful, is part of the growing tradition, and it is a good example of something that a Galilean peasant teacher might have uttered, so Mark includes it in his gospel, the more so because he can both relate it to the kingdom of God and wring an allusion to Peter out of it in the second kind of soil.
  3. The explanation of the parable is younger than the parable itself, however. The explanation does not always fully reflect the parable itself. For example, there is no real sense in which the first seed, which falls by the side of the road and is immediately eaten by birds, can be said to have entered into the ground, yet the explanation speaks of the word that "has been sown into them" (τὸν ἐσπαρμένον εἰς αὐτούς), the hearers. The first soil, for which "hearing" consists of the seed merely falling upon the ground, contrasts with the third soil, for which "hearing" seems to consist of the seed actually starting to sprout.
  4. Mark knows that the disciples would later become apostles and leaders of the church, and he has no desire to mitigate this fact. However, Mark also wishes to use the disciples as foolish foils for Jesus in the gospel. This bifurcation creates a real tension in the gospel: are the disciples insiders or outsiders? In fact, Mark is inconsistent on this score, even within chapter 4. On the one hand, the disciples are given "the mystery of the kingdom of God" in verse 11, explicitly contrasting them with outsiders who receive only parables; the disciples receive, not only the parables, but also the explanations, which Jesus immediately proceeds to give them in verses 13-20. So obviously the disciples are insiders. On the other hand, it is outsiders who are characterized as hearing and not understanding in verse 12; and Jesus immediately expresses frustration that the disciples, despite hearing, have not understood in verse 13. So obviously the disciples are outsiders. Real life does not tend to fall neatly into insider and outsider categories. Just as the disciples' insider/outsider status is ambiguous, due to the uneasy interplay of the fact that they became respected church leaders with the probable fiction that they were bumbling idiots during Jesus' ministry, so too the insider/outsider status of each of the first three categories of soil is ambiguous, because it is hard in real life to force nuance into binary categories.
  5. The whole parable comes off in the end as a warning not to lose one's insider status and become an outsider. Be like the soil in which the seed multiplies manifold, not like the soils in which the seed sooner or later fails to produce. This paraenetic focus is what renders the imperfect fit of the four categories with a simple insider/outsider status irrelevant from the authorial point of view, explaining why the author either did not notice or did not care about the tensions in this chapter.
I believe that this explanation of mine attempts both to understand each aspect on its own (understanding the fourfold parable as a traditional element forced imperfectly into the Christian twofold understanding of one's status in the kingdom) and to understand how it all works together for Mark as an author (whose purpose is not descriptive, as if to map out the different kinds of Christians, but rather prescriptive: do this and not that). It explains both why the numerous discrepancies exist (because the author is adapting materials to uses they were not originally intended for) and why Mark would tolerate them (because the author was instructing, not analyzing).

What do you think, not only of the specific conclusions reached, but also of the general approach in trying to understand both the individual parts and the overall composition, as it were?
Some good insights and very stimulating propositions, I think. Your proposition for the Peter/rocky thing seems plausible, imo, that as Mark tweaks this material he also throws in a reference to Peter for good measure. Your point 5) is very good also.

In point 4) I disagree. I want a perfect fit between the parable and the dualistic theme, and I think I can have it, so that everything also doesn't seem strained. Contrary to my reading in OP, I now view the insiders as the fourth soil and the three bad soils as the outsiders. But the key (the new key!) is the element of growth. With this comes also the temporal aspect, i.e. the element of the learning process. So the dualistic elements and motifs are abstract principles of the divine workings. God's will and his order of the coming new creation is clear cut, and the dualistic categories are an expression of this divine ideal, but even though this order of the new creation has already begun to manifest itself in form of the Church (the Christian community as a whole), the world of humans still seems blurred to us. The indefinite "one" in the Weckrufs "the one with ears to hear ..." points to this blurriness.

When Mark has Jesus treat his disciples as this ideal Church, the future heavenly kingdom of the new creation, first inside the house (3:34-35) and then in the boat(4:10-13), this is an abstraction. They're not there yet, but on their way. In the end this abstraction will be realised concretely, with the insiders and outsiders, but as for now, there is a progress of moving towrads it, and it is in this process that some reach maturity and some never do. I'll explain more systematically what I mean later.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:58 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:18 am
Well, I'd say your wording is unfortunate here, so I can't really answer this question. Because we don't know in advance whether it's traditional or Mark's creation.
In advance of what? In advance of studying the passage to any real extent? Well, of course: we have to study the passage before coming to any conclusions. Or do you mean in advance of using certain choice literary techniques on the passage?
Now, I agree that if Mark was the one to create the parable, then we might reasonably expect everything to fit. But! If Mark got it from tradition, then in my view and not in your view, we should also automatically expect everything to fit (crucially: at the sublevel). As the starting point, of course, with the possibility ever open that it doesn't fit after all (it is an "approach").
You have not expressed my own view quite correctly. I would say that, if Mark himself is responsible for the creation of material, we ought to reasonably expect things to fit; the possibility of it not fitting ought to be pretty low. However, if he received said material from the tradition, then the possibility of something not fitting increases rather much. How much the possibility increases depends upon how careful we think Mark is overall. A very careful writer will rewrite traditional materials so thoroughly as to blend them into his own creative work seamlessly. A very careless writer will leave seams all over the place. My own sense of Mark is that he is usually careful enough to avoid seams, but he does not always avoid them; he leaves enough that we can be pretty sure he is retelling a story, not creating it from scratch.

This means that there are going to be lots of Marcan pericopes for which I am simply not sure either way. There are plenty of passages which could, using my current battery of methods (the number of which I am ever striving to increase by testing new ones or variants of old ones), come either from the tradition or from Mark himself. Those fewer passages where I think I can discern traditional material emerge precisely because of the seams. And by "seams" I do not merely mean discrepancies in general; authors can write clumsily, too, even of their own accord. Rather, I mean specific discrepancies of the kinds that I have been able to notice in Matthew's use of Mark, in the Chronicler's use of Samuel and Kings, in Josephus' use of the Hebrew scriptures as a whole, and in other situations where I am pretty sure of the direction of development. I move from the "known" (Matthew used Mark) to the "unknown" (did Mark use something before him?).
I have a tendency to view apparent discrepancies as a problem that can be solved with a method of theological-literary analysis, whereas you have a tendency to view discrepancies more as a natural phenomenon inherent in a text composed partly by traditional material.
Only/mainly those kinds of discrepancies which in other cases can be shown to have arisen from editorial work count for me here. My tendency is not an inborn one; it arises from what I can determine from my "known" test cases.
But please do understand this, that this method that I prefer in no way excludes the existence of traditional material. It's just that I'm a little reluctant to use the proposed/possible presence of traditional material as explanations for apparent discrepancies.
My starting point years ago for this kind of issue was very simple, involving a thought experiment. Imagine that the gospel of Mark had been lost to history rather than preserved in the canon of scripture. Studying Matthew, or even studying Matthew in conjunction with Luke, would we be able to tell that there was once another text (like Mark) behind Matthew? Or would we assume that whatever we found in Matthew (which was not also found in Luke, at least, though even then we might think that Luke copied from Matthew and not the other way around) was original Matthean material?

At the time I was asking that question, my answer had to be, without doubt, that I would not in any way be able to guess that something like Mark lay behind any of Matthew. But that has been gradually changing over the years, as my repertoire of methods (tested, as described, against "known" directions of development) has grown.

This thought experiment also helps keep things in perspective. While I would certainly now posit, in the absence of Mark, that something besides Luke lay behind Matthew, I am also certain that I would not be able to reconstruct Mark in any real sense; it would exist as a hypothetical entity only so far as those seams I had used to identify its presence in the first place allowed. Wherever Matthew wrote very carefully, leaving no seams, I would not be able to tell that Mark lay behind that passage.
E.g. Mark forgets to tell when the scene in Mark 4:21-32 shifts back to the crowd, which could be hint at sloppy editing.
I noticed that, but I am not (yet) sure whether this discrepancy is of the kind that implies traditional materials behind it.
After my years of studying gMark I have come to my present specific view of the text, which is what makes me insist on this approach, to stubbornly assume that all fits, somehow, we just need to keep looking. You don't want to be so stubborn in this regard, I suppose, because the basic view of the text you have at this point in time after your years of study, is slightly different from mine, but enough that our basic approaches are quite different.
Yes, they are different. I am trying to eschew assumptions completely, to let every decision be guided by previous testing of the methods. Even so, of course, there is no way to be sure. It is all a matter of probabilities.
But I should of course have added to my analogy that the second option is impossible without the first option (especially with a car!) And it also applies the other way around, of course, investigating the parts of the car also involves knowledge of how the car works as a whole to begin with.
Not to be picky or pedantic, but this is not exactly true for all car parts, is it? The battery is part of a car, and one can figure out how a battery works even in a world in which cars have never been invented. Batteries are self-contained devices with their own logic and function completely apart from how they are used in cars. I imagine there are quite a few parts that make little sense apart from automobile engineering, but rather many (wheels, gears, light bulbs, windows, wires, and so on) are their own thing, as it were.
I disagree, but this whole thing is another discussion involving a delving deep into the theological universe of Romans.
You are wise to note that this would be a completely different discussion. We can safely set it aside, disagreements notwithstanding.

:cheers:
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:01 am

The quotation from Isaiah does not match the Old Greek (LXX) very closely in some respects:

Mark 4.11-12 (NASB): 11 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 in order that, while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and, while hearing, they may hear and not understand [third person plural], lest they return and it be forgiven them."

Mark 4.11-12 (NA27): 11 Καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον δέδοται τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκείνοις δὲ τοῖς ἔξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὰ πάντα γίνεται, 12 ἵνα βλέποντες βλέπωσιν καὶ μὴ ἴδωσιν, καὶ ἀκούοντες ἀκούωσιν καὶ μὴ συνιῶσιν [third person plural], μήποτε ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἀφεθῇ αὐτοῖς.

Mark 4.11-12 (Byzantine): 11 Καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκείνοις δὲ τοῖς ἔξω, ἐν παραβολαῖς τὰ πάντα γίνεται· 12 ἵνα βλέποντες βλέπωσιν, καὶ μὴ ἴδωσιν· καὶ ἀκούοντες ἀκούωσιν, καὶ μὴ συνιῶσιν [third person plural], μήποτε ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἀφεθῇ αὐτοῖς τὰ ἁμαρτήματα.

Isaiah 6.9-10 (NASB): 9 And He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand [second person plural].' 10 Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull and their eyes dim, lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed [Masoretic: וְרָ֥פָא לֽוֹ; Old Greek: καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς, and I shall heal them]."

Isaiah 6.9-10 (Old Greek): 9 Καὶ εἶπεν πορεύθητι καὶ εἰπὸν τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε [second person plural]. 10 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν αὐτῶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.

Stein notices these differences in his commentary:

Robert H. Stein, Commentary on Mark, page 210: Mark 4:12 is a quotation from Isa. 6:9–10 (cf. Jer. 5:21), whose first two lines are an example of synonymous parallelism. It differs from both the MT and LXX texts and follows the Targums in three ways: (1) it has the third person in indirect discourse rather than the second person in direct discourse; (2) it has "forgiven" rather than "heal"; and (3) it has the divine passive ("it shall be...") instead of the active ("I shall...").

So here is the Targum Jonathan for these Isaianic verses:

Isaiah 6.9-10 (Targum Jonathan): 9 And He said, "Go and tell this people, who are diligently hearing, but understand not, and see diligently, but know not [third person plural]. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and darken their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and repent, and it shall be forgiven them [וְיִשׁתְבֵיק לְהוֹן]."

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Stefan Kristensen
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:01 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:58 am
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:18 am
Well, I'd say your wording is unfortunate here, so I can't really answer this question. Because we don't know in advance whether it's traditional or Mark's creation.
In advance of what? In advance of studying the passage to any real extent? Well, of course: we have to study the passage before coming to any conclusions. Or do you mean in advance of using certain choice literary techniques on the passage?
Yes, the latter.
Now, I agree that if Mark was the one to create the parable, then we might reasonably expect everything to fit. But! If Mark got it from tradition, then in my view and not in your view, we should also automatically expect everything to fit (crucially: at the sublevel). As the starting point, of course, with the possibility ever open that it doesn't fit after all (it is an "approach").
You have not expressed my own view quite correctly. I would say that, if Mark himself is responsible for the creation of material, we ought to reasonably expect things to fit; the possibility of it not fitting ought to be pretty low. However, if he received said material from the tradition, then the possibility of something not fitting increases rather much. How much the possibility increases depends upon how careful we think Mark is overall. A very careful writer will rewrite traditional materials so thoroughly as to blend them into his own creative work seamlessly. A very careless writer will leave seams all over the place. My own sense of Mark is that he is usually careful enough to avoid seams, but he does not always avoid them; he leaves enough that we can be pretty sure he is retelling a story, not creating it from scratch.

This means that there are going to be lots of Marcan pericopes for which I am simply not sure either way. There are plenty of passages which could, using my current battery of methods (the number of which I am ever striving to increase by testing new ones or variants of old ones), come either from the tradition or from Mark himself. Those fewer passages where I think I can discern traditional material emerge precisely because of the seams. And by "seams" I do not merely mean discrepancies in general; authors can write clumsily, too, even of their own accord. Rather, I mean specific discrepancies of the kinds that I have been able to notice in Matthew's use of Mark, in the Chronicler's use of Samuel and Kings, in Josephus' use of the Hebrew scriptures as a whole, and in other situations where I am pretty sure of the direction of development. I move from the "known" (Matthew used Mark) to the "unknown" (did Mark use something before him?).
I have a tendency to view apparent discrepancies as a problem that can be solved with a method of theological-literary analysis, whereas you have a tendency to view discrepancies more as a natural phenomenon inherent in a text composed partly by traditional material.
Only/mainly those kinds of discrepancies which in other cases can be shown to have arisen from editorial work count for me here. My tendency is not an inborn one; it arises from what I can determine from my "known" test cases.
But please do understand this, that this method that I prefer in no way excludes the existence of traditional material. It's just that I'm a little reluctant to use the proposed/possible presence of traditional material as explanations for apparent discrepancies.
My starting point years ago for this kind of issue was very simple, involving a thought experiment. Imagine that the gospel of Mark had been lost to history rather than preserved in the canon of scripture. Studying Matthew, or even studying Matthew in conjunction with Luke, would we be able to tell that there was once another text (like Mark) behind Matthew? Or would we assume that whatever we found in Matthew (which was not also found in Luke, at least, though even then we might think that Luke copied from Matthew and not the other way around) was original Matthean material?

At the time I was asking that question, my answer had to be, without doubt, that I would not in any way be able to guess that something like Mark lay behind any of Matthew. But that has been gradually changing over the years, as my repertoire of methods (tested, as described, against "known" directions of development) has grown.

This thought experiment also helps keep things in perspective. While I would certainly now posit, in the absence of Mark, that something besides Luke lay behind Matthew, I am also certain that I would not be able to reconstruct Mark in any real sense; it would exist as a hypothetical entity only so far as those seams I had used to identify its presence in the first place allowed. Wherever Matthew wrote very carefully, leaving no seams, I would not be able to tell that Mark lay behind that passage.
Got ya. From what I have read from you I think that regarding your methods and conclusions etc. you have developed a sound approach.
After my years of studying gMark I have come to my present specific view of the text, which is what makes me insist on this approach, to stubbornly assume that all fits, somehow, we just need to keep looking. You don't want to be so stubborn in this regard, I suppose, because the basic view of the text you have at this point in time after your years of study, is slightly different from mine, but enough that our basic approaches are quite different.
Yes, they are different. I am trying to eschew assumptions completely, to let every decision be guided by previous testing of the methods. Even so, of course, there is no way to be sure. It is all a matter of probabilities.
I'm not using the word "assume" as in unqualified guessing, but in its broadest sense. I also base my life on the assumption that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. I can't be 100% sure, but from what I think I know about the earth and sun it's a pretty safe assumption to make. In this way we all bring "assumptions" to our reading. But I can use another word, if "assume" has a strong sense of uncertainty about it.
But I should of course have added to my analogy that the second option is impossible without the first option (especially with a car!) And it also applies the other way around, of course, investigating the parts of the car also involves knowledge of how the car works as a whole to begin with.
Not to be picky or pedantic, but this is not exactly true for all car parts, is it? The battery is part of a car, and one can figure out how a battery works even in a world in which cars have never been invented. Batteries are self-contained devices with their own logic and function completely apart from how they are used in cars. I imagine there are quite a few parts that make little sense apart from automobile engineering, but rather many (wheels, gears, light bulbs, windows, wires, and so on) are their own thing, as it were.
Not sure at all if you're still in the analogy here, but I don't think so! :D
I disagree, but this whole thing is another discussion involving a delving deep into the theological universe of Romans.
You are wise to note that this would be a completely different discussion. We can safely set it aside, disagreements notwithstanding.

:cheers:
We need to discuss this some time, I'd really like to try out and develop my thoughts and theories concerning this fascinating subject!

Stefan Kristensen
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:47 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:01 am
The quotation from Isaiah does not match the Old Greek (LXX) very closely in some respects:

Mark 4.11-12 (NASB): 11 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 in order that, while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and, while hearing, they may hear and not understand [third person plural], lest they return and it be forgiven them."

Mark 4.11-12 (NA27): 11 Καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον δέδοται τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκείνοις δὲ τοῖς ἔξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὰ πάντα γίνεται, 12 ἵνα βλέποντες βλέπωσιν καὶ μὴ ἴδωσιν, καὶ ἀκούοντες ἀκούωσιν καὶ μὴ συνιῶσιν [third person plural], μήποτε ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἀφεθῇ αὐτοῖς.

Mark 4.11-12 (Byzantine): 11 Καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκείνοις δὲ τοῖς ἔξω, ἐν παραβολαῖς τὰ πάντα γίνεται· 12 ἵνα βλέποντες βλέπωσιν, καὶ μὴ ἴδωσιν· καὶ ἀκούοντες ἀκούωσιν, καὶ μὴ συνιῶσιν [third person plural], μήποτε ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἀφεθῇ αὐτοῖς τὰ ἁμαρτήματα.

Isaiah 6.9-10 (NASB): 9 And He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand [second person plural].' 10 Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull and their eyes dim, lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed [Masoretic: וְרָ֥פָא לֽוֹ; Old Greek: καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς, and I shall heal them]."

Isaiah 6.9-10 (Old Greek): 9 Καὶ εἶπεν πορεύθητι καὶ εἰπὸν τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε [second person plural]. 10 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν αὐτῶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.

Stein notices these differences in his commentary:

Robert H. Stein, Commentary on Mark, page 210: Mark 4:12 is a quotation from Isa. 6:9–10 (cf. Jer. 5:21), whose first two lines are an example of synonymous parallelism. It differs from both the MT and LXX texts and follows the Targums in three ways: (1) it has the third person in indirect discourse rather than the second person in direct discourse; (2) it has "forgiven" rather than "heal"; and (3) it has the divine passive ("it shall be...") instead of the active ("I shall...").

So here is the Targum Jonathan for these Isaianic verses:

Isaiah 6.9-10 (Targum Jonathan): 9 And He said, "Go and tell this people, who are diligently hearing, but understand not, and see diligently, but know not [third person plural]. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and darken their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and repent, and it shall be forgiven them [וְיִשׁתְבֵיק לְהוֹן]."

Yes, what to do with this? I have no problem believing that Mark feels free to rephrase the prophecies of Scripture. At the same time the parallels with the Targum are striking.

I speculate that if Mark didn't know the kind of text we have in the Targum, he deliberately changes the 'healing' to 'forgiving' so as to not cause confusion, because the motif of healing is such a central symbol throughout his narrative, i.e. on the surface level, or we could call it the 'parabolic' level, because that is how the 'surface level' of the narrative is described in this very section (Mark 4) as I understand it. Healing is also used throughout the OT as a poetic image for God's restoration of the sinful Israel, and of course there was the general view that sickness and uncleanness was connected to sin. And so Mark uses Jesus' healings as an allegorical symbol of (Christian) conversion, or more specifically the anthropological, or Adamic, restoration that comes about with conversion and its forgiveness of sin. It is even made explicit in 2:1-17: First the healing of the paralytic is framed as a forgiveness of sin, and in 2:17 sin is symbolically spoken of as sickness. When Jesus calls sinners to conversion, or "invites" sinners into his "house" (in this case Levi), he is like a doctor curing the sick.

So I think that for Mark the real important aspect about Jesus' healing activities (besides the aspect of mercy and compassion) is not so much the miraculous aspect with Jesus having gotten the authority to wield God's life-force of blessing with these few hundred random people he happens to come across in his earthly ministry, but rather the symbolic, allegorical, sublevel aspect, i.e. conversion, forgiveness of sin. Jesus' healings correspond allegorically to the forgiveness of sin that comes about with the Christian conversion as a result of Jesus' deed on the cross. In this way the motif of healing is heavily symbolic in all of Mark's text. So when the Isaiah quote uses the term "healed", in the context of Mark's narrative this makes you get the idea that it means that Jesus is not going to actually, concretely heal somebody who's sick in the narrative. So Mark changes it to the 'true' meaning, the revealed (or sublevel) meaning, "forgiven", as to make this entirely clear. This is a possible explanation.

FransJVermeiren
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Re: A key for Mark 4?

Post by FransJVermeiren » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:56 am

Maybe there is a simple connection between the two parts of the parable of the sower.

The first part (verse 4-8) speaks about the road (ὁδός), followed by three major aspects of Palestinian geography or its vegetation: rocky ground in the hills and mountainous areas, maquis in the Jordan valley, and farmland mainly in the coastal plain. Roads transected the whole Palestinian territory and connected the different areas described. Mark seems to have used the combination of agriculture and the geography of Palestine as a basis for his parable. The meaning of this part could be that the messianic message was propagated throughout the whole Jewish homeland.

On this geographical/agricultural description Mark grafted the social structure of Jewish society and the reaction of different groups to the growing messianic fervor (the mustard seed) in the decades preceding the war (verse 15-20). We can discern the Herodians, Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes/Zealots (see above).

P.S. If ὁδός is used in combination with this geographical description, in my opinion we should translate this noun as ‘road’ instead of ‘path’ (Nestle-Aland, NRSV).

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