Questions about Mark 2:23

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Bob Nyberg
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Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by Bob Nyberg » July 25th, 2011, 11:33 am

Hi,

I have a number of questions about Mark 2:23.

Καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων, καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν ποιεῖν τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας.

Why is αὐτὸν accusative? Is αὐτὸν receiving the action of the verb ἐγένετο? Is it saying “it happened “to him?”

Why is Sabbaths plural (τοῖς σάββασιν), and yet most English translations render it Sabbath singular?

Why does the text say “παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων?”Do both “παραπορεύεσθαι” and “διὰ” refer to the grain field? If so, are they going past a grain field or going through a grain field?

I see that Westcott & Hort uses διαπορευεσθαι which makes more sense than παραπορεύεσθαι if it is referring to the grain field.

Could it be that παραπορεύεσθαι actually refers to the Sabbath and not the grain fields? Marshall’s Literal English translation notes that this equals “as he passed on the Sabbath.” Young’s Literal Translation seems to agree with Marshall. YLT: “And it came to pass--he is going along on the sabbaths through the corn-fields--and his disciples began to make a way, plucking the ears.”

Could “οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν ποιεῖν” be taken literally? In other words, they were actually making/forging a path through the grain field as opposed to simply "making their way" as many English translations render it?

Thanks for your help.

Bob Nyberg
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cwconrad
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Re: Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by cwconrad » July 25th, 2011, 1:05 pm

Bob Nyberg wrote:Hi,

I have a number of questions about Mark 2:23.

Καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων, καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν ποιεῖν τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας.

Why is αὐτὸν accusative? Is αὐτὸν receiving the action of the verb ἐγένετο? Is it saying “it happened “to him?”

Why is Sabbaths plural (τοῖς σάββασιν), and yet most English translations render it Sabbath singular?

Why does the text say “παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων?”Do both “παραπορεύεσθαι” and “διὰ” refer to the grain field? If so, are they going past a grain field or going through a grain field?
The construction has αὐτὸν as the subject and παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων as the predicate constituting, in effect, a clause that is the subject of ἐγενετο: "it happened/took place/came to pass .... " What happened? "him to be making (his) way through the fields of grain." We do find σάββατα in the plural elsewhere used of a single Sabbath day. You shouldn't concern yourself with how the English versions convert it, but I suppose you're wondering whether they got it right. I don't know WHY σάββατα is found in the plural when referring to a single day, but I've sometimes suspected that it may not be unrelated to the fact that the titles of festival days in Greek are regularly neuter plurals -- it's just possible that this may be a borrowed usage.
Bob Nyberg wrote:I see that Westcott & Hort uses διαπορευεσθαι which makes more sense than παραπορεύεσθαι if it is referring to the grain field.
BDAG s.v. παραπορεύομαι: 2. to make a trip, go (through) (Dt 2:14, 18; Josh 15:6) w. διά and the gen. (Dt 2:4; Zeph 2:15 v.l.) διὰ τῶν σπορίμων go through the grain-fields 2:23. This does not mean that the party trampled grain in the process, but that they had grain on either side as they walked, quite prob. on a path.
Bob Nyberg wrote:Could it be that παραπορεύεσθαι actually refers to the Sabbath and not the grain fields?
Hardly. παραπορεύεσθαι must surely be construed with διὰ τῶν σπορίμων.
Bob Nyberg wrote:Marshall’s Literal English translation notes that this equals “as he passed on the Sabbath.” Young’s Literal Translation seems to agree with Marshall. YLT: “And it came to pass--he is going along on the sabbaths through the corn-fields--and his disciples began to make a way, plucking the ears.”
I would seriously urge you to avoid trying to get at the meaning of the Greek by looking at what "literal translations" say. Throw them away. As they have done in this instance, they can only serve to confuse you. Even when they say something that has some validity, they are not going to help you understand how the Greek construction works. I think that one of the greatest impediments to understanding the Greek text is supposing that understanding it somehow involves LITERALLY converting it into English. English that conveys the STRUCTURE of the Greek is very unlikely to convey the MEANING of the Greek text. Your primary objective ought to be understanding exactly what the Greek text is saying: what it means, NOT how to convert it into English.
Bob Nyberg wrote:Could “οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν ποιεῖν” be taken literally? In other words, they were actually making/forging a path through the grain field as opposed to simply "making their way" as many English translations render it?
Do you mean to say that "making their way" is metaphorical, while "making a path" is literal? I suspect that the sense is the same as that of παραπορεύεσθαι: "move on ahead" or "plow right on" or "proceed/progress/move forward" -- pretty much like the πρόβατα, the foraging animals that move forward (προβαίνειν) as they browse. That's exactly what the disciples are doing: moving from one stalk of grain to another and picking off the unharvested grains to eat them.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Bob Nyberg
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Re: Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by Bob Nyberg » July 25th, 2011, 2:07 pm

Thanks Carl. That's very helpful.

Bob Nyberg
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David Lim
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Re: Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by David Lim » July 25th, 2011, 9:45 pm

cwconrad wrote:
Bob Nyberg wrote:Καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων, καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν ποιεῖν τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας.

Why is αὐτὸν accusative? Is αὐτὸν receiving the action of the verb ἐγένετο? Is it saying “it happened “to him?”
The construction has αὐτὸν as the subject and παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων as the predicate constituting, in effect, a clause that is the subject of ἐγενετο: "it happened/took place/came to pass .... " What happened? "him to be making (his) way through the fields of grain."
The accusative and infinitive is a way of converting a normal sentence into a noun clause, which we usually do in English using "that". So it can also be read as "and [it] came to be [that] he passed in the sabbaths through the sown [fields] ..." Note that "he passed in the sabbaths through the sown [fields]" is still the subject of "came to be" even in English. Greek likes to use "εγενετο" for introducing events, while English usually finds other ways of doing so (such as "On one sabbath day, ..."). Also, "εγενετο αυτον" can never mean "[it] came to be to him" because you would need "εγενετο + dative" (see Luke 19:9 and 1 Cor 1:30).
cwconrad wrote:
Bob Nyberg wrote:Why is Sabbaths plural (τοῖς σάββασιν), and yet most English translations render it Sabbath singular?
We do find σάββατα in the plural elsewhere used of a single Sabbath day. You shouldn't concern yourself with how the English versions convert it, but I suppose you're wondering whether they got it right. I don't know WHY σάββατα is found in the plural when referring to a single day, but I've sometimes suspected that it may not be unrelated to the fact that the titles of festival days in Greek are regularly neuter plurals -- it's just possible that this may be a borrowed usage.
Is it possible that the Greek plural "sabbaths" actually refer to multiple sabbaths? I am wondering because there are places where both the singular and plural are used in the same breath, as if there was a distinction between them, even if a fine one. Matt 12:5-12 is one example. Is it possible that the singular refers to either a single sabbath or the ordinance as a whole, while the plural refers either to literal multiple sabbath days or to the regular occurrence of the sabbaths? Specifically, can Mark 2:23 mean that Jesus and his disciples passed through sown fields on more than one sabbath, and his disciples began at some point in time to pluck the ears of grain?
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Bob Nyberg
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Re: Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by Bob Nyberg » July 26th, 2011, 8:20 am

Thanks David. I appreciate all the help.

Bob Nyberg
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timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » July 28th, 2011, 2:28 am

David:

I'm not sure I see any real difference between sabbath singular and sabbath plural, even in the context you cited.

One might propose that the singular form means the sabbath in concept or a particular sabbath and the plural denotes numerous sabbath days. But that wouldn't make sense in verse 11 -- unless you assume that someone has an animal that routinely falls into a ditch on Saturday!

I'm thinking the use of singular/plural forms of σαββατον might be similar to English usage:

• Most Christians go to church on Sunday
• Most Christians go to church on Sundays

Seems essentially equivalent to me.
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David Lim
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Re: Questions about Mark 2:23

Post by David Lim » July 28th, 2011, 5:32 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:David:

I'm not sure I see any real difference between sabbath singular and sabbath plural, even in the context you cited.

One might propose that the singular form means the sabbath in concept or a particular sabbath and the plural denotes numerous sabbath days. But that wouldn't make sense in verse 11 -- unless you assume that someone has an animal that routinely falls into a ditch on Saturday!

I'm thinking the use of singular/plural forms of σαββατον might be similar to English usage:

• Most Christians go to church on Sunday
• Most Christians go to church on Sundays

Seems essentially equivalent to me.
Actually that is similar to what I was asking, because even in English "sunday" and "sundays" are different but can indeed be used with essentially identical meaning in certain contexts like the one you mentioned. In other contexts there is a difference; "finish it by this sunday" requires the singular while "I am free on most sundays" requires the plural. The two that you mention correspond to what I said was "the ordinance as a whole" and "the regular occurrence of the sabbaths" while the other two are corresponding examples of "a single sabbath" and "literal multiple sabbath days". So I am wondering whether there is similarly such usage in Greek. If however the singular "σαββατον" is ever used to refer to more than one day and the plural "σαββατα" is used to refer to a clearly numerically singular sabbath (such as with singular determiners, adjectives or pronouns) then I would be convinced that the singular and plural are identical alternatives.
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