Saturday, June 8, 2013

ἐκβάλλω in Mark

Okay Greek scholars, I'm going to need your help with this one.  The verb ἐκβάλλω and its conjugations appears 18 times in the Gospel of Mark.  Most of the time ἐκβάλλω is used in reference to casting out demons (1:34, 39; 3: 15, 22, 23; 6:13; 7:26; 9:18, 28, 38; 16:9, 17).  The verb shows up once in the parable of the wicked tenants (the tenants kill the owner's son and cast his dead body out of the vineyard, 12:8).  Jesus casts out moneychangers (11:15), mocking mourners (5:40), and a healed leper (1:43).  Jesus tells his disciples to cast out their eye if it causes them to stumble (9:47).

However, the first time ἐκβάλλω is used the occasion is not a demon exorcism or a rebuking of sinful behavior.  Instead, immediately after his baptism the Spirit ἐκβάλλει Jesus into the wilderness.  Matthew and Luke use versions of the verb ἄγω, which means that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, a much milder version of this episode.

At the beginning of chapter one, the Spirit treats the newly baptized Jesus the same way that Jesus treats the newly healed leper at the end of chapter one.

1: 12-- εὐθὺς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει
1: 43-- εὐθὺς ἐξέβαλεν αὐτὸν

Jesus as the newly healed who can't be completely trust and so the Spirit cast Jesus out of his old life and into the wilderness for further purifying?  Is that what's going on here?  The newly healed leper is not trustworthy; he is cast out and then disobeys Jesus' warning.  Jesus is trustworthy; he is cast out and then resists temptation.  

Jesus knows what it feels like to have the Spirit turn on him.  I think that's the idea that's got me doubting my interpretation and its implications. 


Mitchell said...

I've always pictured it more like the old method of teaching swimming. Row out into the lake, and throw the student out of the boat. I've just taken it as Mark's sense of urgency. Sort of goes with Mark's repeated use of "kai euthus." No time to dawdle. Time to get busy, even if busy means heading out into the solitary wilderness to be tried by Satan.

Laura Felleman said...

What if the sense of urgency is a cultural bias that we bring to the text? We read the word "immediately" and think ASAP, get this task done sooner rather than later. We feel anxious and hurried. If euthus was translated "right after," in other words if it was a reference to timing rather than mood, would we feel differently?

Anonymous said...

Εὐθύς is an adverb related to the adjective and (lexical) homograph in Mark 1:3 (from LXX Isa. 40:3) for "straight." I think there is a good possibility that Mark's repeated use of εὐθύς may imply a connection to the prophecy. So the prophecy is not about John preparing the way for Jesus, but about Jesus clearing the obstacles to God's kingdom, as of course he did so well in his ministry. See my post from earlier today at Scott

Anonymous said...

It is not unusual for a biblical author to use a word in diverse contexts, because it is the immediate context that provides the nuance for the meaning and usage of a word. If you look at the usage of ἐκβάλλω in the other Gospels, you will see a similar "disparity" in usage, especially in Matthew. For example, the word is used of those who "bring out" good from the good treasure stored within and of those who "bring out" evil from the evil stored within (Mt 12:35, 13:52). I don't think there's any implication here that Jesus needed some reprimand like a demon or a disobedient healed leper. It is also possible that the use of the word in 1:12 and 1:43 represents an inclusio.

Laura Felleman said...

Hi Scott, Thanks for your comments. Your observations are thought-provoking, however the image of the newly baptized Jesus being cast out of his former life by the Spirit and into the wilderness period of temptation (and further purification?) before his ministry can begin is an image that is lingering in my imagination nonetheless.