Category Archives: gospel of mark

Considering the fact that Jesus was a benevolent man, why did he caste the demons into the pigs rather than sending them back to hell?

Mark, the writer who came up with this story, wasn’t writing history. He was writing something more like Shakespeare, and this passage is an allegory.

Mark’s first language was not Greek. Scholars can tell this because the Greek he uses is “difficult”. If you read Mark in Greek, almost every sentence literally starts with “Immediately” or “And”. Imagine reading a story that’s written like this:

And then I went to the store and bought some eggs, bacon, milk, salt, pepper, and potatoes for breakfast.

Immediately, I went to the counter to pay for my breakfast.

And the store clerk asks me if I have bills less than 20s since he’s running out of smaller bills

And I pull out two 5s from my wallet so that I can help the store clerk out

And I paid for my breakfast and headed towards the exist

And I ran into an old buddy of mine while at the door

And he said ‘hi’ to me and asked me what I was doing up so early on a Saturday

And I told him that I had a long day of studying ahead of me so I wanted to get a head start

And he said that this was uncharacteristic of me since I was known for partying and staying up late

And I told him that I wanted to try being more responsible since I’m currently on academic probation

This is what it’s like reading Mark in Greek. So tedious.

Anyway, Mark might have a Roman background of some sorts, since he uses a lot of Latinized Greek words. Like “centurion”: It literally means “leader of 100” in Latin (think of the word “century”). Matthew and Luke use hekatontarchos, which is the Greek word for “leader of 100” (e.g., a hecaton, a 100 sided shape).

Mark also provides Latin translations for some reason:

Mark 12:42: λεπτὰ δύο, ὅ ἐστιν κοδράντης — lepta duo, [which] is a kordrantes (Latin “quadrans” the smallest Roman coin)

Mark 15:16: τῆς αὐλῆς, ὅ ἐστιν πραιτώριον — the aules, [which] is the praitorion (Latin “praetorium”)

With that said, there’s a reason Mark chose “legion”, which is also a purely Latin word. Moreover, there’s a reason that Mark chose to associate pigs with this “legion”.

Legio X Fretensis – Wikipedia

X Fretensis symbols were the bull — the holy animal of the goddess Venus (mythical ancestor of the gens Julia) — a ship (probably a reference to the Battles of Naulochus and/or Actium), the god Neptune, and a boar.

Legio X Fretensis was responsible for occupying Jerusalem after the Jewish War (ended 70 CE), staying into the fourth century. After 70 it was stationed in Gerasa for a while (Winter 1974, p180-181). Allusions to the Jewish War with Rome in Mark are the reasons why many scholars date the composition of this gospel to around or after the Jewish War, which, again, ended in 70 CE.

Geographically, having the pigs run from Gerasa into “the sea” makes no sense. Gerasa is about 30 miles from any large bodies of water. How long do you think it would take you to run 30 miles? Were Jesus and the poor recently possessed man standing there for a few hours waiting for the pigs to get to the sea? Matthew recognized this mistake and changed the location from Gerasa to Gadara but Gadara was still six miles from the lake.

So to recap, we have the 10th Legion Fretensis who were stationed in Gerasa after 70 CE and one of their standards was a boar. We have this story, written sometime around or after 70 CE where a guy goes to Gerasa and encounters a demon called “Legion”. He casts the demon into a herd of pigs and the pigs leave the region.

This is an allegory about kicking the 10th Legion out of Gerasa if I had to put betting money on it.

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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in Christianity, gospel of mark, Quora answers, religion


The Criterion of Embarrassment Disproves Mark’s "Itinerant Preacher" Jesus

According to many ex-Christians, one of the things that makes them think that Jesus was just a loon and not the true messiah/god was that his prophecies in Mark never came true. One of the lesser pointed out false prophecies of Jesus comes from his trial, where he says:

Mark 14

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Obviously, the high priest here did not live to see Jesus (or the Son of Man) descend from the clouds sitting at the right hand of power (or the mighty one). So this is an unambiguously failed prophecy. These sort of failed prophecies are littered all throughout Mark. He has Jesus predicting the end of the world within his generation, or telling the people around him that they would not die until they witnessed the Son of Man and/or the kingdom of god arrive on Earth.

Now what about the criterion of embarrassment? This is the argument that Christians would not have maintained or invented traditions that embarrassed them. Thus, any failed prophecies would not have stayed alive within the tradition or would not have made it to Mark's gospel, or they would have been rewritten/reinterpreted so that they could be “fulfilled” in a more spiritual sense (i.e. later Christian writings like Luke 17.21 or John 18.36). So why would Mark write an entire gospel filled with prophecies that failed once Jesus' generation was dead? Mark must have thought that those prophecies hadn't been fulfilled yet, thus he must have seen himself as part of the generation that those prophecies applied to.

There's no indication that Mark is trying to pretty up or spiritualize the prophecies of Jesus like Luke and John do. So Mark most definitely thought that these prophecies applied to his own generation. But the question now becomes: Was Mark apart of Jesus' generation? If Mark was written in 40 CE then I could see these definitely being the words of Jesus, since Mark and Jesus would be in the same generation. But most scholars conclude that Mark was written literally a generation or two later, when the people who would have heard Jesus preach were more than likely dead. In my estimation, Mark was written by someone who had not yet been born or was very young when the 2nd temple was destroyed in 70 CE, as this accounts for the many post 70 CE anachronisms in Mark. So I would put the writing of Mark circa 80 – 90 CE.

In 80 or 90 CE, any prophecy about people in 33 CE not dying until the Son of Man came swooping down from heaven on a cloud ushering the new kingdom of god would quite obviously be false (especially with a large war in between killing many in that prior generation), and no one around that time period would write something like that per the criterion of embarrassment. But it's obvious that Mark was not embarrassed by those prophecies so he “kept” those prophecies in, so the only reasonable conclusion I can make is that Mark really did think that those prophecies applied to his own generation. And that it is Mark himself who was the apocalypticist, not Jesus. Mark just used Jesus as his sockpuppet to make prophecies that he thought applied to his own generation. Thus he has Jesus say “let the reader understand” (Mk 13.14).

Finally, this in no means forces the conclusion that Jesus did not exist. It just means that an itinerant preacher Jesus who preached the end of the world wasn't in the mind of the pre-Markan Christians. That model of Jesus is more than likely the creation of Mark himself. This also makes sense of the silence of pre-Markan Christian writings on the teachings of Jesus. There were none. Unabashedly, this still fits with my hunch about who the historical Jesus was.

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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in gospel of mark, historical jesus


Wineskins and Covenants

I was just looking up the “old/new” wineskins parable in the Synoptic gospels. This, also, has another curious evolution in the Synoptics.

Mark 2.21-22 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”

Matthew 9.16-17 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved
Luke 5.36-39
No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' “
For now I'm not someone who holds on to the “Q” hypothesis to solve the Synoptic Problem (as exemplified by my more recent post). I think that Mark was first, followed by (or edited to become) Matthew; Matthew refuted by Marcion's gospel, and Marcion's was edited to become Luke.
Some people may be confused about what the parable means. But if you subsitute “wineskins” or “clothes” with “Testament” or “Covenant” then it will make sense for modern readers. Oddly, Mark follows the theology of Marcion (literally “Little Marc”). The New Testament is wholly different than the old one, and the two religions are incompatible. Which is exactly what Marcion promulgated. That Christianity was a whole new beast that was distinct from Judaism. Matthew refutes this, thinking that the Old and New Covenants can coexist peacefully (“both are preserved”). Luke, as a refutation of Marcion, is a re-Judaizer and overly lauds Judaism. For example, unlike the other three gospels, Luke has Jesus appear in Jerusalem instead of Galilee which is the more “Jewish” of the two locales. Thus he says “the old is better”.

Posted by on May 11, 2011 in gospel of mark


Mark Implicitly Teaching His Readers Aramaic for Narrative Purpose

Mark 10:46

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, the Son of Timaeus [that is] Bartimaeus (ο υιος τιμαιου βαρτιμαιος), was sitting by the roadside begging.

Mark 14:35-36

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. And he said, ““Abba, Father, (αββα ο πατηρ) everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Mark 15:7, 11

A man called Barabbas (ο λεγομενος βαραββας) was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas (βαραββαν) instead.

I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here. Reading Mark from beginning to end, the reader is presented first with a guy who is the son of Timaeos, Bartimaeos. It can be inferred that “bar” means “son of”.

Next, Jesus has a redundant prayer, where he says “Abba, father…”. This is a bit more of a stretch, but it seems as though Mark is going out of his way to mention that “Abba” means “father” since Jesus would presumably be praying originally in Aramaic. This pericope implies that Jesus is praying in Greek. The redundancy of Jesus’ prayer is removed in Matt’s and Luke’s rendition of this pericope.

Following this, the astute reader will notice that we have encountered a character called “bar” (the son of) “abba” (father). I thought Jesus was the son of the father? Here we have some of the strongest irony in Mark. A character called son of the father who was a murderer and insurrectionist – who rightly deserves crucifixion – is released and the Jews hand Jesus (the real son of the father) over to be unjustly crucified. I included the Greek to show the grammatical forms that “Barabbas” takes. One is accusative (which means it ends in Nu [ν]) and one is nominative (ends in Sigma [ς]). This means that the “s” at the end of “Barabbas” the English translations I’ve read isn’t necessarly part of the name. So it should be “Barabba”. In some manuscripts of Matthew, Barabba’s first name is “Jesus”. So again we have a Jesus who is only son of the father in name unjustly released, and a Jesus who is the real son of the father unjustly crucified.

How ironic!

On the flip side of things, a character named “Peter” (Πετρος) first appears in Mark’s gospel. In Greek, the word for stone or rock is πετρα, so that is what “Peter” is – a rock or stone. This is what the Aramaic name Cephas (and Caiaphas) means. Cephas is one of the “pillars” that Paul writes about in his letter to the Galatians. Now why would Mark translate Cephas’ Aramaic name literally into Greek? Well, Mark is writing in Greek so there must have been some reason he wanted his readers to know that Cephas meant “rock”.

Here is the Parable of the Sower:

Mark 4:1-12
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”


“The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky [πετρωδες] places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Peter, the Rock, receives the Word with joy. But once trouble comes around, he flees (Mark 14:66-72). Mark is pretty hostile to the disciples, calling them dull and such. This fits with Mark’s overall theme of disciple-dissing. I don’t think that this parable is a coincidence. I think that Mark translated Cephas’ name into Greek so that Greek readers of his Greek narrative would get the parable of Peter’s fickleness. Of course, Matthew turned this literalization of Cephas’ name into a positive: “I say you are Peter. And on this rock I will build my church” (Matt 16:18).

I think the other Aramaism in Mark are a smokescreen (or verisimilitude) to prevent the reader with less gnosis from understanding:

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables


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Posted by on November 2, 2010 in aramaic, aramaism, gospel of mark


Pobrecito Marquitos!

From this blog:

That Μαρκίων is a diminutive of Μαρκος, I conclude also from the relation of Εὔρυτος to Εὐρυτίων, (vgl. Phil. Griech. Gramm. 21. Aufl. S. 119, Anm. 12), κοδράτίων (from Philostratus vit. sophist. II, 6 p. 250) to κοδράτος (vgl. W. H. Waddington, Memoire sur la Chronologie de la vie du rheteur Aristide, 1867, p. 32). So also I think κάλλιστος, the Roman Bishop (217 – 222) against whom the author of the Philosophumena shows such hostility, is behind Rhodon’s reference to κάλλιστίωνι προσφωνων (Eusebius, Church History V, 13, 8). Stronger still is the case for the Μαρκιανοί – which Justin Dial c. Tr. c. 35 p. 253 mentions before the Valentinians, Basilideans, Satornillians, etc – being a reference to Marcionites. Similarly, one will have to read the Muratorianum Z 82-84: quia etiam librum novum psalmorum Marciani (= Marcionitae conscripserunt).

I always thought there was some relationship between Mark[os] and Markion (Marcion). Here is what Wikipedia says about diminutives:

Diminutives are often used for the purpose of expressing affection (see nickname and hypocoristic). In many languages, the meaning of diminution can be translated “tiny” or “wee”, and diminutives are used frequently when speaking to small children; adult people sometimes use diminutives when they express extreme tenderness and intimacy by behaving and talking like children.


Greek [Diminutives]:

Several diminutive derivational suffixes existed in Classical Greek. The most common ones were -ι-, -ισκ-, -ιδι-, -αρι-.

Diminutives are also very common in Modern Greek. Literally every noun has its own diminutive. They express either small size or affection: size -aki (σπίτι/spiti “house”, σπιτάκι/spitaci “little house”; λάθος/lathos “mistake”, λαθάκι/lathaci “negligible mistake”) or affection -ula (μάνα/mana “mother”, μανούλα/manula “mommy”). The most common suffixes are -άκης/-acis and -ούλης/-ulis for the male gender, -ίτσα/-itsa and -ούλα/-ula for the female gender, and -άκι/-aci for the neutral gender. Several of them are common as suffixes of surnames, originally meaning the offspring of a certain person, e.g. Παπάς/Papas “priest” with Παπαδάκης/Papadacis as the surname.

Nothing here about adding ίων to make a diminutive of a masculine noun. But then again, there’s nothing here about what diminutive suffixes were extant in Koine Greek. One diminutive in Mark 3:9 is “little boat” / πλοιαριον which ends in -ιον but not ιων. Ironically, the difference between the two is between a little o (o micron) and a big o (o mega).

This, however, is from a Perseus Project website:

The comparative suffix (earlier -iōs) is akin to the Greek -ίων, or the Sanskrit -iyans.

Which is also corroborated by this Google Books page. -ίων is a “lesser known” comparative suffix than -οτερος.

In other words, it seems as though ίων might be added to denote a comparative (i.e. Μαρκίων is “something or other” than Μαρκος) and not a diminutive.

Nominative Diminutive Comparative Superlative
Adjective πτωχός / poor πτωχάκης / little poor one (i.e. “pobresito”) πτωχότερος / poorer πτωχότατος / poorest
Noun Μαρκός Μαρκάκης (?) Μαρκίων Μαρκίστος

The name “Mark” itself seems to come from Mars (and his month March), the god of war.

Maybe this moniker was added to differentiate between “orthodox” Mark and “heretical” Mark? Like Paul and Simon Magus, Jesus called BarAbba and Jesus called Christ? It might be that “Markion” actually was the author of Mark and they are really one and the same person. I can’t help but think it has something to do with the word ετερός, meaning “other” (but of a different kind) which sounds pretty close to the comparative suffix οτερος. Markion was the “other, different” Mark. Μαρκός ετερός > Μαρκότερος > Μαρκίων.

Regardless, it seems as though Mark and Markion are the same name. The really fishy thing being that they are both charged as being gospel authors. One orthodox, and one heterodox (ετερος).


Posted by on June 11, 2010 in gospel of mark, marcion


Water and Spirit

Mark 1:10

και ευθυς αναβαινων εκ του υδατος ειδεν σχιζομενους τους ουρανους και το πνευμα ως περιστεραν καταβαινον εις αυτον

Reading this in Greek, I see a subtle wordplay that isn’t really as evident in English translations. This translates roughly as “And immediately ascending from/out of the water [he] saw the sky split and the spirit, like a dove, descended into him“.

The wordplay is between Jesus rising out of the water and the spirit falling into him. But, like I said, in English it doesn’t really do justice. Mark uses the words αναβαινος and καταβαινος to describe the rising/falling. The more obvious parallel in English would be ascending/descending since they are the same word but with opposite meaning prefixes.

The “split” between the two words occurs when there’s a “split” in the sky, as though there was a split between worlds, like walking from the real world into “camera negative” world through some portal. It kinda reminds me of a video game, like in “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” or “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” where there’s a real world and then the opposite world.

After being baptized by John, the world flips or splits and Jesus is then baptized by the spirit. Instead of going into the water, the “water” (i.e. the spirit) goes into him. There seems to be an interplay between water and spirit at the beginning of Mark, but oddly in Mark this theme is never revisited.

Maybe Mark was harkening back to Genesis 1:2?

η δε γη ην αορατος και ακατασκευαστος και σκοτος επανω της αβυσσου και πνευμα θεου επεφερετο επανω του υδατος

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering over the water

When I think of interplays between water and spirit, I think of Johannine theology: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit [υδατος και πνευματος]’” (3:5). I wonder which came first? Maybe John is trying to rectifiy the once separated “water and spirit”? The human Jesus and the spiritual Christ; the christology of pre-gnostics like Cerinthus – a “separatist” according to Irenaeus (AH 3.11.7).

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Posted by on May 13, 2010 in gospel of john, gospel of mark, spirit, water


Was "Jesus Barabbas" Invented By Matthew?

According to some footnotes in some bibles, the man that the Jews want Pilate to release in exchange for Jesus (Christ) is called Jesus Barabbas (Matt 27:16-17). These instances of “Jesus Barabbas” only appear in some Greek manuscripts of Matthew. Since Matthew is basically an expanded version of Mark, does this mean that Mark also originally had Jesus Barabbas? This makes sense of Pilate’s contrast: To release Jesus called Barabbas or Jesus called Christ (ιησουν τον λεγομενον βαραββαν η ιησουν τον λεγομενον χριστον). In our current texts, he just asks to release Barabbas or the Jesus called Christ.

“Bar Abba[s]” literally means “son of the father” in Aramaic.

I argued in an earlier post that Mark 1:9 probably didn’t have “from Nazareth” in the original since its Synoptic equivalent, Matthew 3:13, doesn’t have that phrase. It only has “from Galilee”. Meaning that when Matthew was writing his edition of Mark 1, his version of Mark probably didn’t have “from Nazareth” or he would have included it, since Matt likes to insert the words now translated as “Nazareth” in parts of his narrative that are unique to Matthew (Mark 11:1-11 vs Matt 27:1-11).

Along those lines, I can see why Matthew would add the name “Jesus” to “Barabbas” if he understood Mark’s theological point. On the other hand, Matthew removes Mark’s Aramaisms (like “talitha koumen” in Mark 5:41; cf Matt 9:23-25) so he might not have known Aramaic. On the other hand, Matt knew what the name “Jesus” meant. But then again he’s writing in Greek. The name “Jesus” has no meaning in Greek but the name that it’s derived from – Joshua – does have meaning so he must have been told what the name meant by someone else. Another possible reason would be that because Matt seems to be writing to Hellenized Jewish-Christians, the Aramaisms might have seemed either redundant, offensive, or useless.

But I’m thinking Matt didn’t know Aramaic. So if Matt didn’t know Aramaic, then he wouldn’t have known what “Barabbas” meant and would have had no reason to add the name “Jesus” to his name. But Mark does seem to know Aramaic (Mark 14:36 vs Matt 26:42), and having a constrast between an insurrectionist Jesus Son of the Father and a peaceful Jesus Son of the Father does seem to fit Mark’s style of writing; his ironic contrast.

So “Jesus Barabbas” is more than likely an invention of Mark, and Matthew probably just copied what Mark wrote. Since it’s only in some manuscripts of Matthew, it must have been systematically left out of subsequent copies of Matthew. Mark, on the other hand, was never a popular gospel. At least until the forged resurrection sighting was added to the end.

Or then again, Jesus Barabbas might have been the historical Jesus!

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