I have now returned to Australia from a regular overseas extended family visit, still somewhat sore from the accident I suffered over there, and in transit have been resisting the temptation to post easy “fillers” like more of the interesting differences encountered in Thailand or another response to an old McGrath post . . . hence the hiatus of the last few days. What has been on my mind, though, is some sort of extension to the previous post . . . Finally I settled on Mark 1:38 as the verse for the day. Jesus sneaked out of the house while it was still pre-dawn dark to find an isolated spot to pray. Eventually he was found by his disciples who complained that everyone had been looking for him. Jesus replied,
. . . . “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
Such a mundane set of words. Nothing special…? But if we pause to think for a moment about that last sentence, “That is why I came”, — what was in the author’s (or, if you prefer, the mind of Jesus) when those words were expressed?
“Why I came”.
Am I reading too much (or too little) into the words when I wonder why he did not say, “That is why I have come back here” or even “that is why I came here”? Hadn’t Jesus grown up in Nazareth, Galilee? I read on one site that there is a twisty turny road from Nazareth to Capernaum (where Jesus was found praying) that extends around 40 miles:
But Jesus did not say “This is why I have come here (to Capernaum, or even to Galilee)” but “This is why I have come (ἐξῆλθον).” Luke changed what he read in Mark’s gospel to the more passive, “This is why I have been sent (ἀπεστάλην).” Mark’s Jesus did not say he was sent for a reason. Mark’s Jesus said he came forth for a certain reason.
And Mark’s Jesus does not appear to be telling his disciples that he came to Capernaum or to Galilee, but that he “came forth” . . . that is somehow more open-ended, more universalist, more existentialist — it is the reason Jesus came to . . . dare we say, to earth? Or at least to the lands where Judeans (or maybe only Galileans) were to be found?
Some readers may wonder what on earth I am getting at. The Gospel of Mark is widely accepted as the earliest of the written gospels and it is also widely understood to present the most “human-like” of the Jesus figures when we compare the Jesus in the other gospels.
But here in this simple sentence Jesus is depicted as saying that he came ….he came for a purpose. He was not “born” for a purpose. Or at least that’s not what he said.
Our minds have to go back to the beginning of the gospel. Where did Jesus come from?
John the Baptist was baptizing away and saying that someone greater than he was going to appear on the scene, then we are told that Jesus came to be baptized.
Now here it gets a bit complex and no doubt many readers will think I am overstepping “the mark” (pun not intended). Our text says Jesus came “from Nazareth”. I don’t believe that was what “Mark” wrote at all. I am convinced that “from Nazareth” are a copyists addition to the text. If you can bear with me and wait for me to offer reasons later, then accept my proposal that our purportedly earliest written gospel bluntly said that Jesus came . . . to be baptized. He came from nowhere. Thus said (or sort of implied) the text.
He simply came to be baptized. The narrative tells us nothing about his background or even who this Jesus character was. We are so familiar with the story and with far more than the story as told in this gospel that it is easy for us not even to notice how little (or even exactly what) Mark actually says.
Then when we come to Jesus’ being found alone with his God in Mark 1:38 he reminds us that we have not yet been told who this Jesus character is or where he has come from. (A comment by Martin anticipated this post.) Everything we have read so far has “only” told us that everyone (person or demon) who encounters him is over-awed by his authority. Everyone falls over backwards or drops their families and livelihoods or travels many miles merely on coming in contact with or simply hearing about his power of authority.
“For this reason I came forth” is not a quotidian remark about why he decided one day to leave Nazareth and visit Capernaum. It is a pointer to Jesus having come from heaven.
But that pointer is not likely to be noticed if we have our heads filled with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke before we read the Gospel of Mark.
. . . o 0 o . . .
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
That is the only time, the only verse, in the Gospel of Mark in which “Nazareth” appears. Elsewhere Jesus is called “the Nazorean” which cannot easily be derived from Nazareth. A person from Nazareth would be a “Nazarethite” or (obviously) the Greek/Aramaic equivalent.
For some detail I quote a comment by Ian Hutchesson in a Crosstalk discussion forum from some time back:
2578 Re: Galilean synagogues (Side issue)
Sep 22, 1998
I have been following the Galilean discussion with interest and feel that
you are all doing a fine job without me. (-:
I’d just like to comment on a passing exchange between Bob and Mahlon, as it
deals with a very old thread in which I have been involved.
>> And here’s another interesting question: If both
>> Nazareth and Capernaum are associated with Jesus, what chance is there
>> that the setting of Luke 4 has been transposed to Nazareth
>> from Capernaum?
To which Mahlon replied:
>Unlikely. The parallel scene in Matt & Mark is set in Jesus’ *patrida*
>(“native place,” “hometown”) which throughout the gospels is identified
>as Nazareth (e.g., Mark 1:9, Matt 2:23, Luke 2:4, John 1:45).
I think this cursory statement doesn’t take into consideration all the facts
of the matter.
>transposes & elaborates the pericope, but simply makes explicit the
>location presupposed in the parallels. Besides, Luke 4:23 makes it
>impossible to envision this scene “in the synagogue” at Capernaum.
I have long argued that the mention of Nazareth in Mark 1:9 was a gloss
inserted once the Nazareth tradition had won out against Capernaum (village
of Nahum or “comfort”). It is not reflected in the parallel text in GMatt
3:13. Nazareth is not mentioned elsewhere in GMark, which sees Jesus’s home
town as Capernaum. Whereas GMatt attempts to justify the transition from the
Nazareth tradition to that of Capernaum — which was received from GMark —
in the purely Matthean material (4:13-16), no such transition is found in
GMark. The GLuke method of dealing with the conflicting traditions was to
negate the Capernaum home tradition by moving the synagogue scene from
Jesus’s home country in Mark, which can only be interpreted in the
circumstances as Capernaum, to Nazareth (nazara — GLuke only uses Nazareth
in the birth narrative).
The other synoptics did not get Nazareth from GMark, and Q does not mention
Nazareth although it does talk about Capernaum. Nazareth in both GMatt and
GLuke is part of their later layers, whereas Capernaum was there when they
worked with GMark and Q.
Where the mystery term “Nazarene” comes from is another matter and I have
argued for a nexus of the Judges 13:7 (“he shall be a Nazirite to God…”, a
possible source for Mt2:23) and the branch imagery from Isaiah and
Zechariah. Eisenman has thrown in the “keeper” notion “notzri ha-brit”
(keeper of the law) in his quest to connect James and Jesus to the DSS. (One
may note a large industry that has sprung up based on speculation on the
term: it’s still quite fruitful.)
The Matthean scribes omitted this term (nazarEnos) in its locations in the
Marcan text, only to regain it in a later redaction in the form nazOraios —
neither of which form can be derived directly from Nazareth.
The issue of Nazareth/Nazarene is far from the simple out-of-hand rejection
of Mahlon as quoted above and it has been complicated by transmission
problems, as, for example, the one surviving case of “nazarEnos” in GLuke
against two of the “nazOraios” form. We also have the problem of the two
distinct forms nazaret and nazara. While this last could conceivably supply
the gentilic “nazarene” (and this can’t be said of Nazareth), neither
provide a linguistic connection with the other apparent gentilic, nazOraios,
for which I have hazarded a tortuous transmission from Hebrew to Greek: NZYR
(Nazirite), the yod being replaced with a waw — as often seen in the DSS
–, before transliteration into Greek, supplying a root of “nazOr” +
gentilic-like “-aios”. If anyone can give a better hypothesis, I’d be happy
to hear it.
I leave you with the data.
GMatt GLuke GMark
4:34 nazarEnos = 1:24 nazarEnos
18:37 nazOraios = 10:47 nazarEnos
26:71 nazOraios ? 16:6 nazarEnos
But the argument has other facets, as we see from Mark Goodacre’s response:
2579 Re: Galilean synagogues (Side issue)
Sep 22, 1998
On 22 Sep 98 at 16:14, Ian Hutchesson wrote:
> I’d just like to comment on a passing exchange between Bob and Mahlon,
> deals with a very old thread in which I have been involved.
In one of this thread’s incarnations, Ian and I had a discussion about this
matter. Since FindMail don’t seem to respond to my queries about the past
archives, I will have a look at my own archive on this and see whether there is
anything that might be worth bringing up again. In the meantime, I would like
to comment briefly on a couple of the synoptic questions here.
> I have long argued that the mention of Nazareth in Mark 1:9 was a gloss
> inserted once the Nazareth tradition had won out against Capernaum
> Nahum or “comfort”). It is not reflected in the parallel text in GMatt 3:13.
> Nazareth is not mentioned elsewhere in GMark, which sees Jesus’s home
The lack of mention of Nazareth in Matt. 3.13 would not be, in my opinion, a
strong reason for supposing a gloss in Mark 1.9. In general I would be wary
about hypothesising a gloss on the basis of a synoptic parallel that lacks it.
The lack is not surprising in Matthew – he has specified that Nazareth was
Jesus’ home in 2.23 and will go on to detail the movements within Galilee in
4.13-16. The focus here is on the Jordan. Whereas Mark mentions Nazareth
in 1.9, Matthew does not feel it necessary because he has mentioned it already
> Whereas GMatt attempts to justify the transition from the Nazareth
> tradition to that of Capernaum — which was received from GMark — in the
> purely Matthean material (4:13-16), no such transition is found in GMark.
Mark does not narrate the transition but mentions both Nazareth and
Matthew, quite reasonably, infers (probably rightly) that Jesus moved from
Nazareth to Capernaum.
> GLuke method of dealing with the conflicting traditions was to negate the
> Capernaum home tradition by moving the synagogue scene from Jesus’s
> country in Mark, which can only be interpreted in the circumstances as
> Capernaum, to Nazareth (nazara — GLuke only uses Nazareth in the birth
Or one could say that Luke rightly inferred that by THN PATRIDA AUTOU
(Mark 6.1), meant Nazareth.
> The other synoptics did not get Nazareth from GMark, and Q does not mention
> Nazareth although it does talk about Capernaum. Nazareth in both GMatt and
> GLuke is part of their later layers, whereas Capernaum was there when they
> worked with GMark and Q.
Whether or not Nazara comes in Q is debatable. Some (Tuckett, Schuermann,
Catchpole, Robinson) read it at Q 4.16 and the International Q Project
accordingly give the text a rating of C (hesitant possibility).
My own feeling is that the Q theory is in difficulty here. Either we have
to put Nazara into the category “Minor Agreement”, in which case we have a
big problem for the theory of Luke’s independence from Matthew, or we have
to put it into Q, in which case we have a big problem for the non-narrative
Q theory. The most straightforward explanation is that Luke has taken the
unique spelling here from Matthew, using Matt. 4.13 as the text to justify the
bringing forward of the Markan // Matthean rejection story. But that brings us
back to where we were at around about this time last year.
Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@…
Dept. of Theology Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7512
University of Birmingham Fax: +44 (0)121 414 6866
Birmingham B15 2TT
World Without Q: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/q
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- Reading the Gospels through a Roman Philosopher’s Eyes - 2020-08-05 09:18:07 GMT+0000
- Jesus the Logos in Roman Stoic Philosophers’ Eyes - 2020-08-04 11:15:00 GMT+0000
- Argument for God — part 3, final (arguments against atheism) - 2020-08-02 03:29:38 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!