Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A sarcastic Jesus?

I was reading Mark 14 this morning and noticed that the standard Greek editions (NA27 and UBS4) do not punctuate Jesus' final comment about the disciples' sleep with a question, as the translations I grew up with do.

According to the NIV, NRSV, NET, ESV, NKJV, and NASB, Jesus returns the third time and asks a variation on the question he addressed to Peter in verse 37: "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." (NIV)

The sentence could also be a command, however, since in Greek 2nd person plural indicative and imperative verb forms are identical, and the original text would not have indicated the difference between a question and a command by punctuation. A (sarcastic) command fits the context well. This was the interpretation that the KJV adopted, and that the NLT returns to:
And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (KJV)
When he returned to them the third time, he said, "Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no -- the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (NLT)
He came back a third time and said to them, 'You can sleep on now and have your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son of man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. (NJB)
On this interpretation, the disciples have missed their chance to watch and pray; they may as well sleep. It fits the context and is consistent with Mark's portrayal of Jesus. What do you think?


StuntMonk said...

*shrug* it's cool, I guess. There are better and more obvious places to find instances of Jesus' sense of sarcasm though.

Any idea why some manuscripts portray it as a question and some don't? Which is the more likely rendering based off of the information we have about those manuscripts?

Jeromey said...

I wonder if this would qualify as *chleuasmos*, somehow functioning rhetorically either to end definitively any argument against Christ's going to the cross (as Jesus' rebuke was definitive in Mark 8.33) or (perhaps more likely) simply to show once again the disciples' failure. At all events, it would be interesting to see if anyone's done a study of *chleuasmos* in Mark.

d. miller said...

Hi StuntMonk: It's not a textual issue; punctuation was added much later, and only standardized after the invention of the printing press. Context is our only clue.

d. miller said...

But thanks for the comment, Stunt Monk! ...I've updated the post to clarify the issue.

Chleuasmos. That's my new word for the day.