Part of my daily routine includes spending time in the Greek New Testament. Since last year I’ve been going verse-by-verse in the Gospel of Mark. For a time I was simply reading the text, consulting a couple of commentaries, and taking notes on anything I thought was interesting. These days my routine includes parsing the Greek text using a grid that I was required to use during my college days in Intermediate Greek. So now I parse a minimum of three verses daily and translate them into English.
You may be asking, “Why bother with all this? Aren’t you an atheist?” There are a number of reasons. First, I love the Bible. But I don’t love it because it is the inspired and inerrant word of God. Rather, I love it because it isn’t the inspired and inerrant word of God. The Bible is a thoroughly human work and digging into the Bible in the original languages reveals the thoughts of its very human authors. Second, as the old adage goes, “Practice makes perfect.” I’m an American and my native language isn’t Koine Greek. So by practicing it daily I make sure that my language muscles don’t atrophy and I end up unable to pick up my Greek New Testament and recognize what I’m reading.
There is a third reason and it is related to a project I am working on. I would like to write a commentary on the Gospel of Mark for skeptics and unbelievers. So I’ve been collecting material to that end. But one of the first steps is to have a thorough understanding of the Gospel of Mark and so by parsing and translating a minimum of three verses every weekday I will have gone through the entirety of the Gospel in a year. From there I’ll be able to write more competently so that my potential audience can easily read what I’ve written and thereby appreciate all the more the Gospel of Mark.
So over the next year or so you can expect to see more posts featuring my own translation of this or that passage in the Gospel of Mark. Since this is a work-in-progress, I’ll revisit my work from time-to-time and update as I see fit. I also welcome the input of fellow Bible enthusiasts, especially those with training in the original language texts.
Without further ado, I present you to you Mark 1:1-8, the Amateur Exegete Version.
Mark 1:1-8, AEV
1 The beginninga of the gospel of Jesus Christ, son of God.b
2 As it stands writtenc in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
the one who prepares your way:
3A voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”
4 John appeared,d the one who was baptizing in the wilderness and preachinge a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And going out to him was the entire region of Judea and all of Jerusalem, and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 John was clothed with the hair of a camel and a belt of leather around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching,f “One stronger than me is coming after me, of whom I am not worthy to bend down to loose the strap of his sandles. 8 I baptized you in water,g but he will baptize you in the holy Spirit.”h
a The word archē lacks the definite article here. However, translating archē as indefinite makes for awkward English and in Mark’s Gospel the word is never paired with the definite article despite its being used in an articular sense. See Mark 10:6, 13:8, and 13:19.
b The phrase huiou theou lacks the definite article and is supplied by many translations (i.e. NRSV) as a way to distinguish Jesus as the Son of God. But sometimes the lack of the definite article is intended to emphasize the essence of a noun rather than its identity. In this case, I see the anarthrous huiou theou as telling the reader something about Jesus and his messianic role: his character is one of God’s sons and, therefore, kingly.
c The verb gegraptai is in the perfect tense and implies what was written before continues to the present moment. Hence the translation “it stands written.”
d The use of the aorist egeneto implies both the fulfillment of the prophetic words of 1:2-3 as well as John’s sudden and abrupt appearance in both Mark’s Gospel and the stage of salvific history.
e John’s activities are summed by two participles: ho baptizōn (“the one who was baptizing) and kēryssōn (“preaching”).
f The phrase translated as “he was preaching” renders an imperfect verb with a present participle: ekēryssen legōn. Rendered literally, ekēryssen legōn would read, “He was preaching saying,” but as the participial legōn is redundant I have chosen to leave it untranslated.
g There is no preposition before “water.” However, based upon the parallel construction in the second half of John’s statement where John says that Jesus will baptize them en pneumati hagiō (“in the holy spirit”), the idea must be that John was baptizing them in water.
h The phrase translated “in the holy spirit” is interesting. The phrase pneumati hagiō lacks the definite article. But it makes for awkward English to render it “in holy spirit.” Furthermore, in 1:9-10 John baptizes Jesus in water and then “the spirit” comes down upon Jesus, a baptism in the spirit if you will.
Featured image: By Raul654, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36892.