April 2: Mark 8:31 (concluded)

Mark 8:31, concluded

“…and to be killed off, and, after three days, to stand up (again).”

The last two components of the Passion-prediction in Mk 8:31 par should be treated together; indeed, this portion of the verse consists simply of the two infinitives, separated by a temporal phrase (“after three days”). Note how the two actions are joined:

    • to be killed off [a)poktanqh=nai]
      • and after three days
    • to stand up (again) [a)nasth=nai]

This simple syntactical structure provides a basic paradigm for the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The verb ktei/nw is a common verb meaning “slay, kill,” but can also be used more generally for putting someone to death (in any manner). The prefix a)po/ (parallel to the prefix on the second infinitive, cf. the previous note), functions as an intensive, i.e., kill completely, kill outright. I have translated it rather literally above as “kill off”.

The last infinitive, of the prefixed verb a)ni/sthmi (lit. “stand up”), refers to the resurrection of Jesus, after he has been put to death in Jerusalem. Indeed, this came to be the regular verb in Greek to express the idea of resurrection (“stand up [again]”), along with the derived noun a)na/stasi$ (“standing up,” i.e., “resurrection”). Both verb and noun came to be a standard part of the early Christian vocabulary; however, they were in use among Greek-speaking Jews even prior to Jesus’ resurrection, and there is no reason why Jesus himself would not have made use of it (or its Aramaic equivalent).

The Matthean and Lukan versions (Matt 16:21; Lk 9:22) here follow the Markan form, except that they each use the phrase “on the third day” (th=| tri/th| h(me/ra|) instead of “after three days” (meta\ trei=$ h(me/ra$) as the temporal indicator. This probably reflects the more familiar early Christian way of phrasing the matter (cf. Acts 10:40; 1 Cor 15:4; Lk 24:7, 46), and Matthew and Luke repeat it in the subsequent Passion-predictions (Matt 17:23; 20:19; Lk 18:33). It is possible that, in this, early Christians were influenced by Hosea 6:2 [LXX]. At the same time, the Markan phrasing (“after three days”) would provide a better fit for applying the resurrection of Jesus to the pattern of the Jonah tradition (Jon 1:17, cf. Matt 12:40, and my recent note).

There is also a minor agreement between Matthew and Luke here in using the verb e)gei/rw (“raise [up]”) instead of a)ni/sthmi. In this case, the infinitive is in the passive (e)gerqh=nai, “to be raised [up]”), which is more precise theologically, since it emphasizes that Jesus was raised by God (His Spirit/Power). It is an example of the “divine passive” (passivum divinum), in which God is the implied actor. The Markan verb (a)ni/sqhmi), by contrast, emphasizes the basic action of Jesus in the resurrection—he “stood up” (that is, came back to life) from the dead.

In both Mark and Matthew (the core Synoptic Tradition), the prediction by Jesus is followed by Peter’s reaction to it. Mark describes it this way (v. 32):

“And he spoke th(is) account speaking with all (candor). And the Rock {Peter}, taking him to (himself), began to lay a charge upon him.”

We do not know precisely what Peter said to Jesus, but, it probably was along the lines of, “Lord, you must not allow this to happen,” “do not let this happen”. The same verb (e)pitima/w) was used by Jesus in v. 30, when he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. In other words, it takes the form of a prohibition, a strong urging that things must not, or should not, be a certain way. In the case of Peter, almost certainly this strong reaction is rooted in the current expectations regarding the Davidic Messiah. It would seem to contradict his very confession, regarding Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (Anointed One), if Jesus were to meet with suffering and death in Jerusalem. Surely the sort of thing described by Jesus could not happen to the Messiah, to God’s Anointed One.

Jesus’ response to Peter, in turn, is even more forceful:

“But (Yeshua), turning about and seeing his learners [i.e. disciples], laid a charge upon the Rock {Peter} and said (to him): ‘Lead (yourself) under, in back of me, Satan! (For it is) that you do not have (your) mind (on) the (thing)s of God, but (on) the (thing)s of men!'” (v. 33)

The ‘charge’ placed on Peter this time takes the form of a harsh rebuke, indicating that Peter has spoken under the influence of the Satan. By the mid-first century A.D., the Semitic title Satan (Heb /f*c*) signified the great evil Adversary (Devil, etc) who stood in opposition to God. Effectively, anyone who similarly stood in opposition to the will of God could be described as acting (however unwittingly) on behalf of the Satan. Peter had failed to grasp the way that Jesus’ identity as the Messiah would be expressed in Jerusalem—not through victory over the nations and establishment of an earthly Kingdom, but through a path of suffering and death (followed by resurrection). As noted above, such an idea was completely out of character with Messianic expectations of the time.

Luke has omitted entirely the exchange between Peter and Jesus. This may be seen as part of a general early Christian tendency to avoid statements or traditions which cast the disciples in a negative light. The tradition of Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus in the Passion narrative was too well-fixed to be altered or omitted; but other Gospel passages could be (and were) modified and adapted in certain ways. On occasion, they could also be left out altogether, as in Luke’s apparent omission of Mk 8:32-33 par.

In the next daily note, we will turn to the second of the three Passion-predictions (Mk 9:31-32 par), beginning with an examination of its place and setting within the Synoptic narrative.

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