April 8 (3): Mark 14:3-9 par

Traditionally, the anointing of Jesus at Bethany inaugurates the Passion as celebrated during Holy Week. In addition to its poignancy, and spiritual teaching, the episode (or episodes) are immensely instructive for studying the ways in which the Gospel writers may have dealt with early tradition. Each Gospel contains an Anointing episode: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8. The account in Matthew and Mark, occurring after Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem, is virtually identical; John’s account is similar, but is placed prior to Jesus’ Entry; Luke’s account is, in most respects, quite different, and is set earlier in Jesus’ ministry. A strict traditional-conservative approach might end up positing three separate events, but this is quite improbable; the choice, rather, is between one event, or two. Many critical scholars posit a single incident which branched off in early tradition to form the kernel of the Gospel narratives we have now. A more reasonable critical approach, I think, is to assume two historical episodes: one matching Matthew/Mark and John, one matching that found in Luke. Very straightforward; however, the situation is actually more complicated than that. For, despite the very different setting of Luke’s account, there are details which curiously match John’s account (against Matthew/Mark), and even several which match the account in Matthew/Mark (against John). I offer some comparisons here below; since Matthew and Mark are nearly identical, I will use Mark’s account for comparison.

Details common to Mark/Matthew and John:

    1. Setting in Bethany, near the time of Passover, in proximity to the time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Mark 14:1, 3; John 12:1, 9ff)
    2. A woman (apparently a disciple: in John it is Mary of Bethany) pours perfume on Jesus as he reclines (Mark 14:3; John 12:2)
    3. The perfume is very costly (Mark 14:3; John 12:2; John and Mark use almost exact language: perfume of costly “pure nard”)
    4. The disciples (in John it is Judas Iscariot) decry the waste (Mark 14:4-5; John 12:4-5)
    5. Mention is made of the cost, and that the money could be sold and given to the poor (Mark and John use almost identical language, including mention of the price [“300 denari”])
    6. Jesus rebukes the disciples and mentions that the perfume was intended to be used for his burial (Mark 14:6, 8; John 12:7)
    7. The saying “For the poor you always have with you…” (Mark 14:7; John 12:8)

Details common to John and Luke:

    1. The anointing/wetting is of the feet (John 12:3; Luke 7:38), instead of the head (Mark 14:3)
    2. Mention is specifically made of “anointing” (form of a)lei/fw, John 12:3; Luke 7:38), instead of “pouring [out]” (kataxe/w, Mark 14:3)
    3. Mention is made of wiping Jesus feet with her hair (however, in Luke the woman wipes her tears; in John, apparently, she wipes the perfume [?])

Details common to Mark/Matthew and Luke:

    1. The name of the man hosting the feast is, apparently, Simon (Mark 14:3; Luke 7:40ff)—apparently, two different men with the same name [?]
    2. Mention is made of the woman carrying an “alabaster box/jar” [a)la/bastron] (Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37)

How does one explain so many coincidental details across two very different story settings (Matthew/Mark & John vs. Luke)? Critical scholars generally assume details have been transferred/distorted during transmission (presumably in the early oral stage); but I wonder, at least in the case of Luke. It is noteworthy that Luke contains no Passion-week Anointing scene, which is strange, if, as many scholars assume, he knew and made use of Mark’s Gospel. It also seems most unlikely that he could have confused the story he records in 7:36-50 with the later Bethany scene. This, perhaps, could be seen as evidence that Luke did not use Mark; but, I think it at least possible that Luke has intentionally omitted the Bethany scene (from whatever common tradition he knew), and has merged details from it into his own account set earlier in the ministry. This might explain the curious detail of anointing Jesus’ feet (v. 38): tears falling on his feet makes more sense, but pouring perfume on the feet? Yet the author had to know as well how odd this might appear—either, then, he simply records an unusual fact, or he purposefully includes the detail from the Bethany scene in the context of the sinful woman. Even harder to explain is John’s mention of anointing the feet, since the parallel account in Matthew/Mark specifically mentions anointing the head (not the feet). Is it possible that John has intentionally modified his narrative, just as Luke has, but in the opposite direction?— details from the anointing by the ‘sinful Woman’ (which John does not record) have merged into his account of the Anointing at Bethany. Whether accidental (in early transmission) or intentional (by the Gospel writer), details between the two stories have somehow merged together. Is it justifiable or proper to read the texts this way?

From the standpoint of Church Tradition, of course, such a ‘merging’ clearly occurred. For the “Mary” of John’s account (who is Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus), became joined together with the “Sinful Woman” of Luke’s account, in the figure of Mary Magdalene. Under the influence of Luke 8:2 (and Mark 16:9), which states that “seven daimons went out of” her, the traditional story developed of Mary’s former life as a prostitute, from which she repented and became a follower of Jesus. When she appears at the tomb, the perfume she carries (for anointing Jesus’ body) is the same with which she anointed him once before!

Perhaps we should at least consider meditating on both women at the same time: the devout disciple (Mary) who anoints Jesus’ head (and feet?) as an act of worship and consecration; with the (anonymous) “sinful” woman who wipes tears and anoints Jesus’ feet as an act of worship and repentance. “Righteous and Sinner at the same time”, in Luther’s famous phrase (simul iustus et peccator). John’s Gospel sums up the scene (and result) of this offering beautifully: h( de\ oi)ki/a e)plhrw/qh e)k th=$ o)smh=$ tou= mu/rou, “and the house was filled of the smell of perfume” (12:3).

For more on the Anointing scene, see the notes on this episode in the series “Jesus and the Gospel Tradition”.

The image of the repentant Magdalene came to be very popular in the West, a symbol of penitence and the ascetic ideal—a visceral image to be sure, very suited to individual dynamism of the Renaissance (one thinks immediately of Donatello’s great sculpture, see right). The story of her life as prostitute, her conversion, repentance, and appearance at the tomb on Easter, expanded in legend over the years, culminating with her appearance (along with Martha and Lazarus) in southern France. The Magdalene story would go on to maintain a position in both art and ritual for centuries in the Western Church.

April 8 (2): John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32

At the close of the previous day’s note, I presented the three passages in the Gospel of John which are, in some respects, parallel to the three Passion predictions by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. Today I will examine them in more detail.

The passages are: John 3:13; 8:28; 12:32. They all involve the “Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou), as do the Synoptic predictions (see the prior note for more on the expression “Son of Man”). They also each use the verb u(yo/w (hupsóœ, “lift/raise high”). In the Gospels, this verb primarily appears in two contexts: (1) as a contrast with “making low[ly]”, i.e., humbling oneself, the ideal of humility expressed by Jesus in the Synoptics (Lk 14:11; 18:14; Matt 23:12; cf. also Matt 11:23 par. and Lk 1:52); and (2) in the context of these three passages in John. In the fourth Gospel, the references to “the Son of Man” usually have to do with the heavenly nature or exaltation/glorification of Jesus, often involving ascent/descent (Jn 1:51; 3:13-14; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 12:23, 34; 13:31). Only in Jn 5:27 and (probably) 9:35 is the expression used in the way it commonly is in the Synoptics. The three verses to be discussed below are each embedded in one of the famous discourses of Jesus which make up the bulk of the Gospel. Generally, these discourses follow a pattern: (a) Jesus makes a provocative statement, (b) those who hear him respond with a question which reflects misunderstanding and a failure to grasp the deeper sense of Jesus’ words, (c) Jesus responds in turn with an exposition of profound theological/christological significance. Often two or more sets of question-response are involved. Critical scholars continue to debate the origin, nature, and composition of these great discourses, which are not quite like anything we find in the Synoptic Gospels, and contain language and expressions often similar to that of, for example, the Johannine Epistles.

John 3:14

Kai\ kaqw\$ Mwu+sh=$ u%ywsen to\n o&fin e)n th=| e)rh/mw|, ou%tw$ u(ywqh=nai dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou
“And according as [i.e. just as] Moses lifted high the serpent in the desert, thus it is necessary (that) the Son of Man be lifted high”

This is part of the discourse with Nicodemus which comprises John 3:1-21. I would outline it as follows:

    • Narrative introduction (Jn 3:1-2)
    • Statement by Jesus: “If one does not come to be (born) from above, he is not able [lit. powered] to see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3)
    • First question by Nicodemus: “How is a man able to come to be (born when) he is aged? he is not able to go into his mother’s belly and be (born) a second (time, is he)?” (Jn 3:4)
      • Jesus’ Response—regarding coming to be born out of [i.e. from] the Spirit (Jn 3:5-8)
    • Second question by Nicodemus: “How are these (things) able to come to be [i.e. how are these things possible]?” (Jn 3:9)
      • Jesus’ Response—regarding the witness of the Son of Man (Jn 3:10-15)
    • Further teaching by Jesus—regarding the Son of God sent into the world (Jn 3:16-21)

The saying under consideration here is part of the response by Jesus to Nicodemus’ second question, which may be divided in this way, according to a kind of step-parallelism:

  • The witness of what we have seen and known (which people do not accept)—v. 11
    • Contrast between witness of earthly and heavenly things—v. 12
      • Only the Son of Man ascends/descends to/from heaven (to give witness concerning heavenly things)—v. 13
        • The Son of Man will be lifted high (so people can see his witness)—v. 14
          • Those who see him and trust/believe have Life of-the-Ages [i.e. eternal life]—v. 15

We see embedded in this sequence examples of the well-known dualistic imagery in the Gospel of John: earthly/heavenly, above/below, etc. The verbs used in verse 13 for ascent/descent are a)nabai/nw and katabai/nw, literally “step up” and “step down”; they are common narrative verbs (Jesus and others “step up”, that is, “go up” to Jerusalem for the feasts, etc.), but have a deeper significance in the Gospel—they relate to Jesus’ heavenly/Divine nature, and the nature of his mission: to his being sent from, and returning to, the Father. As such, they are closely tied to the verb u(yo/w (“lift high”) in verse 14, which leads to a second sort of dualism, or two-fold aspect to Jesus as the Son of Man—namely, to his suffering and glorification (or, to put it in classical theological terms, his humiliation and exaltation). Being “lifted up” foreshadows Jesus’ death on the stake [i.e. his crucifixion], but it also suggests his ascension and exaltation: his return (“stepping up”) to the Father in Heaven.

The parallel to the symbolism of Moses lifting up the serpent in the desert is noteworthy, for it relates to a range of Exodus/Passover motifs in the Gospel. The episode referred to in Numbers 21:4-9 is a curious one: when the Israelites had complained of the lack of food and water, in response God sent poisonous snakes among them and many died; Moses interceded and prayed to God for the people, and was instructed to fashion a snake-image and set it upon a pole, so that all who looked upon it would be healed and live. Underlying the symbolic action is an ancient pattern of thought which might be described as therapeutic and sympathetic magic: the image represents the ailment and serves to draw it away in hope of healing. That God in the Old Testament frequently works through many apparently (from our viewpoint today) superstitious elements of the ancient world is an important principle of Biblical theology. However, already by the time of the New Testament, this passage was being interpreted at a deeper theological level. The book of Wisdom (16:6-7) makes the point that the saving symbol (the serpent-image) served to direct people’s attention to the person of the Savior (God). The Jewish Targums, too, interpret the looking on the serpent-image as turning (one’s heart) to the living and dynamic (hypostatic) Word/Name (Memra) of God. Cf. Brown, John (Anchor Bible 29), p. 133.

John 8:28

o%tan u(yw/shte to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou, to/te gnw/sesqe o%ti e)gw/ ei)mi, kai\ a)p’ e)mautou= poiw= ou)de/n, a)lla\ kaqw\$ e)di/dace/n me o( path\r tau=ta lalw=
“When you should lift high the Son of Man, then you will know that ‘I Am’, and from myself I do nothing, but (rather) according as the Father taught me, these (things) I speak”

This saying is part of the long, multi-faceted discourse (or series of discourses) set during Jesus’ appearance in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles, Sukkoth), covering chapters 7 and 8 (excluding 7:53-8:11). The specific discourse here involves Jn 8:21-30, which I outline this way, according to the pattern indicated above:

    • {There is no narrative introduction; just a connecting phrase “therefore he said again to them…”}
    • Statement by Jesus: “I go under [i.e. away] and you will seek me, and (yet) you will die away in your sins; (the place) where I go under, you are not able to come” (Jn 8:21)
    • First question of the Jews: “He will not some(how) kill himself(, will he)?” failing to understand “where I go…you are not able to come” (Jn 8:22)
      • Jesus’ Response—emphasizing the nature of their unbelief; dualistic contrast (“above/below”, “not of this world / of this world”) highlights Jesus own identity (Jn 8:23-24)
    • Second question of the Jews: “Who are you?” (Jn 8:25a)
      • Jesus’ Response—emphasizing his identity and witness in two main aspects: (1) judgment, and (2) representing the one who sent him (the Father). (Jn 8:25b-26) There is also here an interesting wordplay in the difficult phrase in v. 25b which begins the response, and which I render literally “(from) the beginning that which even I have spoken to you”—cf. Jn 1:1-2; 8:43.
    • Further teaching by Jesus—clarification of Jesus’ relationship (and identity) with the Father (Jn 8:28-29)

The saying under consideration comes from this final pair of verses, which I arrange (and translate) together:

    • “When you should lift high the Son of Man then you will know that ‘I Am’
      • and from myself I do nothing, but according as the Father taught me, these (things) I speak”
    • “And the (one) sending me is with me [cf. Jn 1:1-2], he did not leave me alone
      • (in) that I always do the (things) pleasing to Him”

The first portion of each verse emphasizes the ontological/existential relationship; the second portion reflects the familiar Johannine theme of the Son (Jesus) doing and saying just those things he sees and hears the Father doing.

In Jn 3:14, lifting up the Son of Man was a sign and symbol of the salvation God would bring about through the Son; now in Jn 8:28, lifting up the Son of Man reveals God the Father himself. This, too, is a common refrain by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (cf. especially Jn 14:8-14). For the identification of Jesus with God the Father (YHWH) as “I Am”, see the culmination of the last discourse in this series, Jn 8:52-59.

John 12:32

ka)gw\ e)a\n u(ywqw= e)k th=$ gh=$, pa/nta$ e(lku/sw pro\$ e)mauto/n
“And I, if I should be lifted high out of the earth, I will drag all (people) toward myself”

This third and final passage comes from a discourse (Jn 12:20-36) that is set following Jesus Entry into Jerusalem. It does not follow the same pattern as the previous two discourses examined above. Here is an outline:

  • Narrative introduction (Jn 12:20-22)
  • Statement by Jesus (Jn 12:23-28a)—there are several portions to it:
    • “The hour has come so that the Son of Man should be glorified” (v. 23)
    • Parable of the kernel of wheat, illustrating the generative power of Jesus’ impending death (v. 24)
    • A saying on discipleship, similar to Mark 8:35 and pars. (v. 25)
    • A saying reflecting the familiar theme in the Gospel of the relationship Disciple-Jesus-Father (v. 26)
    • “Now my soul is troubled…” (v. 27)—another statement on the coming of the “hour” which serves as a parallel and inclusio with verse 23.
    • “Father, glorify your name!” (v. 28a)—the climax and conclusion to his words.
  • Voice from Heaven: “I have glorified (it) and again I will glorify” (Jn 12:28b)
    • Reaction by the Crowd: they heard the voice as thunder, and did not understand it (v. 29); note the apparent allusion to the Sinai Theophany (cf. Exodus 20:18-21)
    • Jesus’ Response (Jn 12:30-32)—he expounds and explains the voice with two sayings:
      (1) “Now is the judgment of this world, now the chief of this world will be cast out outside” (v. 31)
      (2) “And I, if I should be lifted high, will drag all (people/things) toward myself” (v. 32)
    • Additional narrative explanation (Jn 12:33)
  • Question from the crowd: “Who is this Son of Man?”—expressing confusion between the Anointed One (Messiah) and the “Son of Man”, apparently understanding “being lifted up” as related to death or going away.
    • Jesus’ Response—teaching using dualistic imagery of light/darkness: trust/believe in the light while it is here (Jn 12:35-36)

This is probably the most complex and difficult of the three discourses presented here, with wide-ranging and dramatic shifts in emphasis, as the Gospel narrative as a whole builds toward the Passion. The discourse begins with a powerful declaration regarding the Son of Man (v. 23), emphasizing his glorification. Underlying this statement is the teaching on the purpose and effect of Jesus’ impending death (v. 24), and the way in which it connects with the one who follows and believes in him (v. 25-26). The saying in verse 32 does not specifically mention “Son of Man”, but it is clearly implied in Jesus’ use of the pronoun “I” (e)gw). Indeed, the question by the crowd (v. 34) could be understood to relate to all three of the sayings being discussed here (Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32). Even for believers today, the challenge remains to grapple with these two aspects of the incarnate Christ’s identity, his revelatory message and saving work, as expressed in the Gospel: suffering and glorification, brought together in one extraordinary symbol of the Son of Man being “lifted high”. The power of this symbol is so great that it will draw [literally, “drag”] all people (or all things) to him.

Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally associated with Mary Magdalene and the Anointing of Jesus at Bethany. Three different figures came to be united in Christian tradition: (1) the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany some days before his death (Mark 14:3-9; Matt 26:6-13; John 12:1-8), identified in John as Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus; (2) the ‘sinful’ woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7:36-50; and (3) Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus exorcised seven demons (according to Lk 8:2). In popular tradition, Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute who repented upon encountering Jesus, her repentance being demonstrated in the anointing scene. It is doubtless her presence in the Resurrection narratives which served to strengthen her association with the anointing scene in Holy Week.

April 8 (1): Luke 22:22, 48

In this series of Easter season notes examining the Son of Man sayings in the Gospel of Luke, we now come to a pair of sayings (Luke 22:22 and 48), occurring in the narrative on the night of Jesus’ arrest.

Luke 22:22, 48

The saying in Luke 22:22 is part of the Synoptic tradition (par Mark 14:21; Matt 26:24), and follows the announcement of his betrayal (v. 21), which is found in some form in all four Gospels (Mk 14:18; Matt 26:21; John 13:21).

“(Indeed) the Son of Man travels according to the (way that has been) marked out, but (all the) more—woe for that man through whom he is given over!”

Mark uses the verb u(pa/gw (“lead under, go under”, i.e. “go back, go away”)—”the Son of Man goes under/away…” The use of poreu/omai (“go away [on a journey], travel”) by Luke may be meant as an echo of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51ff et al) which played such an important role as the centerpiece and setting of chapters 10-19. Mark also follows the primary declaration with the phrase “according to as [i.e. just as] it has been written about him”—Jesus thus emphasizes his impending arrest in terms of the fulfillment of Scripture, a theme which appears frequently in Luke-Acts (Lk 18:31; 22:37; 24:26-27, 44-46; Acts 1:16; 13:29, etc). It is somewhat unsual, perhaps, that Luke does not follow Mark in the formulation of Jesus’ saying here. However, the phrase used instead—”according to the (way that has been) marked out”—is equally significant for Luke, the verb o(ri/zw indicating the guiding power and direction of God’s will. Of the 8 occurrences of o(ri/zw (“mark out, set a boundary, limit”, i.e. determine, decree, appoint) in the New Testament, 6 are in Luke-Acts (cf. Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26, 31). The idea of God’s sovereign will has been introduced (use of the theological passive) as parallel to the fulfillment of Scripture.

It is possible that the subsequent declaration of woe—”Oh/woe for that man [a)nqrw/pw| e)kei/nw|] through whom (the Son of Man) is given along [i.e. given over, betrayed]!”—may be meant to echo Jesus’ second prediction of his Passion (Lk 9:43b-45), which, contrary to the parallel versions in Matthew/Mark, mention only the betrayal. The Lukan version of that saying is extremely concise:

“…the Son of Man is about to be given along into the hands of men” (v. 44b)

For this neat parallel between “son of man” and “men” cf. the earlier note on this verse.

In vv. 47-53, we see narrated the fulfillment of this ‘giving over’ of Jesus “into the hands of men”, in which Luke generally follows the Synoptic tradition. There are two particularly notable pieces not found in Matthew/Mark, the first being Jesus’ words to Judas in verse 48, which also represents the second Son of Man saying:

“Yehudah {Judas}, you give along the Son of Man with (the) fi/lhma [mark of love/friendship, i.e. kiss]?”

This address to Judas gives even more prominence and emotional weight to the betrayal that occurs. The second major difference in Luke’s account is the concluding declaration by Jesus in verse 53b:

“…but this is your hour and the e)cousi/a [i.e. power, authority] of darkness!”

As in the prior Son of Man saying in verse 22, this statement in v. 53 takes the place of a reference in Mark (and Matthew) to the fulfillment of Scripture—compare Mark 14:49b:

“…but (so) that the Writings [i.e. Scriptures] might be (ful)filled”

In Luke, the “hour/authority of darkness” is parallel to the phrase “the (way that has been) marked out”—the hour of Jesus arrest and the events leading to his death are proceeding according to the will of God. The “authority” (e)cousi/a) of darkness” is also a formal parallel with “the hands of men” in Lk 9:44 (cf. Mk 14:41 par, “hands of sinners”).

It may be helpful to conclude with an outline of the episodes in the Lukan narrative between the Son of Man sayings in vv. 22, 48:

    • vv. 21-23—Son of Man / betrayal of Jesus
      • vv. 24-38—Jesus with his disciples—the coming time of trial
        • vv. 24-27—Teaching on discipleship: humility and self-sacrifice
        • vv. 28-30—Disciples standing by Jesus in time of trial: promise of reward
        • vv. 31-34—Prediction of Peter’s behavior in the time of trial
        • vv. 35-38—Teaching on discipleship: warning of the coming time of trial
      • vv. 39-46—Jesus with his disciples during prayer—the time of trial
    • vv. 47-53—Son of Man / betrayal of Jesus

Jesus and the Gospel Tradition: Supplemental Note on Luke 22:43-44

Luke 23:43-44

There is much textual uncertainty regarding the Lukan version of the prayer scene in the Garden. To see the matter in context, I give the passage as follows (with the disputed portion in double-square brackets, according to the Nestle-Aland critical text [27th ed.]):

40geno/meno$ de e)pi tou= to/pou ei‚pen au)toi=$: proseu/xesqe mh ei)selqei=n ei)$ peirasmo/n. 41kai au)to$ a)pespa/sqh a)p’ au)tw=n w(sei li/qou bolh/n kai qei$ ta go/nata proshu/xeto 42le/gwn: pa/ter, ei) bou/lei pare/negke tou=to to poth/rion a)p’ e)mou=: plhn mh to qe/lhma/ mou a)lla to son gine/sqw. [[43w&fqh de au)tw=| a&ggelo$ a)p’ ou)ranou= e)nisxu/wn au)to/n. 44kai geno/meno$ e)n a)gwni/a| e)ktene/steron proshu/xeto: kai e)ge/neto o( i(drw$ au)tou= w(sei qro/mboi ai%mato$ katabai/nonto$ e)pi thn gh=n.]] 45kai a)nasta$ a)po th=$ proseuxh=$ e)lqwn pro$ tou$ maqhta$ eu!ren koimwme/nou$ au)tou$ a)po th=$ lu/ph$, 46kai ei‚pen au)toi=$: ti/ kaqeu/dete; a)nasta/nte$ proseu/xesqe, i%na mh ei)se/lqhte ei)$ peirasmo/n.

40And coming to be upon the place, he said to them: “Pray not to enter into testing.” 41And he drew out from them like a stone’s throw (away), and setting (down) the knees he prayed, 42saying: “Father, if you wish, carry away this cup from me, but more—(let) not my will but yours come to be.” [[43And a Messenger from heaven was seen (by/unto) him, strengthening him. 44And coming to be in agony, more fervently he prayed: and his sweat came to be like thick-drops of blood going down upon the earth.]] 45And rising from the prayer, coming to(ward) the learners he found them sleeping from sorrow, 46and he said to them: “What, you are asleep? Stand up (and) pray not to come into testing.”

Commentators and textual critics are divided on whether the bracketed portion (vv. 43-44) should be considered as part of the original text. Indeed, the external (manuscript) evidence is rather evenly divided:

    • Manuscripts Ë69 (apparently), Ë75, aa, A, B, N, R, T, W, 579, family 13 mss, etc., as well as a number of key early translations (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, etc.) and a number of Church Fathers (such as Origen and Clement of Alexandria), do not include vv. 43-44. A number of additional manuscripts include the verses but mark them with asterisks as suspect.
    • Manuscripts a*, D, K, L, X, G, D, 565, family 1 mss, etc., along with key translations (Syriac, Coptic, Latin, etc.), and a number of Church fathers, do include the verses.

To judge by some of the best/earliest Alexandrian manuscripts, a slight edge would be given to the shorter text, as well as on the basis of lectio brevior potior (“the shorter reading is [generally] to be preferred”). However, it is hard to say which is the more difficult reading. Did scribes add the verses, perhaps to help combat “docetic” Christologies by emphasizing the suffering of Jesus? Or, did scribes delete the verses, because they seemed to give too much emphasis on the human suffering of Christ? It is always easier to explain how such variants were preserved in the manuscripts, than to explain how they first came about.

In any event, the change, whichever direction it occurred (add or omit), must have taken place before the end of the second-century, since late-second- and early-third-century witnesses attest both forms of the text. Vv. 43-44 clearly represent an ancient tradition—early Church Fathers like Justin Martyr (see the Dialogue with Trypho c. 103) cite it, though not specifically as coming from the Gospel of Luke.

On the whole, the text-critical evidence appears to be slightly in favor of the shorter reading. So cherished and familiar are vv. 43-44, however—and such a powerful ancient tradition—that even scholars who reject them as original still feel compelled to include them (bracketed, as in the Nestle-Aland text above) and to comment upon them.

Jesus and the Gospel Tradition: The Passion Narrative, Pt 3 (Mk 14:32-52 par)

The Garden/Gethsemane Episode

The next (third) episode of the Passion Narrative is the scene in Gethsemane, so identified as the location in the Synoptic tradition (Mark/Matthew). In this episode, Jesus’ suffering (his Passion) truly begins, climaxing in his arrest. For the basic outline and treatment of the Synoptic tradition, we begin with the Gospel of Mark.

Mark 14:32-52

The outline of this episode is quite simple, being comprised of two scenes:

  1. The scene of Jesus in Prayer—vv. 32-41b
  2. The Arrest of Jesus—vv. 43-52

The declaration of Jesus in vv. 41b-42 is at the center of the episode, joining both scenes and effectively announcing the beginning of his Passion:

“…the hour came—see, the Son of Man is (being) given along into the hands of sinful (men)! Rise (up)! we should lead (ourselves) away—see, the (one) giving me along has come near!”

With the aorist form of h@lqen (“came”) Jesus may be telling his disciples “the hour came i.e. while you were sleeping” (cf. verses 37, 40-41a).

The arrest of Jesus itself can be divided into two portions:

    • The arrival of Judas and his kiss identifying Jesus (vv. 43-45)
    • The seizure (arrest) of Jesus (vv. 46-52), which contains two traditions:
      • A disciple strikes off with his sword the ear of the High Priest’s servant (v. 47)
      • The description of the young man who represents the fleeing disciples (vv. 51-52)

Neither Matthew nor Luke records the tradition in vv. 51-52, and it may be a local detail unique to Mark’s Gospel. However, it seems clear that both traditions, in different ways, are meant to reflect Jesus’ prophetic prediction in verse 27 (citing Zech 13:7). In between these two traditions, a saying (declaration) by Jesus is recorded (vv. 48-49):

“Did you come out as (you would) upon a (violent) robber, with swords and sticks, to take me (in) together? (Day) by day I was (facing) toward you in the sacred place [i.e. Temple] and you did not take (firm) hold of me (then), but (only now so) that the Writings [i.e. Scriptures] might be fulfilled!”

When we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we can see that, while the basic Synoptic (Markan) outline is followed, there are certain signs of development in the Tradition.

Matthew 26:36-56

The main differences in Matthew (compared with Mark) are:

    • The form and presentation of Jesus’ words during the Prayer scene (vv. 36-42, cf. below)
    • An expansion of the Judas tradition in vv. 49-50
    • The additional saying of Jesus in vv. 52-54
    • There is no reference to the disciple (young man) of Mk 14:51-52

The differences which appear to be unique to Matthew are in verses 49-50, 52-54:

The Judas tradition—This will be discussed further in a separate note on Judas, but Matthew has ‘expanded’ this scene with additional details not found in Mark:

    • The crowd with Judas is described as a throng/crowd of many [polu/$] people
    • The Chief Priests and Elders are identified as being “of the people” [tou= laou=]
    • Judas’ greeting to Jesus includes the salutation xai=re
    • Jesus’ words to Judas (v. 50a), which could be read either as (a) a statement or (b) a question:
      “(My) companion, (act) upon that which you are along (to do)”
      “(My) companion, upon what [i.e. for what purpose] are you along (here)?”

The Saying of Jesus—Following the violent act of Jesus’ disciple (who is not identified) with the sword (v. 51), Matthew records an extensive saying by Jesus which clearly reflects ethical teaching—not only for Jesus’ disciples, but for believers in general:

“Turn away your sword (back) into its place! for all the (one)s taking sword (in hand) in [i.e. by] (the) sword (they) will destroy (themselves). Or do you consider that I am not able to call my Father alongside and will he (not) stand more than twelve legions of Messengers alongside of me? (But) then how would the Writings be fulfilled (which declare) that it is necessary (for things) to come to be this (way)?”

Luke 22:39-53

In some ways, Luke’s account is simpler and shorter, and yet includes a considerable number of details not found in the other Synoptics. These include:

    • The prediction of Peter’s denial (vv. 31-34) is made part of the Last Supper scene, so the reference to their journey to the Mount of Olives (v. 39) becomes part of the Gethsemane/Garden episode (Luke does not mention the place name “Gethsemane”).
    • The Prayer scene is greatly abridged, especially if one omits the disputed verses 43-44 for which there is considerable uncertainty in the textual tradition (addressed in a supplemental note).
    • Luke, like Matthew, has developed the arrest scene, further expanding and emphasizing the role of Judas and eliminating any mention of the disciples’ flight.

Generally, the arrest scene in Luke is narrated in a simpler fashion, but there are a number of added details unique to Luke:

    • The kiss (lit. “[mark of] affection”) by Judas is not actually mentioned (only “he came near to give Yeshua the mark of affection”). Apparently before Judas kisses him, Jesus, in Luke’s version, says to him: “Yehudah, you give along [i.e. betray] the Son of Man with a mark of affection?” (v. 48)
    • Before the actual seizure of Jesus, some of the disciples ask him: “Lord, shall we strike (them) in [i.e. with] (the) sword?” (v. 49). This refers to one of the two swords mentioned earlier in v. 38—a violent and improper application of Jesus’ teaching, to be sure!
    • Luke records (a) Jesus’ response to his disciples, and (b) his act of healing the ear that was severed (v. 51), identified specifically as the man’s right ear. Jesus’ words of rebuke are difficult to interpret and translate precisely. It may be understood as a sharp rebuke (i.e. “No more of this!”), or in terms of an explanation as to why they must not act—”Let (things) be (even) until this [i.e. my arrest]!” The tenor of the tradition overall would favor the latter, but the specific teaching in vv. 24-27ff may indicate that Luke has something like the former in mind.
    • Jesus’ address to Judas and the crowd (vv. 52-53) follows the Synoptic tradition in Mark 14:48-49, except for the concluding statement, which is quite different:
      “but (it is so) that the Writings [i.e. Scriptures] might be fulfilled” (Mk 14:49)
      “but this is your hour and the authority [e)cousi/a] of darkness!” (Lk 22:53)
      The word “hour” (w%ra) refers to the time of Jesus’ Passion and links back to the start of the Last Supper scene in Luke (v. 14). This time of darkness also reflects the opening of the Passion narrative, in which Luke records that Satan entered Judas (v. 3). For similar associations with the Devil and darkness, cf. John 13:2, 30b. The Gospel of John also uses the word “hour” in a similar way, to introduction the Passion narrative (13:1).

In the next note, I will examine the differences in the Prayer scene between the Synoptic versions, and also look briefly at the unique tradition presented in John’s Gospel.