Let the reader understand... Again

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Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:48 am

Hi, Ben

Thanks for the reply. Ironically, a second instance of a direction would help my case in the topic question. I pass on it anyway.

What I am assuming is that case follows the function of the noun in its phrase, while number and gender are invariant attributes of that to which the participle refers. The only thing that I'd call "broken" is that the character doesn't say the man again, but then that's an oratorical option in a language where nouns and their modifiers are marked for gender and number.

You may be sure that I considered the possibility that a neuter form might have been there instead. That'd seem to me less constrained as to reference than a masculine form with an explicit personal gendered antecedent and a context of chained human activity. Thus, I conclude that the KJV committee resolved the problem in substantial part based on the sense of the utterance in context, which is one of my reasons, and not anything opposed to my reasons.

Regardless, I'm disinclined to go to the mat here. Bottom line, as is typical in scrupulous translation differences, your mileage may vary. My claim was inferior confidence than that offered by another poster, and I believe that I have explained why.
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Ken Olson
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ken Olson » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:22 pm

gmx asked:
Can someone explain to me what the reader is supposed to do with their understanding in Mark 13:14-17? If it refers to the first Jewish war, then isn't it too late to be issuing warnings to flee? It sounds like the author knows what happened. The nod & wink to the reader doesn't seem to make sense in this context. I'm sure there is a simple explanation.
I’ll suggest an answer to that question based on the interpretation of the passage offered by Ernst Haenchen in Der Weg Jesu, (German, 1968) 443-447. The explanation itself is simple, but getting there is a bit complex. You can skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

Mark is writing in the aftermath of the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 CE. The defeat of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of the temple must have been a severe disappointment for those expecting the immanent establishment of God’s rule on earth, whether they were Jews or Christians. If the end were coming, it would seem it ought to have come then. Mark is reassuring his readers that the divine plan has not gone astray. The destruction of the temple had been foretold (Mark 13:1-2) and there were still many things that would happen before the end (Mark 13.5-8).

In addition to the their disappointment over the kingdom of God’s non-arrival in the Jewish War, Christians faced the possibility of persecution, including being brought to trial, which Mark addresses in Mark 13.9-13 (“You will stand before governors and kings for my sake”). The possibility that Christians will apostatize in the face of persecution is a major concern of Mark’s (4.16-17, 8.34-9.1, 14.27, 66-72). Mark 13.13, “he who endures to the end will be saved,” urges Christians to hold out a little bit longer (as did 9.1), because the end is immanent.

In Pliny’s letter to Trajan, which I take to be two decades or so later than Mark, Pliny describes the procedure he used in trials of those accused of being Christians:
Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. (Pliny, Letters, 10.96).
Those who refused to deny Christ and make an offering to Casear he ordered executed, except for those who were Roman citizens and insisted on a trial at Rome.

Mark 8.34-8.38 seems to be addressing a similar situation, and he requires Christians brought to trial to accept martyrdom rather than deny Christ: “whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it”; “whoever is ashamed of me … of him will the Son of man also be ashamed.” Similarly, the cases of Jesus, who admits to being the Christ at his trial in Mark 14.61-62, which leads to his execution, and Peter, who saves his life by denying Jesus three times (Mark 14.68, 70, 71) can readily be understood as good and bad models for Christian behavior in the face of persecution.

Mark 13.14-16 suggests an acceptable alternative to martyrdom—fleeing to the hills. Rather than undergoing martyrdom in order to avoid having to deny Christ and worship the images of Caesar and the gods, a Christian can simply flee to avoid trial. The idea seems to come from the First Book of Maccabees. The “abomination of desolation,” is of course, found in the Daniel, which Mark knows well, but also in 1 Macc 1.54. The idea of fleeing to the hills to escape having to worship idols, though, is from 1 Macc 2.27-28. The preceding 1 Macc 2.1-26, begins with royal officers coming to the town of Modein to enforce apostasy by making the inhabitants offer sacrifice Mattahias, the patriarch of the Maccabees, kills the royal official on the altar that had, apparently, been set up in Modein, and tears it down (1 Macc 24-25). Mattathias and his sons then flee to the hills in 1 Macc 2.27-28.

The situation in Mark 13.14-17 is not exactly parallel, but it is similar. Mark is not actually advocating killing royal officials and destroying altars; he’s advocating fleeing beforehand to avoid being compelled to make offerings in the first place. “Let the reader understand” signals he is about to speak in code. “Let anyone with ears to hear listen,” in Mark 4.9 likely has a similar function. And the code is very likely anti-Roman—the author of Revelation uses similar signals when he’s going to use a code for Rome or Caesar (Rev. 13.18 “this calls for a mind with wisdom”; 17.9 “this calls for wisdom, let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast”). The “abomination of desolation” is a statue of Caesar, as many interpreters have suggested, but it’s not in the temple. It’s set up where it ought not to be in that it’s receiving worship which only God may receive. Parenthetically, I think this is also what Mark is addressing in Mark 12.16-17: “Whose icon and and inscription is this? … Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are Gods.” The logical corollary is: do not render to Caesar the things that are God’s.

So the simple explanation is this: Mark is not concerned with what the people of Judea ought to do during the Roman siege, which has already occurred. He is very concerned with what Christians ought to do in the face of persecution in his own time. The “abomination of desolation” is not in the temple (though Matt 24.15 takes it to be), it’s a statue of Caesar set up in whatever city Christians might be put on trial by the Roman authorities, and “those in Judea” are the Christians of that city, who might well choose to flee from it rather than be martyred. This reading, is, of course, contestable at many points, but it does make sense of the data in terms of Mark’s concerns.
Last edited by Ken Olson on Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:49 pm

Ken Olson wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:22 pm
So the simple explanation is this: Mark is not concerned with what the people of Judea ought to do during the Roman siege, which has already occurred. He is very concerned with what Christians ought to do in the face of persecution in his own time. The “abomination of desolation” is not in the temple (though Matt 24.15 takes it to be), it’s a statue of Caesar set up in whatever city Christians might be put on trial by the Roman authorities, and “those in Judea” are the Christians of that city, who might well choose to flee from it rather than be martyred. This reading, is, of course, contestable at many points, but it does make sense of the date in terms of Mark’s concerns.
Mark 13 is set up as a prediction about the destruction of the Temple (verses 1-2). The disciples ask when "these things" (= the details of its destruction) will happen, and they ask for signs leading up to it.

If the abomination of desolation in verse 14 has nothing to do with the Temple, then what part of the discourse does? Is it the case, under this hypothesis, that Jesus never even gets in the vicinity of answering the disciples' question? Part of the appeal of some of the other interpretations of this chapter is that the disciples ask about the Temple, the abomination of desolation in its original Danielic and Maccabean context is all about the Temple, and the abomination of desolation is pretty much the only part of Jesus' response that could have anything to do with the Temple. I can see "let the reader understand" as a signal of some kind of code, but I wonder at it being used to signal that the chapter is going to be broken like this.
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Ken Olson
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ken Olson » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:37 pm

Fair question, Ben.

On my reading, Jesus does not refer directly to the temple again after 13.1-2. The disciples' question has two parts: 13.4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" The second part of the question doesn't seem to have a referent in what Jesus had said in 13.1-2, but it does seem to give latitude for an answer on the scale of the Little Apocalypse that follows. I think "when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet ... this is but the beginning of the birthpangs" in Mark.13.7, 9 is answering the question "when will this be?" It may not seem like a fully satisfactory answer from the persepctive of the disciples as characters in the story, but it does seem like an adequate answer for Mark's audience, whom I would presume to have heard about the Jewish War and the resultant destruction of the temple. If 13.7 may legitimately be interpreted to refer to the Jewish War, in which Mark's audience knew temple was destroyed, it would seem to answer the question of "when will this be?" before situating this as but the beginning of "all these things." (Yes, I realize the repeated use of the pronoun this in the English translation exaggerates the similarity of the pronouns actually found in the Greek, but I still think that's a reasonable case).

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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:10 pm

Ken Olson wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:37 pm
Fair question, Ben.

On my reading, Jesus does not refer directly to the temple again after 13.1-2. The disciples' question has two parts: 13.4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" The second part of the question doesn't seem to have a referent in what Jesus had said in 13.1-2, but it does seem to give latitude for an answer on the scale of the Little Apocalypse that follows. I think "when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet ... this is but the beginning of the birthpangs" in Mark.13.7, 9 is answering the question "when will this be?" It may not seem like a fully satisfactory answer from the persepctive of the disciples as characters in the story, but it does seem like an adequate answer for Mark's audience, whom I would presume to have heard about the Jewish War and the resultant destruction of the temple. If 13.7 may legitimately be interpreted to refer to the Jewish War, in which Mark's audience knew temple was destroyed, it would seem to answer the question of "when will this be?" before situating this as but the beginning of "all these things." (Yes, I realize the repeated use of the pronoun this in the English translation exaggerates the similarity of the pronouns actually found in the Greek, but I still think that's a reasonable case).
How does the following coordination fall into place, in your judgment, if the phrases "these things" and "all these things" in the disciples' question have already been answered by the wars and rumors of wars in verse 7?

Mark 13.1-4: 1 And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" 2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down." 3 And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things [ταῦτα] be, and what will be the sign when all these things [ταῦτα... πάντα] are going to be fulfilled?"

Mark 13.28-31: 28 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things [ταῦτα] happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things [ταῦτα πάντα] take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:23 pm

gmx wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:11 pm
I was primarily referring to verses 17-20, mentioning how bad it will be for nursing mothers and pregnant women, how people shouldn't stop to gather possessions, and how bad it would have been if the Lord hadn't shortened those days.
I have found another reference to pregnant women having a hard time of it during an apocalyptic scenario. This one comes from an Egyptian apocalyptic text, the Oracle of the Potter: "Much death will fall upon pregnant women."
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:50 pm

Thanks, Ken. Yet another reason everything published in German ought by law to be translated into English. I have attached a pdf of the pages where Haenschen addresses Mark 13 -- including your cited pages, of course.

433ff.pdf
(804.34 KiB) Downloaded 97 times


So I was wrong about the secret meaning of "let the reader understand" being lost with Mark's own generation. The meaning was to be revealed yet again in these last days to E. Haenschen, -- well, possibly, at any rate. H's discussion has given me a new perspective through which to view the sayings of the false prophets, too.

But (and hoping I just haven't missed the answer to this in other comments) when were Christians first challenged to prove their loyalty by sacrificing to the emperor? What questions does that interpretation of the abomination of desolation raise about the date of Mark?

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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ken Olson » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:52 pm

Ben Smith asked:
How does the following coordination fall into place, in your judgment, if the phrases "these things" and "all these things" in the disciples' question have already been answered by the wars and rumors of wars in verse 7?

Mark 13.1-4: 1 And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" 2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down." 3 And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things [ταῦτα] be, and what will be the sign when all these things [ταῦτα... πάντα] are going to be fulfilled?"

Mark 13.28-31: 28 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things [ταῦτα] happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things [ταῦτα πάντα] take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away
.

Well I was taking the wars and rumors of wars in Mark 13.7 to answer the first ταῦτα in the question the disciples asked in Mark 13.3, but the second [ταῦτα πάντα] was answered by the entirety of the following discourse. If your question is: how, then, do the two ταῦτα's in 13.3 relate to the two ταῦτα's in 13.29-30, I admit I don't know. Well, I'd take the ταῦτα πάντα in v. 30 to mean all the things foretold in Mark 13 again, but the ταῦτα in v.29 is a problem. It's tempting to say Mark has resumed talking about the temple again because of the fig tree in v. 28. It would seem likely that that's related to the fig tree that appears on either side of the Cleansing of the Temple in Mark. 11.12-13, 20-21, but I have not figured out how.

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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:39 pm

Ken Olson wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:52 pm
Ben Smith asked:
How does the following coordination fall into place, in your judgment, if the phrases "these things" and "all these things" in the disciples' question have already been answered by the wars and rumors of wars in verse 7?

Mark 13.1-4: 1 And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" 2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down." 3 And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things [ταῦτα] be, and what will be the sign when all these things [ταῦτα... πάντα] are going to be fulfilled?"

Mark 13.28-31: 28 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things [ταῦτα] happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things [ταῦτα πάντα] take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away
.

Well I was taking the wars and rumors of wars in Mark 13.7 to answer the first ταῦτα in the question the disciples asked in Mark 13.3, but the second [ταῦτα πάντα] was answered by the entirety of the following discourse. If your question is: how, then, do the two ταῦτα's in 13.3 relate to the two ταῦτα's in 13.29-30, I admit I don't know. Well, I'd take the ταῦτα πάντα in v. 30 to mean all the things foretold in Mark 13 again, but the ταῦτα in v.29 is a problem. It's tempting to say Mark has resumed talking about the temple again because of the fig tree in v. 28. It would seem likely that that's related to the fig tree that appears on either side of the Cleansing of the Temple in Mark. 11.12-13, 20-21, but I have not figured out how.
Thanks.

My concern is that the the pair of phrases, "these things" and "all these things," in verse 4 looks like it is supposed to "land" in verses 29-30. If so, then I am not sure that they are (also?) supposed to "land" in verse 7, the overall effect of which would be to make a statement which does not in any way have to refer to the Temple (wars and rumors of wars) apply to the Temple, while the one clear symbol which is intricately tied to the Temple in the background literature (the abomination of desolation) no longer applies to the Temple. I know we have that mysterious line, "let the reader understand," but it begins to look to me as if it ought to have been attached to the entire chapter rather than just to that one image.

Another question I would have is whether the verses about the tribulation period (verses 14-20) are well suited to describe Christian persecution, which seems to be described in different terms (terms which, unlike the ones employed in Mark 14.19-20, do not conjure the shade of Daniel 12.1) throughout the gospel of Mark (including in 13.9-13). You have already opined that Mark 8.34-38, along with other parts of Mark, addresses a situation wherein Mark expects "Christians brought to trial to accept martyrdom rather than deny Christ." If that is also the thrust of Mark 13.9-13, why the sudden breaking in of the abomination of desolation in verse 14? What is the difference between the situation in which "they will deliver you to the courts" to be put to death and the situation in which "those in Judea," upon seeing something in particular (called the abomination of desolation in our text), must flee? You represent Mark as offering flight as "an acceptable alternative" to martyrdom, but the text seems to be describing a normal situation in which Christians will be delivered over to the authorities as a matter of course followed by an abnormal situation in which they must flee. The alternative here does not sound like it is one of personal choice; rather, it sounds like something concrete is supposed to happen at which time flight (rather than giving testimony) becomes the new instruction.

If the abomination of desolation, on the hypothesis being examined, is a statue of Caesar, then is the text suggesting that it is only when such a statue is erected in one's town that fleeing becomes an option? Before that, one should just go on to court to stand trial?
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Let the reader understand... Again

Post by neilgodfrey » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:22 am

Having struggled through the German language discussion of Mark 13 by Haenschen I have been hit with an argument that knocks out a point I have often held to and that is also a key plank in any argument for much of Mark 13 (not necessarily all of the gospel) being written in the shadow of the Bar Kochba rebellion.
Zunächst: Wir wissen aus dem 1. Jh. nichts vom Auftreten solcher Pseudo-Messiasse, die sich selbst für den wiederkehrenden Jesus aus- gegeben hätten. Wir kennen aber auch kein Ereignis, das eine solche Erwartung hätte wecken können. Wir müssen jedoch zunächst unter- scheiden zwischen dem, was solche Befürchtungen veranlassen konnte, und diesen Befürchtungen selbst. Es war zum Entstehen einer solchen Erwartung und Befürchtung gar nicht nötig, daß sich jemand als der wiederkehrende Jesus oder überhaupt nur als Messias ausgegeben hat, so daß die Christen schon das Erscheinen eines falschen Messias erlebt hätten. Es genügte bereits, wenn irgendeine Bewegung später messianisch gedeutet werden konnte.
With apologies for those who understand German, the Google machine translator renders the above as
First of all, we know nothing about the appearance of such pseudo-Messiahs in the first century even for the returning Jesus.
But we also know of no event that could have aroused such expectation.
However, we must first distinguish between what such fears are could cause, and these fears themselves.
It was not necessary for the emergence of such expectation and apprehension that someone has spent as the returning Jesus, or even just as Messiah, so that the Christians had already experienced the appearance of a false Messiah.
It was enough if any movement could later be interpreted Messianic.
I know I have frustrated a number of readers with my insistence that we have no evidence supporting the view that various brigands and false prophets Josephus deplores were ever messianic claimants. That remains true, I believe, but what Haenschen points out, it seems on the basis of the machine translation, is that my point has been irrelevant. There has been more justice on the other side of the argument than I have allowed: readers even today interpret such figures as messianic pretenders.

What is relevant is that we know of movements that "could later be interpreted as Messianic".

-----

Added later... p. 439 of Haenschen:
Wieder etwas ganz anders als das Auftreten des ״Ägypters“ ist der
״Zug in die Wüste“. Er ist ein eigenartiges Phänomen, das sich öfter
wiederholt hat. Josephus erwähnt Ant. 20 § 186 einen γόης (goës = betrügerischer Gaukler), der zu einem Zug in die Wüste aufrief. An- scheinend wollte er selbst ebensowenig wie Theudas der Messias sein, sondern hoffte, in der Wüste den Messias zu finden. Seltsamerweise beschränkte sich diese Hoffnung nicht auf Palästina: nach Jos. Bellum 7, § 437—440 und 450 führte ein Weber Jonathan in der Cyrenaika viele Arme in die Wüste!
Machine translation:
Again something very different than the appearance of the "Egyptian" is the "train into the desert". He is a peculiar phenomenon that has repeated itself more often. Josephus mentions Ant. 20 § 186 a [ Goes ] (Goes = fraudulent juggler), which called for a train in the desert.
Apparently, he did not want to be the Messiah any more than Theudas, but he hoped to be in the Desert to find the Messiah. Strangely, this hope was not limited
Palestine: according to Jos. Bellum 7, § 437-440 and 450 led a weaver Jonathan in Cyrenaika many arms in the desert!
Hence the injunction not to go looking for the messiah in the desert:
So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out;
And so forth with others. I may have to concede that the evidence in Josephus may indeed correlate with certain aspects of Mark's and Matthew's "little apocalypse".

But this is an aside and detouring from the thread's OP. It's Ken's fault. ;)

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