Das Evangelium nach Markus: Studies in Mark, Pt. 72

I've started working through the Gospel of Mark in German. Other than the fact that my copy of "die Bibel" has a nice apocrypha, it also uses some archaic language here and there (e.g. "thee", "thou", etc.) which makes translating tricky sometimes. Anyway, as I was working through Mk. 1.1-3, I came across a couple of interesting word choices.

In Mk. 1.2, the verb "steht", which means "to stand" is used which renders the sentence: "It began, like it stands in/on the prophet Isaiah." There's nothing incredible about this, I just found it to be a very interesting word choice. Typically, the phrase employed is "As it is written..." To say "...like it stands" seems to suggest a more permanent sense.

Also, in the reest of that verse we find, "...er soll den Weg fur dich bahnen." This translates as "...he shall strike out a way for thee." Of course, this is referring to John the Baptizer and is merely another way of saying "...he shall prepare the way..." The imagery of "striking out" a way is quite fascinating. I don't necesarrily know what to make of it, however.

Finally, in 1.3, we encounter "Ebnet ihm die Strassen" ("Make the streets level."). I'm not sure if "level" suggests crooked or uneven streets. If it is "uneven" (as in a road that has more than one level) that is quite different imagery than I'd ever imagined for this verse. Of course, walking or riding on an unlevel road is not easy. If Mark is painting a picture of the forerunner of the Messiah, royalty, for instance, like Caesar coming on a chariot, would this imagery be more applicable?

Anyway, one of the values of working through the text in numerous languages is that insights such as these, small as they may be, tend to constantly crop up. Have any insight to add?


  1. To say "...like it stands" seems to suggest a more permanent sense.

    Well you have the disadvantage that a German is reading your blog.

    "To stand" is synonymous with "written" in German. Sometimes we say "es steht geschrieben" = "it stands written".
    So, if one says "in Jesaja steht dies und das" it simply means "in Jesaja it is written this and that". Similarly you can say "in Harry Potter auf Seite 14 steht, dass ... " There is no deeper meaning and this is no Bible language. It's just German idiom.

    The same thing applies to "bahnen" = "prepare".

    "Ebnet ihm die Strassen"
    This one is different.
    you say: I'm not sure if "level" suggests crooked or uneven streets.
    Yes, that is the meaning of "ebnen".
    The question is if this is the meaning of EUQEIAS.
    "straight" would equal "gerade" in German.

    What translation are you using?

  2. Wieland,
    No disadvantage as I see it. That's why I posted this one actually (I know that I have a number of German readers).

    I was wondering if steht had an idiomatic sense here but how does one find that out without just knowing it? Thus, my conclusion on permanancy. I appreciate any insight on any German stuff I post (I'm just learning really).

    As for "straight" vs. "level", I get bahnen from what appears to be a type of KJVish German translation. The title is "Die Bible: Einheitsubersetzung Altes und Neues Testament Herder". Looks like it's from Katholishe Bibelanstalt GmBH, Stuuttgart.

    As I post some stuff on German, your input and criticims, etc. are invaluable to me; I covet them, in fact.


  3. Michael, in what sense are you suggesting the second person singular is archaic in German? It would be normal family or friendship use (and increasingly as younger people's use).

  4. Doug,
    Thanks for pointing out what you did; it made me take a few more looks at this.

    Here's the issue, I think. I'm using two different resources and in one of them, "dich" is marked as "you" while in the other it is marked as "thee".

    I'm guessing that it's just preference, right? The reason I refered to it as "archaic" is because "thee" sounds a bit KJVish.

    I may have to start posting more German stuff so I can get input from everyone. I value any of your comments, questions, criticisms, etc. on this.


  5. 1. Regarding the idiomatic sense: Well, that is a difficulty in every language you are learning. You know the warning that you should not preach from the pulpit "In Greek this REALLY reads ..." except that you truly know what you are saying and not applying some confused ethymology.

    2. Einheitsübersetzung: This is actually the only approved German catholic translation. The NT of it is additionally an oecumenical version, translated together with a protestant committee. It is quite good.

    3. Thou and thee are archaic in English, but "du" and "dich" etc. are not archaic in German. Its usage is absolutely normal.
    What the translation probably means is that "you" is equivocal.

    English: Can you help me?

    German, formal: Können sie mir helfen? (addressing an unknown person on the street)
    German, informal: Kannst du mir helfen? (asking e.g. your brother)

    To distinguish this difference in English one can give the informal one as "Canst thou help me?" This rightly gives the "thou" for "du", but has the problem of being archaic.

  6. Wieland,
    Your insights are incredibly helpful! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. You explained the "archaic" differences well.

    Still, reading another translation is an advantage because it raises all sorts of questions that I would have overlooked in English. Not that these meanings are any deeper or whatever but sometimes the words (e.g. "strike out" or "level") cause you to think of the story differently than you had before.

    Anyway, as I do more, I hope that you'll continue shedding light on things for me. By the way, I am going to be creating some more German modules (like the alphabet one I did; see my Free Bible Resources Page). I'm planning on doing one on articles & pronouns and another on prepositions. Any thoughts before hand?