Performing Mk. 1.21-28 in Greek: Studies in Mark, Pt. 49

Here is my take on how Mark's Gospel (1.21-8) might have been performed in antiquity for Greek audiences. I try to inject emotion and pathos into the performance at the appropriate times. If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to comment.


  1. Often when I hear people read in Greek they sound like they are on Prozac, so this is cool. Perhaps with more of this sort of thing we could get more people interested.

    Two thoughts: the demon is calm, and whatever voice inflection you are using it sounds sort of like Herod from Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Or maybe Greedo, "Going somewhere Jesus?". I can't decide.

    Secondly: why does Insous have to yell? It seems a little Catholic to me. "The power of Christ compels you...er, I mean the power of me compels you."

    I know we all bring our own hermeneutical lens to reading but I see their dispositions being entirely the opposite: the demon is panicked, "I know who you are." Jesus replies calmly yet with authority "Be silent"

    ...and they were amazed.

  2. Scott,

    I enjoy doing this, my eventual goal is to perform all of Mk. in Greek.

    As for the voice inflection, you may have hit the nail on the head. Quite funny.

    As for the demon being calm and Jesus yelling, I was attempting to imagine JC as an exorcist of that time. Chanting or yelling was common. Your reading makes sense, too, though. But, all throughout Mk, Jesus is getting angry. To have Him angry here fits with the whole tenor of the Book.

    I don't think the demon is panicked here like the legion is panicked later on. Here, the demon seems quite calm and by citing Jesus' identity, is attempting to gain control over Him. This, I think, angers Jesus. So, my move to make Jesus sound angry here is because the demon does seem calm from the text and Jesus seems angry at various points. I mean, He had just whipped up on satan and now, he enters a synagogue of all places and finds demons. Frustrating? Maybe! A few verses later he gets angry at the synagogue leaders for mistreating the leper (though the textual variant can change the entire way this passage is read and understood). Again, Jesus is upset.

    So, it wasn't something I did just for the sake of it, here, I think it was fitting. Later on, though, when he's challenged or confronted, He does remain calm. Regardless, it may be a hermeneutical issue but it's not one that's unfounded.

    Good points Scott. BTW, I thought you were gonna start blogging again in '08? Hope all is well, have you read any of that Fiensy book?


  3. A) "I mean, He had just whipped up on satan and now, he enters a synagogue of all places and finds demons."

    The temptation narrative happens in the wilderness which as you know is in Judea. If we stay in Mark only then we cannot say that he whipped up on satan. The dominant early interpretation of this was that the animals signify a return to Edenic paradise. Another interpretation suggests that angels were taking care of Jesus.

    Anyways, LONG WALK to Galilee regardless of 'kai euthus'. Jesus does not enter synagogue but begins to enlist the disciples.

    Now to synagogue. Was Jesus surprised to find demons still around? I would think not. Fairly certain he knew the final confrontation had not taken place.

    Was Jesus like the other exorcists of his day? Probably not.

    Did the demon remain calm. I would think that any fallen angel that came into contact with Jesus would not be described as calm, but...

    "Typical of such encounters is the vocal exchange (cf. 3:11–12; 5:7–13; 9:25–26), the demon’s part in that exchange being expressed as a shout, (ἀνα) κράζω, here and in 3:11; 5:7; 9:26; this was no doubt one of the most memorable features for an onlooker, and is mentioned also in non-Christian texts (Test. Sol. 1:13; 3:4; 4:11).

    R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 103.

    If France wrote it, it must be true!

  4. Oh Yeah...now that I am not forced to read RIDICULOUS amounts I have started the book.

    I am 90 pages in and loving it. Glad I got it from you.

    Don't know when I will blog again, but I just put one up for you. Enjoy.

  5. scott,

    good thoughts, however...

    the reference to whipping up on satan, was not meant to suggest he had defeated satan once and for all. however, it was mark's way of showing that jc was more powerful than satan.

    as for the site of baptism, desert and galilee, you are on target about their distances from one another, esp. the wilderness from galilee. yet, mk does have jc going to galilee next. jn has him going to cana or somewhere else, i can't remember. literary stuff going on here.

    as for being surprised by the demons, i don't think he was surprised. however, it is, i think, partially for shock value that mk has jesus' first ministry event/exorcism take place in a synagogue!! the hearers would have been shocked.

    as for jc not being like other exorcists, i think you err greatly here. jc was certainly like other teachers and healers, he was like exorcists too. later in mk. we find him using common healing techniques and formulaic experessions (e.g. spittle, wiping the eyes, "come out of him" commands, etc.) he most certainly was like other exorcists. this proof is found all the way through mk.

    why would demons not remain calm? i don't follow your theology or logic here. they can remain calm or not. it's not always one or the other. at some points in mk. they're afraid at others they try to be more intimidating and do not appear afraid at all but rather trying to control the situation, that's what's going on here.

    as for france and the greek, yes, we all know france is infallible :)

    pertaining to the grk, let me point out that jc is speaking "sternly" here, which could be calm but makes more sense loudly with "epitimao" and "phimoo". the "anakrazo" seems to me like a taunt or a mock, or again, like the demon speaking so as to get jc's attention and to get control over him. i wonder if the evil spirit is shaking because of jc freaked it out by yelling? though, that may be simplistic.

    could it be that there was a loud exchange on both ends? france's argument could go the other way too: jc's loudness could have drawn attention to onlookers.

    still, given jc's anger all throughout mk, it makes much sense to me to see him being loud here.

    i wonder what a recording of both being loud and then the demon being loud and jc being calm would sound/look like in performance? i also wonder how it would sound/look in aramaic?

    i'mm glad you're engaging me on this, it makes me want to do more chapters (i'm almost finished w/mk 1).

  6. err greatly? err greatly? Michael that hurts! I am by no means a Markan scholar...I must rely on others (Mostly Boring and France), and with much of the context of Scripture I am always open to the reality that I may be off, but err greatly? Ouch. If Jesus' practice was the same as other exorcists his disposition and execution does not have to have been the same.

    Two things.

    I think that the issue with the demoniac in Capernaum has as much to do with that being the center of Jesus' ministry as anything else. The author of Mark goes to great lengths to demonstrate Jesus' exousia; I believe this is an example of that and yelling is not necessarily necessary.

    ana krazo is before Jesus speaks: the demon "speaks forcefully" or "yells out" first.

    E. F. Kirschner from his survey of exorcism in ancient literature are worth quoting. While noting the frequent references to exorcism and to exorcistic techniques, showing that the practice was widespread, he goes on:

    Despite the great amount of material referring to exorcism/demons in the literature surveyed, there are very few narratives available. It is mainly in the NT, particularly in the Gospel of Mark, that most of the narratives are found.… Even fewer exorcistic figures, to whom exorcism stories are clearly ascribed, can be found. Of these, one is obviously a legendary figure (Solomon), another is apparently semi-legendary (Apollonius), still another is referred to only once (Eleazar), while another despite his fame for dealing with demons is never shown to be exorcizing a demon (Ḥanina). The only exorcistic figure in the extant literature to whom a number of exorcism stories are ascribed and related in detail is the biblical figure of Jesus of Nazareth.

    R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 100.

    You know what might be really interesting: put together a cast of Greek bibliobloggers to do Mark. Of course Tilling does all of the readings for the demons. Any other suggestions? Might make a funny post.

  7. Well there you go... I guess we can agree to disagree, but some day in heaven let's watch this scene together. My guess: we're probably both wrong.

    Anyways, I would be totally in to doing some Mark stuff. You never know...if you ask you may get some other Greek proficient people that would be a part of a Mark project for a Mark site or the like.

    Most of the work would actually be for an editor.

    Then again maybe no one would be interested but me and you.

  8. scott,

    what do you do w/ boao vs. anakrazo?

    what about the anger all throughout?

    do you want to start a mk site aimed at dramatizing the grk? i'd be up for it.


  9. I think that 1:3 should not be used to set the context of a later scene just for the reason that the author of Mark is quoting the LXX and perhaps it is a good translation of the Hebrew qara' maybe not. But as he is quoting something else I'm not sure we can say he is using a Greek word in this way here so he must be using this Greek word in an alternative fashion later: the first one is not really his own.

    I know that you are well aware of some of the interpretations surrounding events such as the fig tree and the clearing of the Temple, because of this I am uncomfortable to characterize Jesus as angry through the whole book. Do I believe Jesus was a calm Stoic philosopher going through the countryside sagely dispensing wisdom and healing people? No. Is he angry and frustrated at times? Yes. Does that mean because he was angry other places he must be angry in the synagogue? No.

    Have we beat the horse dead yet?

    I am probably speaking before I think, but a Mark site would be extremely cool. Not sure about the level of work.

  10. scott,

    great point about the lxx. the aramaic translation is qra at 1.3.

    textually, a strong point for you could be that the 2 other uses of anakrazen in mk (5.5; 15.39) are all indicative of loud cries. this would indicate that the demon's cry was loud. but in 15.39, anakrazen is speaking of jc. in the preceding vs. the anakrazen is referring back to, we find phone megale (loud noise/voice/yell). thus, the same word is used of 2 demons that is used of jc's cry.

    also, i'm not just referring to the temple scene. i mean that jc is angry all throughout, way before we ever get there. he is incredibly frustrated. i'm not trying to read mk. through the lens of the temple scene.

    i don't think we've beat a dead horse, personally (i'd never beat an animal, esp. a dead one). this is the kind of stuff that makes scholarship fun; i enjoy the challenge.

    textually, the lean may go your way. contextually, i think it goes my way. oh, the tension.

    i'm willing to do the mk. site. we can update it whenever. think about it some more and let me know. i'll continue thinking about the yelling here, even if you don't. :)