Martha mourning (John 11)?

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Martha mourning (John 11)?

Post by thomas.hagen » March 11th, 2018, 11:57 am

I have a question concerning a detail in the account of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. The verses which interest me are 17 and 20:

17 Ἐλθὼν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὗρεν αὐτὸν τέσσαρας ἤδη ἡμέρας ἔχοντα ἐν τῷ μνημείῳ… 20 ἡ οὖν Μάρθα ὡς ἤκουσεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἔρχεται ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ· Μαριὰμ δὲ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ ἐκαθέζετο.
17 So when Jesus came, he found that he had been in the tomb four days already…20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him; but Mary sat in the house.

My question is whether there is anything in verse 20 which might imply that when Martha heard of Jesus’ arrival, she was NOT in the house with Mary and the other mourners. This question came to mind because we learn later on in the chapter in verse 28 that Mary was unaware of Jesus’ arrival until Martha went and informed her, following Martha’s initial encounter with Jesus.

καὶ τοῦτο εἰποῦσα ἀπῆλθεν καὶ ἐφώνησεν Μαριὰμ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῆς λάθρᾳ εἴπασα Ὁ διδάσκαλος πάρεστιν καὶ φωνεῖ σε.
And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Teacher is here, and is calling you.

It seems somewhat strange that in a house full of silent people only Martha received the news of Jesus’ coming. Of course, it is possible that someone whispered it in her ear as she did with Mary. But why then did the mourners not follow her when she got up and went out, as they did with Mary?

Also, with the hindsight of verse 28, we know that the concluding clause of verse 20, “Μαριὰμ δὲ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ ἐκαθέζετο”, does not meanbut Mary remained in the house (instead of going with her sister to meet Jesus)”. Why does John bother to tell us that Mary was sitting in the house with the other mourners? It’s what we would take for granted unless told otherwise. By specifying that Mary was in the house, might John be telling us between the lines that Martha was not?

I recognize that this is a very secondary issue. However, if it could be shown that Martha was not in the house mourning with the others, it might mean that her belief in the final resurrection was so solid that it gave her the strength to accept the death of her brother, stop mourning, and get on with her life – something that Mary had not yet been able to to. (This is the attitude Jesus is looking for when he reprimands the mourners just before raising Jairus’ daughter.) For John, Martha might represent the hope of the people of Israel in the final resurrection, and Jesus is presented as the fulfilment of that hope because he IS the resurrection and the life.

So once again, my question is whether or not there is anything in the language of these verses which could support this line of thought.

Thank you for your time -
Thomas Hagen

Barry Hofstetter
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Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Martha mourning (John 11)?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » March 11th, 2018, 7:02 pm

One thing we quickly learn in reading ancient authors is that they are not necessarily interested in the same details or level of consistency that modern authors might be, nor do they always answer the questions we would have. I would suggest that if the detail is not specifically mentioned, it was not of interest to John and therefore not something he intended to be of interest to his readers.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

Shirley Rollinson
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Joined: June 4th, 2011, 6:19 pm
Location: New Mexico

Re: Martha mourning (John 11)?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » March 13th, 2018, 5:44 pm

thomas.hagen wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 11:57 am
I have a question concerning a detail in the account of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. The verses which interest me are 17 and 20:

- -snip snip - - -

It seems somewhat strange that in a house full of silent people . . .

- - - snip snip - - -

Thank you for your time -
Thomas Hagen
Where do we get the picture of "silent people" ? - Mourners can be very noisy, depending on the local culture.

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