Category Archives: Teaching

A Translation of Mark Chapter 7

RomansText1“In addition, when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they baptize themselves. They also cling to many other traditions that they have inherited, such as the baptizing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and dining couches. ” (Mark 7:4)

Before I comment on this verse, I should mention that in my congregation we practice baptism through immersion. I grew up Lutheran, and as most of you know, Lutheran practice is not immersion, nor would it be appropriate, since they baptize babies. However, when I left the Lutheran Church I shifted to adult baptism by immersion both for theological and practical reasons.

Before we move on, perhaps I should point out that most Christians believe this key truth about baptism: Baptism is for infants. Let that sink in for a minute. Now let’s finish the thought: Some Christians believe that baptism is for physical infants, and some believe it is for spiritual infants (new believers). This means that we agree about a very basic truth about baptism, and that our only disagreement (from this perspective) is about whether the application is physical or spiritual. There, I’ve just solved a theological rift that has plagued the Christian Church for centuries. You are welcome.

More seriously, since I am about to write some potentially unpopular things, I thought I would state clearly what I currently practice so that you realize that I am not grinding a theological ax in what I write below. I am a truth-seeker. I also want you to be one. I know I can help with that by stating my position up front.

In order to be a truth-seeker, we need to allow the Scripture to form our theological opinions, our theological opinions cannot form Scripture. Since this is a translation article, I will put it this way: When we desire to determine the meaning of a word, we can approach the topic in one of two ways. We can determine the meaning of a word theologically, that is, we determine what our theology states that the word should mean, and we then make the word mean that. The other approach, which I believe is more appropriate, is to determine a word’s meaning linguistically. That means, among other things, that we look at the various contexts in which we find a word, and then determine its meaning based upon the obvious context.

Thus we turn our attention to the verse I have quoted above.

I know that most translations do not use the word “baptize” in their translation of this verse. However, the Greek word that the Holy Spirit moved Mark to use was baptizo. As I did a survey of other translations, I found that most translations, except Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), chose to translate baptizo by using the word “washing” instead of the more familiar “baptize.” I would not normally have a problem with that choice, except that it obscures something that we really need to see in order to undertand the meaning of the Greek word baptizo.

Of course, volumes have been written on the meaning of baptizo, and I do not intend to add another volume. I will only point out that the vast majority of manuscripts of Mark 7:4 include the Greek word that is translated “dining couches” (table in the KJV/NKJV). That means that the Pharisees baptized their dining couches, a significant trick if baptizo means “to immerse” in this instance.

Of course, many translations simply drop dining couch, or demote it to a footnote stating that the most important manuscripts do not have it included. Let us be clear; there are thousands and thousands of copies of the Greek New Testament that have been passed down to us through the millenia telling us that the Pharisees baptized their dining couches. Relatively speaking, there are only a handful that do not have the word for dining couches. Even though the NIV and other translations choose to drop “dining couches” from their translations, it is included in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts, and those who have compiled the Greek New Testament have always included it.

Actually, in one sense, it does not matter whether Mark himself actually used the word for dining couches or not. I believe he did, and that manuscript evidence supports that fact, but that really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that thousands of ancient Greek-speaking and ancient Greek-writing copyists did include the word in their manuscripts, and had no difficulty with the idea that the Pharisees baptized their dining couches, which the Pharisees most certainly did not do by immersion.

If you believe that baptizo only ever means immersion, this is where you will find out if you approach Scripture from a theological perspective, or a linguistic perspective. If you approach this passage from a theological perspective, you will be offended at the idea that dining couches could be included in this passage. So even though it is included in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts, and even though the compilers of the Greek New Testament have consistently included it in all their versions and updates, you might be tempted to drop it so that you do not have to deal with the implications. If you approach this passage from a linguistic perspective, though you may be offended that the idea of dining couches being baptized, you will let the text speak to you. You will then be open to the conclusion that, at least in this one instance, baptizo might mean something other than immerse.

You now know into which category you fall.

On to our translation:

Mark 7:1-37
A Translation by Randal Cutter

7:1   At another time the Pharisees and some of the scribal scholars came from Jerusalem and gathered around him.

7:2   They saw some of Jesus’ disciples eating bread with ritually unclean hands, that is, with hands that had not been ritually washed.*

7:3   For the Pharisees and all the Jews did not eat unless they performed a ritual washing of their hands by making a fist,* clinging to the tradition of the elders.

7:4   In addition, when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they baptize themselves. They also cling to many other traditions that they have inherited, such as the baptizing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and dining couches.

7:5   The Pharisees and the scribal scholars questioned Jesus: “Why are your disciples not walking according to the tradition of the elders, but instead eat bread with ritually unclean hands?”

7:6   In response he said to them, “Isaiah prophesied accurately about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.’

7:7   ‘They worship me without accomplishing anything, because they are teaching the commandments of men for their doctrines.’

7:8   “You have abandoned God’s command, and are clinging to the traditions of men.”

7:9   He also said to them, “You are good at overruling the commands of God in order to keep your traditions.”

7:10   “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘The one mocking his father or mother spitefully should be put to death.’”

7:11   “But you say, ‘If a man says to father or mother, ‘Whatever financial support you might have received from me is Corban, that is, a gift for the temple treasury,’

7:12   “you no longer allow him to provide for his father or mother.”*

7:13   “You are invalidating the word of God by the traditions which you have handed down; you also do many other things just like this.”

7:14   When Jesus summoned the crowd again, he said to them, “Everyone, listen to me and understand!”

7:15   “There is nothing outside of a man that is able to defile him when it goes into him; but the things coming out of a man are able to defile him.”

7:16   “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”*

7:17   Later when they went into a house away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable.

7:18   He asked them, “Are you so without understanding? Do you not understand that everything that enters a man from the outside is not able to defile him?”

7:19   “It can’t defile him because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then goes out of his body into the latrine.” Jesus said this, thus cleansing all foods.*

7:20   He also said, “The things that come out of a man defile the man.”

7:21   “For from within—from the heart of men—evil thoughts arise, also sexual immoralities, thefts, murders,”

7:22   “adulteries, lusts, wicked deeds, deceit, unrestrained sensuality, envy, slanders, arrogance, and willful ignorance.”*

7:23   “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

7:24   Then Jesus left and went into the region of Tyre. He arrived at a house, but did not want anyone to know. However, he was not able to remain hidden;

7:25   in fact when a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him, she immediately came and fell at his feet.

7:26   But the woman was a Greek who was Syrophoenician by birth. She requested that he cast the demon out of her daughter.

7:27   He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not healthy to take the children’s food and feed it to the house dogs.”

7:28   But she responded and said to him, “Yes Lord, but the house dogs* eat the scraps of the children that fall under the table.”

7:29   He said to her, “On account of this answer, you may go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

7:30   Then she went to her house and found the child collapsed upon the bed,* but the demon had left her.

7:31   Jesus again went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon, and then traveled along the Sea of Galilee to the middle of the region called the Decapolis.

7:32   The residents of the region brought a man to him who could not hear, and had difficulty speaking; and they begged Jesus to lay hands on him.

7:33   Jesus took the man from the crowd for privacy, placed his fingers into his ears, spit in his hand, and held the man’s tongue.*

7:34   He looked up to heaven, groaned, and said to the infirmities, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Open up!”*

7:35   Immediately the man’s hearing was opened up, the restriction on his tongue was removed, and he began to speak clearly.

7:36   Jesus gave them explicit instructions that they tell no one. But the more he instructed them, the more they spread the news,

7:37   because they were overwhelmed with astonishment; they were reporting, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

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7:2  Ritually unclean hands/ritually washed: There is no doubt from the context that the issue is the ceremonial washing that the Pharisees legalistically observed. I have translated this verse in a way that makes this obvious.

7:3  By making a fist: Literally “with a fist.” This refers to the practice of how they held their hands as they washed. Some translations simply drop the word “fist” because they feel it is an obscure reference. I have included it because it is in the Greek text, and I don’t believe that it is appropriate to edit out things simply because I might not understand them.

7:12  Jesus may be referring to a celebrated case where a man rashly vowed to dedicate all his money to the temple rather than helping his parents with it. The issue would be about what is more important, honoring father and mother with financial support or keeping a vow to God. The rabbis chose the vow. Jesus chose the honor since to do otherwise was to mock the relationship with father and mother.

7:16  This verse is skipped in some translations because of a bias toward the Alexandrian family of Greek manuscripts. As in the case of dining couches, the vast majority of Greek manuscripts have the verse. My rule of thumb is, when a version states that “the earliest and most reliable manuscripts” don’t have something, it probably should be included in the translation. When a translation uses that wording, it is a sign that it is submitting to an inappropriate bias toward a very limited number of manuscripts that some have chosen to call “the most reliable.” That is an opinion, and a tenuous one at best. But the NIV and the ESV have succumbed to it.

7:19  Cleansing all foods: Legalists (including all those who want to yoke Christians under the law again) would prefer that this verse wasn’t here. Remember that Mark was writing to Roman Gentile readers. They put all sorts of things they called “food” in their mouths. Jesus is clearly saying that if you can digest it, it is clean. He is not making some obscure point that the item has to first qualify as food under the terms of the Mosaic Code. That is not what the Greek word for food means, but modern day Christian legalists will often say something like  that simply because they never stop trying. You may continue to enjoy your pork chops without guilt. They are clean for those who are not under the Law of Moses. Of course, the people around Jesus in this incident were still under the Law. They not only would not have understood that Jesus was cleansing all food for the new covenant, Jesus had not yet instituted that covenant.

7:22  Willful Ignorance: In this section of Mark, Jesus refers to thinking, or not thinking, four different times. It is important that he includes willful ignorance in his list of negative things that come from the heart. Those who choose not to use their minds when they approach topics of importance are not being spiritual, they are manifesting a very negative trait.

7:28  House dogs: The word Jesus uses does not refer to the wild dogs that traveled in packs, but rather to puppies, or to a house dog. One of the points of this story is that this woman, through faith, recognized that Gentiles were in the house—and standing on that revelation, she stepped into great faith.

7:30  Collapsed upon the bed: The Greek text indicates that she was thrown there, probably as the demon left. At the time her mother found her, she was resting quietly.

7:33  Held the man’s tongue: The Greek word indicates a firm touch or grasp. I chose to translate it as Jesus holding the tongue to emphasize the firm contact. However, he may simply have been pressing down firmly. In any case, I’m sure the man was quite startled by the whole thing.

7:34  Note three reasons why I believe that the best understanding is that Jesus was speaking directly to the infirmity rather than to the man (the Greek could go either way): First, the man was deaf, so Jesus clearly wasn’t speaking to him. Second, since Jesus was in the region of the Decapolis (the ten Greek cities), this man most likely did not speak Aramaic, and would not have understood Jesus even if he could hear. Third, Jesus commanded, and the infirmity obeyed the command, showing us to whom or what Jesus was speaking.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 6

RomansText1Pay attention to this verse. It will give you some amazing keys for living: “Jesus could see his disciples being painfully tested as they rowed, because the wind was against them. Around the fourth watch of the night, he came near them walking upon the sea; he was intending to pass by them.” (Mark 6:48)

This verse contains so much raw understanding of how things really work, that we need to pay close attention. It will help you through difficult times.

After promising his disciples a quiet time away with him because they were so busy they could not even find time to eat, the disciples and Jesus head for parts unknown. However, the crowds see them, race along the shore, and actually get to the place of rest before Jesus and his disciples. Jesus and his team once again spends hours ministering to these crowds, and then Jesus has the disciples serve dinner to what probably amounted to about twenty thousand people. Then immediately, he compels them to get in their boat and head straight into a wind that makes their crossing of the lake the trip from hell. They had started before sunset. At 3:00 AM they were still rowing, and still had quite a distance to go. Can you imagine how tired and discouraged they were at this point? Yet when Jesus started for home walking on the water, he intended to walk right by them. We need to get our mind around this in order to understand how he works with us.

I translated the main verb in one of the sentences in verse 48, “Jesus could see his disciples being painfully tested.” I think that is a fair description. The Greek verb, baésanos, was originally used by inspectors of coins, then the word became a commercial term for checking calculations, later it was used figuratively for testing, and finally it came to signify putting to the test by torture (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). While most of the translations I have seen capture the torturous struggle, they miss the testing part. At Jesus’ time the word could refer to torture, or it could refer to testing afflictions. Obviously, torture is bad, but testing afflictions can purify us and grow us in ways that help us.

While Jesus will not give us more than we can bear (see 1 Corinthians 10:13), he knows we can bear a lot more than we think we can. He will not short circuit the growth process when it can only help us. The disciples were undergoing a test. Jesus intended on letting the test continue for their benefit. He only changed his course when the circumstances changed. The disciples caught sight of Jesus, misunderstood what was happening, and were overwhelmed with fear. At that point Jesus intervened on their behalf so that they would not be undone.

I believe this story can strengthen our resolve when trials come upon us. No matter the source of the trial, or the intensity, when we strenuously work through it, it can have a beneficial purpose. It might even feel so difficult it can feel like torture—I can imagine the disciples were in that frame of mind—and yet the Lord knows the difference. He will allow the testing to accomplish its purposes, but he will also intervene if we become undone.

We should also note, that although Mark doesn’t reference it, Peter instantly recovered from his fear, and asked Jesus to invite him on to the water. Apart from Jesus, Peter was filled with fear. When he fixed his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on water with Jesus. Though he eventually relapsed into fear, his quick recovery is an amazing testimony of how quickly the people of God can move from fear to faith when Jesus is in the picture.

These are important keys of understanding from this section of Mark.

For your information, I have now caught up to where my congregation and I are as we study through (and translate) the book of Mark. I will post chapter seven when I finish teaching through it in several weeks.

Mark 6:1-56
A Translation by Randal Cutter

6:1   Then Jesus left that area, and went to his hometown; his disciples also accompanied him.

6:2   When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many of those who listened were overwhelmed with amazement. They began to ask, “Where did this man get these teachings? Where did he receive this wisdom? How are such miracles being done through his hands?”

6:3   “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? His brothers are also here among us, aren’t they?” So they were shocked and angered by him.

6:4   Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not usually despised except in his hometown, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

6:5   As a result, he was not able to do any miracles there, except that he did place his hands on a few sick people and healed them.

6:6   He was amazed at their unbelief, so he went instead to the surrounding villages teaching them.

6:7   Later, he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two. He also gave them authority over unclean spirits.

6:8   He also commanded them, “Take nothing on the road except a single staff. Do not take any bread, nor a bag for provisions, nor money folded into your belts.”

6:9   “Of course you may wear sandals, but do not wear two tunics.”

6:10   He also said to them, “Remain at the location where you have been welcomed into a home until you depart from that town.”

6:11   “But the place that does not welcome you, and the people that do not listen to you, as you leave that town, shake the dust from under your feet as a witness to them.”

6:12   Then they went out and preached so that the people might repent.

6:13   They also cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

6:14   At that time, “King” Herod* heard about Jesus, for his name had become well known. Some were also saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead,* and for this reason miraculous powers are working in him.”

6:15   But others were saying, “It is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the Prophets.”

6:16   However, when Herod heard, he said, “It is John, whom I beheaded. He has risen from the dead.”

6:17   Herod himself had sent men and arrested John, and bound him in prison. It was all because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom Herod had married.

6:18   For John had been saying to Herod, “It is against the Law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”*

6:19   Herodias was furious with John, and wanted to kill him; but was not able to do so

6:20   because Herod was afraid of John and was protecting him. He knew John was a righteous and holy man. He listened to him often, but was perplexed by him. Yet he enjoyed listening to him.

6:21   The perfect time to make an attempt on John’s life arrived on Herod’s birthday, when he put on a banquet for his nobles, military commanders, and the chief men of Galilee.

6:22   When the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she delighted Herod and those dining at the table with him. The “king” said to the teenage girl,* “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.”

6:23   He swore emphatically to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give to you, even up to half my kingdom.”

6:24   She went out and asked her mother, “What shall I ask?” Her mother said, “Ask for the head of John the baptizer.”

6:25   She went to the “king” quickly and asked urgently, “I want you, without delay, to give me the head of John the baptizer on a serving tray.”

6:26   The “king” was filled with profound sorrow, but on account of the oaths and those dining at the table, he did not want to reject her request.

6:27   The “king” immediately sent a messenger and commanded the executioner to bring John’s head. Then the executioner went and beheaded John in the prison,

6:28   and brought his head upon a serving tray. He then gave it to the teenage girl, and the little girl gave it to her mother.

6:29   When John’s disciples heard, they came and carried his body away, and placed it in a tomb.

6:30   After their mission, the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported everything they had done and taught to him.

6:31   At that time he said to them, “Come by yourselves to an uninhabited place and rest alone for a little while.” He said this because so many were coming and going that they could not even find time to eat.

6:32   Then they went in the boat to an uninhabited place by themselves.

6:33   But the crowds saw them as they left, and many recognized them. People from all the cities ran together on foot to the uninhabited area, and they arrived before Jesus and the disciples.

6:34   When they arrived, Jesus saw the large crowd and felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep who did not have a shepherd; so he began to teach them many things.

6:35   When many hours had gone by, Jesus’ disciples came to him and said, “The place is remote, and many hours have already passed.”

6:36   “Send the people away so that they can go to the countryside and the surrounding villages, and buy something to eat for themselves.”

6:37   But he responded to them, “You give them something to eat.” They asked him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii* worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”

6:38   He questioned them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.”

6:39   Then he commanded them all to sit as if arranged for a banquet in rows upon the green grass.*

6:40   They sat down in orderly groups of hundreds and fifties.

6:41   At that point, Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he pronounced a blessing and broke the bread into pieces. Then he gave it to his disciples in order that they might serve it to the people, and he shared the two fish with everyone

6:42   so that they all ate as much as they wanted.

6:43   They also carried away twelve baskets of leftover pieces of bread, along with the fish.

6:44   Those who ate the bread numbered about five thousand men.

6:45   As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus forced his disciples to get in the boat and journey across the sea to Bethsaida, while he personally sent the crowd away.

6:46   After he sent everyone away, he went up a mountain to pray.

6:47   By the time the sun had set, the boat was in the middle of the sea while Jesus was alone on the land.

6:48   Jesus could see his disciples being painfully tested as they rowed,* because the wind was against them. Around the fourth watch of the night, he came near them walking upon the sea; he was intending to pass by them.

6:49   When they saw him walking upon the sea, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a phantom;

6:50   they all saw him and were trembling with fear. But he quickly responded and said to them, “Take courage, it is I; stop being afraid.”

6:51   He went to them in the boat, and the wind stopped. They were utterly overwhelmed with amazement,

6:52   for they did not understand about the loaves; their hearts had become insensitive.

6:53   They crossed over and came to shore near Gennesaret, and they anchored the boat.

6:54   When they disembarked from the boat, the people of the region immediately recognized him,

6:55   and they rushed throughout that entire region spreading the news. Then they began to carry the afflicted around on stretchers wherever they heard that he was.

6:56   Wherever he went, whether it was in a village, a city, or in the countryside, the residents would place those who were sick in the marketplace, and beg him to let them touch the hem of his garment. All those who were sick, who touched him, were healed of their illness.*

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6:14  “King” Herod: Herod never attained the rank of king; he was only a tetrarch. In fact, when he attempted to get the title of king in 39 A.D., Caligula banished him. This was a well-known story in Rome. Since Mark wrote to the Romans, he knew he could call Herod king, and the Romans would get the message about the self-important and pompous ambitions of this man.

6:14   John the Baptizer: The word translated “Baptizer” is a participle, which is verbal in nature. Rather than making the word into the static noun “Baptist,” I have chosen, for variety’s sake, to maintain some connection to the verbal action. However, the word “Baptist” is also a quite acceptable translation of the Greek participle.

6:18   For John had been saying: The Greek verb form used has the idea of repeated or continuous action. John hadn’t said this only once. It was a repeat message he probably delivered every time he had the opportunity.

6:18   It is against the Law: Note that I capitalized Law. John was concerned with the Law of Moses, which Herod should have honored by following.

6:22   The king said to the teenage girl: The Greek word, used repeatedly throughout this section, is the same word Jesus used when he said, “Little girl, I say to you, rise up.” This is a very young teenager, at best, who is exciting Herod’s lusts. The same word is used twice in verse 28 (for emphasis I translate it once as teenager, and once as little girl), again to emphasize how young she was as she carried out her horrific role in this grisly drama.

6:37   Two hundred denarii: A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer or soldier. Since the average work year is three hundred days, the NIV’s translation of “eight month’s wages” is as good as any. However, I chose to retain the name of the Roman coinage for consistency as I translate.

6:39   Arranged for a banquet: The word used in this verse reflects getting into position to eat. In the next verse the word used to describe the order of the people doesn’t have anything to do with food, but rather describes the appearance of a neatly arranged garden bed.

6:48   Being painfully tested: The Greek word that I translate “painfully tested” often means torture. However, it can also refer to a strenuous test. The disciples were in the midst of a spiritual test. This helps explain why Jesus intended to pass by them. They were supposed to pass this test on their own, and only their terror over his presence changed his course.

6:56   Touch the hem of his garment: Obviously, the story of the woman healed of the flow of blood had spread far and wide.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 5

RomansText1“But while Jesus was entering the boat, the man who had been demonized begged him that he might stay with him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go to your home, to your family and friends, and report to them everything the Lord has done for you; and tell them that he had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18-19)

I am an ardent proponent of education, especially for those who are going to be teachers of the Word. I, like the apostle Paul, encourage anyone who has to step up in front of a group of people on a Sunday morning to handle the Word correctly (see 2 Timothy 2:15). That means that we have to understand what the original author (the Holy Spirit) intended to communicate using the gifts of the original writer. We can only do that as we study the Word, and become more competent with it.

Obviously, for this reason, I also believe that if one is called to be a teacher, one should learn the original languages of the Bible. One of the reasons I am choosing to publish these translations, is to spark that desire in some of this blog’s readers. Knowing the original languages can help you delve into things that you will never see when you are at the mercy of translations or commentaries. You will become a better teacher when you can confidently access the language of the original writer.

But having said that, I am not a preaching snob. I don’t think you have to know the original languages to be a great preacher as a prophet, apostle, evangelist, or pastor. I know preachers who don’t know a shred of Greek or Hebrew who can preach so eloquently and powerfully that I feel like a beginner in the art of communication compared to them. I love to watch God pour through such gifted individuals.

That brings me to the man mentioned in the verses at the start of this article. He was the first man that Jesus commissioned as a missionary to the Gentiles. Paul wasn’t the first missionary commissioned to go to the Gentiles; it was the Gentile man whom Legion had possessed. Jesus commissioned him to go to his family and friends in the Gentile region of the Decapolis, and to explain how he had been changed. Only hours before, he had been a poor demonized soul that no one was able to control, but then Jesus freed him and spent several hours instructing him about the ways of God. In that short time span he had become a missionary of the gospel of the Kingdom. That is an amazing transformation, and it reminds us all that it isn’t the amount of education that we have that makes us into useful tools in God’s hands, it is our experience of his grace.

There is no doubt, that with time, the man acquired more knowledge and insight that he could share about God (I might point out that he already knew Greek), however, Jesus sent him out as a missionary based upon the testimony of God’s grace in his life. That qualified him for his mission, as it qualifies us for ours.

So while I love working with the original languages, I understand that it is only the experience of God’s grace that truly qualifies any of us for the role he has called us to play in his Kingdom. And I might add, that if you are called to be a teacher, his grace will make learning Greek and/or Hebrew fun . . . eventually.

Mark 5:1-43
A Translation by Randal Cutter

5:1   Then they came to the other side of the sea near the region of the Gerasenes, where Gentiles lived.*

5:2   When he had traveled away from the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came quickly out from the tombs to meet him.

5:3   This man made his shelter among the tombs because it was no longer possible to bind him, even when they used chains.

5:4   For he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he tore the chains apart and smashed the shackles; no one was strong enough to restrain him.

5:5   As a result, night and day he continually cried out among the tombs and in the hills, even cutting himself with sharp stones.

5:6   When he saw Jesus from a distance away, he ran and threw himself down before him.

5:7   He cried out with a deafening shriek, and then he said, “Why are you harassing me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! Swear by God that you will not torture me!”

5:8   For Jesus had been commanding him, “You unclean spirit, come out from the man!”

5:9   Jesus also kept asking him, “What is your name?” Finally the man answered him, “My name is Legion, because we are many.”

5:10  He continued to beg Jesus with increasing urgency, hoping that he would not send them out of the region.

5:11   It so happened that in that place a large heard of pigs was grazing near a hillside.

5:12   So the spirits begged him saying, “Send us into the pigs, in order that we might enter them.”

5:13   Then he permitted them. After the unclean spirits came out, they entered into the pigs, and the herd rushed headlong down the hill into the sea. There were about two thousand of them, and they all drowned in the sea.

5:14   Those who were feeding the pigs fled, and carried the news into the city and throughout the countryside. As a result, the residents came to see what had happened.

5:15   So they approached Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons sitting clothed and in his right mind. Then they were afraid.

5:16   Those who had been watching, carefully explained what had happened to the demonized man, and also about the pigs.

5:17   In response, they began to beg him to depart from their territory.

5:18   But while Jesus was entering the boat, the man who had been demonized begged him that he might stay with him.

5:19   However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go to your home, to your family and friends, and report to them everything the Lord has done for you; and tell them that he had mercy on you.”

5:20   Then the man went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis* everything Jesus had done for him, and everyone was astonished.

5:21   After Jesus crossed over in the boat again to the other side, a large crowd gathered together around him. So he stayed beside the sea.

5:22   It wasn’t long before Jairus, one of the officers of the synagogue, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet

5:23   and begged him earnestly saying, “My young daughter is near death. I beg you to come so that you might lay your hands upon her that she might be healed and live.”

5:24   Then Jesus went with him. But the large crowd kept following him, and crushed against him on every side.

5:25   There was a woman behind Jesus who had suffered from an unusual flow of blood for twelve years.

5:26   She had endured much under the care of many physicians, and had exhausted all of her savings without receiving any benefit. In fact, she only grew worse.

5:27   When she heard about Jesus, she came up from behind him and touched his clothing.

5:28   For she thought to herself, “Even if I only touch his clothes, I will be delivered.”

5:29   Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed from the affliction.

5:30   At that very moment, Jesus stopped and turned to the crowd following him and said, “Who touched my clothes?” For he felt in his body that power had gone out from him.

5:31   Then his disciples responded to him, “You see the crowd crushing all around you, yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

5:32   But he continued to look around to see who had done it.

5:33   Finally the woman, shaking with fear, came and fell before him. She knew what had happened to her, and revealed the whole truth to him.*

5:34   Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace, be whole and leave your affliction behind.”

5:35   While he was still speaking, messengers came from the family of the synagogue officer saying, “Your daughter has died. Why continue to trouble the teacher?”

5:36   But Jesus ignored the report and said to the synagogue officer, “Do not fear, only trust.”

5:37   At that time he did not permit anyone to accompany him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.

5:38   Then they came to the house of the synagogue officer. Jesus saw the uproar, as well as the paid mourners* who were loudly weeping and wailing,

5:39   and he entered the house and said to them, “Why are you so distressed, and why are you weeping? The child has not died, but she is sleeping.”

5:40   But they began to laugh scornfully at him. Then Jesus himself cast them* all out of the house. He took the child’s father and mother and those he brought with him, and he went into where the child was.

5:41   Jesus held the child’s hand, and said to her, “Talitha koum!” Which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, ‘Stand up!’”

5:42   Immediately the little girl arose and walked about as if nothing had happened, for she was only twelve years old.* Those who saw it were instantly overwhelmed with astonishment.

5:43   Then Jesus instructed them repeatedly that no one should be told about it;* he also suggested that they give her something to eat.

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5:1   Where Gentiles Lived: The italics remind you that this phrase is not in the original text. I added it so that modern readers would understand what Mark’s first readers already understood. This area and the Decapolis was a region of ten Greek cities populated mostly by Gentiles. This helps us understand why there was a herd of pigs on the hillside.

5:20 The Decapolis: This means “the ten cities.” These were ten cities, populated mostly by Gentiles, where the first language was Greek. This was the first missionary Jesus sent to the Gentiles.

5:33 Revealed the whole truth: The whole truth included the fact that she was ceremonially unclean, and that anyone she touched was unclean, and that by touching the teacher, she had made him unclean (potentially disqualifying him from helping Jairus’ daughter until he had bathed and the sun had set). She was shaking with fear because she expected Jesus and the crowd to turn on her for her impudence, and for making them unclean.

5:38 The paid mourners: The Greek text literally reads, “those who were weeping and wailing.” However, everyone who read this in Mark’s time understood that the reference was to the paid mourners and minstrels who were hired to lament the death of a loved one. Since Jairus was an important official, his stewards would have made arrangements for quite a number of these professional mourners, and it would have been quite a cacophony.

5:40 Jesus himself cast them: There are two things to note here. The first is that Mark makes certain that we understand, through emphasis, that Jesus himself was the one who drove the professional mourners and the other skeptics away. The second is that Mark chose to use the same word as when Jesus cast out demons. I have translated it in a way that preserves Mark’s choice to portray these folks as a demonic horde that needed to be cast out.

5:42 As if nothing had happened, for she was only twelve years old: Mark adds a reason (“for she was only twelve years old”) without specifically stating what had happened that he felt needed explaining. I have added the reason that is evident in the context, however, of course it is in italics since it is not in the Greek text.

5:43 Then he repeatedly instructed them: Jesus knew what every fiber in Jairus’ being would soon be longing to do. Jairus was a synagogue ruler. That is quite a pulpit from which to broadcast these events. Jesus was making certain Jairus did not proclaim the intimacy of these events from his pulpit, something any preacher or teacher would most naturally do.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 4

RomansText1

“An exceptional storm developed, and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the water began to swamp the boat. But Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat with his head upon a cushion. His disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, doesn’t it bother you that we are about to founder and die?'” (Mark 4:37-38)

When I first translated these verses, I laughed because I could see this scene in my imagination. I can easily imagine the growing frustration and fear of the disciples. They were experienced fishermen who had seen fishing comrades disappear in storms just like the one that was upon them. They had probably also been there to help with the grim task of recovering bodies that had washed ashore after such storms. Now they believed that they were going to that same watery grave as those many who had been lost before. In the midst of their frantic actions to save the boat, in the very final moments of their desperate fear, someone happened to glance toward the back of the boat and noticed that Jesus not only wasn’t helping them in their wild attempts to save the boat, but he was sleeping soundly through it all. Their question captures all of their frustration and fear perfectly: “Doesn’t it bother you that we are about to meet a watery grave?” You can imagine that the disciple that spoke these words was ready to shake Jesus out of sheer frustration at his perceived indifference to their plight.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” That is a very rude question, but it can certainly be understood in the midst of the stress they were experiencing. But I believe that is the point. They didn’t need to experience that stress. Jesus was in the boat.

There is another verse that makes me laugh in Mark 4. It is when the disciples see what Jesus did to the storm. The storm frightened them, but when they realized who they had in the boat, we are told this: “They were overwhelmed with fear, and said to each other, “Who can this man possibly be, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The storm outside the boat made them afraid, but Jesus in the boat terrified them. What to choose? As I think about that question, I think that it is still a good idea to keep him in my boat.

Mark 4:1-41
A Translation by Randal Cutter

4:1   At another time, Jesus again began to teach beside the sea, and a rather large crowd surrounded him. So he boarded a boat* and sat in it out on the sea, but the entire crowd stayed on the land next to the sea.

4:2   At that time he began to teach them many things in parables. He conveyed his teaching like this:

4:3   “Listen closely and consider this: A planter went out to plant seed.”

4:4   “But while he was broadcasting the seed,* some fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate the seed.”

4:5   “Then other seed fell upon an area of shallow soil over buried rocks.* As a result, the seed sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep enough.”

4:6   “When the sun rose, the heat dried the plant, but because its roots could not reach deep enough, it withered.”

4:7   “Yet other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew up and crowded out the seedling, and it produced no fruit.”

4:8   “Finally, other seeds fell into rich soil. While they were growing and increasing in size, they kept producing fruit. One yielded thirty times what was sown, one sixty times, and one a hundred times.”

4:9   At that time he began to use the expression, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”

4:10   When he happened to be away from the crowds, those around him—including the twelve—were asking him about the parable.

4:11   He said to them, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those who are outside everything is given in parables.”

4:12   “In order that, ‘Seeing they might see and not perceive, and hearing they might hear and not understand, otherwise they might turn back and I might forgive them.’”

4:13   Then he said to them, “You do not understand this parable, do you? How then will you truly understand any parable?”

4:14   “The planter plants the word.”

4:15   “But this is what happens to those beside the road where the word is broadcast: whenever these people hear, Satan comes instantly and takes the word that was broadcast into them.”

4:16   “And this is what happens to the ones broadcast upon the rocky soil: whenever these people hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy,”

4:17   “but they have no root in themselves and are only temporary. Later, when trouble or persecution occurs because of the word, they promptly fall away.”

4:18   “This is what happens to the seed broadcast into the thorny plants: these people are the ones who have heard the word,”

4:19   “but the concerns of this age and the deceitful pleasures of wealth, as well as lusts for everything else, enter in and crowd out the word. As a result, it becomes unfruitful.”

4:20   “Finally, the last ones are the seeds broadcast upon the rich soil: These people are the ones who hear the word and receive it as true. As a result, they yield fruit, one thirty times what was sown, one sixty times, and one a hundred times.”

4:21   At that time he said to them, “You don’t bring a lamp into a room in order to place it under a small basket or under your couch, do you? Don’t you bring it in order to place it on a lamp stand?

4:22   “For the Kingdom is only hidden in order that it might be revealed; and it is only concealed in order that it might be plainly seen.”*

4:23   “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

4:24   Later he said to them, “Pay attention to what you are hearing. It will be measured out to you with the same standard of measurement you use; but even more will be added.”

4:25   “For the one who has, even more will be given to him. The one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

4:26   He also said, “The Kingdom of God is very much like a man who broadcasts seed upon the ground.”

4:27   “Then he may sleep at night, or rise up during the day, but the seed sprouts and grows though the farmer does not understand how.”

4:28   “The ground yields fruit without further help from the man: first the initial green stalk makes an appearance, then the head of the grain forms, then the mature kernels develop at the top.”

4:29   “When the grain has ripened, the man immediately wields his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

4:30   He also said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we illustrate it?”

4:31   “We shall compare it to a seed of a mustard plant. When it is planted in the ground, it is smaller than all the other agricultural seeds.”

4:32   “Yet when it is planted, it grows and becomes larger than all the other garden plants. It has such large branches that the birds of the sky are able to nest in its shadow.”

4:33   In the same way, he spoke the word to them with many such parables, not going beyond their ability to understand.*

4:34   He did not speak to them apart from parables; however, he explained everything privately with his own disciples.

4:35   Later on that day, when evening had come, he said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”

4:36   Since Jesus was already in the boat, the disciples were able to take him across once they disengaged from the crowd. Other boats also came along with them.

4:37   Just then an exceptional windstorm developed, and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the water began to swamp the boat.

4:38   As for Jesus, he was in the back of the boat with his head upon a cushion, sleeping. His disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, doesn’t it bother you that we are about to founder and die?”*

4:39   When he woke up, he rebuked the wind, “Be silent!” He also said to the sea, “Restrain yourself!” So the wind ceased, and an exceptional calm descended on the sea.

4:40   Then he asked them, “Why are you acting like cowards? Do you still not have faith?”

4:41   But they were overwhelmed with fear, and said to each other, “Who can this man possibly be, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

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4:1   Boarded a boat: This is probably the same boat that Jesus told the disciples to keep prepared in case he had this type of need (Mark 3:9).

4:4   Broadcasting the seed: I love the play on English words here. Broadcasting is a method of sowing seed, but obviously, it is also describes what we do with the word when we broadcast it far and wide.

4:5   Over buried rocks: Don’t picture ground with obvious stones in it. This was more about shelf rock below the surface which stopped the plants from driving their roots deeper, and allowed the shallow soil to heat up faster.

4:22   The Kingdom is hidden: The verse reads, “It is only hidden.” The third person singular pronoun points us to something. The entire context is about the Kingdom, and since these are parables about the secrets of the Kingdom (verse 11), it most naturally becomes the subject. When some translations attempt to make this into a generic statement about “nothing being hidden,” I believe they miss the point, especially since the purpose clause (see below) makes little sense if this is not about the Kingdom.

4:22   In order that it might be revealed . . . in order that it might be plainly seen: This is the mystery of the Kingdom, it often stays out of the spotlight, but manifests to those with eyes to see and ears to hear even while remaining hidden to the world.

4:33   Not going beyond their ability to understand: I phrased this in a negative fashion because I believe it is a bit easier to understand this way. However, a closer translation is, “Just as they were able to understand,” or “In keeping with their ability to understand.”

4:38   Founder and die: The word “founder” means to “fill with water and sink.” It is not a well-known English word beyond coastal communities, but fits this context perfectly.

4:40  Why are you acting like cowards: Translations normally soften this question, probably because the translators can’t imagine Jesus being so descriptive and blunt. The Greek word does mean cowardly. It was used to describe the overly fearful. The only other time it is used in the New Testament—apart from this story—is in Revelation 21:8. There it is translated “cowardly” by most of the translations that Evangelicals commonly use.

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A Translation of Mark Chapter 3

RomansText1“When his relatives heard what Jesus was doing, they set out to take control of him; for they agreed that he was overcome with religious ecstasy.” (Mark 3:21)

Sometimes when I am translating, I come across things that amaze me. Over the years, I had developed a pattern of checking the Greek or Hebrew languages as I prepared a message. I would check grammar, as well as the biblical author’s word choices, and generally walk away from my study well-prepared to share what a particular passage meant. However, when I began to dig deeper in order to actually translate the passage so that I could preach from my translation, I had to grapple with every word in a more intense, and much more time consuming, way. Instead of depending on a primary translation to do the heavy-lifting, I had to delve more deeply into word meaning and usage in a new way. The benefit is that I have learned a lot more about the words used in the New Testament than I had previously known, and I am enjoying the surprises.

One of the surprises was Mark 3:21 (quoted above). I know most translations indicate that the relatives thought that Jesus was out of his mind. That is not a bad translation. But as I studied the words more closely, I found myself reading articles on religious experiences and religious ecstasy, because that is what the particular word Mark uses often signifies. As the light bulb turned on, my understanding of what Mark was saying also shifted. Instead of portraying Jesus’ relatives as absolutely out of touch with his mission and purpose, it instead shows that they understood his life’s work, but thought that he had gone too far into the religious experience of it.

In my opinion, that opens up my understanding of this scripture at a far higher level, and in a way that I can more easily apply it to the lives of those I am teaching. Anyone who has pursued God with more zeal than their parents and relatives, has encountered similar misunderstanding. Many have heard loving relatives caution them that they must not go “too far.” In that way, Jesus’ relatives were just like ours. They thought he had gone too far, and they were on a mission to bring him back to reality.

How did that work out for them? As we see in the translation below, not so well.

Mark 3:1-35
A Translation by Randal Cutter

3:1   Then Jesus went again into the synagogue. A man was there who had a paralyzed hand.

3:2   So the Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man on a Sabbath day, because they wanted to accuse him of violating the Sabbath.

3:3   At one point, Jesus said to the man who had the hand with the withering paralysis,* “Stand up in the middle of the congregation.”

3:4   When the man had done this, Jesus said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or instead, to allow evil to occur; to rescue someone’s life, or allow him to die?” But they refused to speak.

3:5   He looked around at them with exasperation, and was deeply grieved by the hardness of their hearts. Then Jesus said to the man, “Extend your hand.” The man extended his hand, and it was healed.

3:6   When the Pharisees left the meeting, they immediately took counsel with the followers of King Herod about how they might destroy Jesus.*

3:7  After that Jesus traveled with his disciples from there to the sea, and multitudes of people from Galilee followed. Multitudes more also came from Judea,

3:8  Jerusalem, Idumea, the far side of the Jordan, and the region of Tyre and Sidon, because they heard all that he was doing.

3:9  There were so many people that he directed his disciples to make a small boat ready for him, so that the people would not crush him;

3:10   for he had healed so many people, that those who still had afflictions would fall against him in order to touch him.

3:11   In addition, whenever unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shrieked, “You are the Son of God!”

3:12   In response, he repeatedly rebuked them so that they would not make him known.

3:13   At another time, Jesus went up a mountain and summoned the ones he himself preferred,* and they came to him.

3:14   Then he selected twelve, whom he also named apostles, in order that they might be with him, that he might send them to preach,

3:15   and that they might walk in authority to expel demons.

3:16   So he selected the twelve, and he gave the name Peter to Simon;

3:17   he also gave the name Boanerges, which means “Sons of Thunder,” to James* the son of Zebedee, and to his brother John.

3:18   He also selected Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot,

3:19   and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

3:20   Afterwards, he came to his house, and again the crowd gathered there. Jesus and his disciples were so busy that they were not even able to eat a piece of bread.

3:21   When his relatives heard about this, they set out to take control of him; for they agreed that he was overcome with religious ecstasy.

3:22   At that same time, the scribal scholars who came down from Jerusalem began to say, “He has Beelzebul,” and, “He casts out demons by the leader of the demons.”

3:23   After Jesus had summoned the scribal scholars, he spoke to them in parables: “How is Satan able to cast out Satan?”

3:24   “If a kingdom has been divided against itself,* that kingdom cannot stand.”

3:25   “In the same way, if a house has been divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

3:26   In like manner, if Satan has risen against his own followers, and is divided against them, he cannot stand. On the contrary, his end has come.”

3:27   “In reality, it is like this: No one is able to enter into the house of a strong man to steal his goods, unless he first restrain the strong man. Only then can he steal from his house.”

3:28   “I am telling you the truth, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, even the many slanders* by which they have abused each other.”

3:29   “But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never find forgiveness, even if he lives to the end of time. As a matter of fact, he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

3:30   He said this because they were saying: “He has an unclean spirit.”

3:31   Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. They decided to stay outside of the house, and instead sent a message summoning him.*

3:32   By this time, a crowd of disciples was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside asking about you.”

3:33   He responded by asking them, “Who is my mother and my brothers?”

3:34   With that, Jesus looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Look, my mother and my brothers.”

3:35   “For whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother, sister, and mother.”

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3:6   How they might destroy Jesus: Though many translations state that they plotted to kill Jesus, the Greek word means “to destroy” (Used here and in Matthew 12:14). While it certainly could mean that they were plotting to kill him, something that they clearly did later, here it probably means that they were only plotting to destroy his influence and ministry. Compare how Luke describes their discussion, “But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:11 NIV).

3:13   He himself preferred: Note how Mark emphasizes Jesus’ choice. Although it may be a bit awkward in English, Mark emphasizes that it was Jesus “himself” who wanted each of these men. That himself is very emphatic.

3:17   James: This man’s real name is Jacob. The book of the Bible is also really “Jacob” rather than “James.” However, as the name Jacob passed through many iterations, James became the pronunciation of Jacob. Yaʻaqov (Hebrew) → Iacobus (Greek) → Iacomus (Latin) → Jammes (Old French) → James (English).

3:24   Has been divided against itself: Most translations render this phrase with the linking verb (is). While that makes for a smooth translation, it misses the passive nature of the verb. The house and the kingdom “have been divided,” meaning that someone did it to the house and kingdom. While this doesn’t make a huge translation difference, I chose to retain the slightly awkward passive construction so that the readers can see the passive nature of the phrase.

3:28   Slanders: The word blasphemy means to slander or to denigrate someone or something. Since very few people really know that, I like to translate this word as “slander” because people know what that word means.

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