Below is my full translation of the first chapter in Mark’s Gospel. It is still in some ways a very raw translation but it will serve as the launching pad for work on my commentary on Mark. I plan on doing more revisions to the text as time goes on, especially since my preference to translate historic presents in the past rather than present tense has changed (i.e. compare 1:12 [“the Spirit casts“] with 1:40 [“there came“]). Overall, I’m pleased with the translation and hope some can find the textual notes useful.
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
9 It happenedi in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 And immediately, as he was coming out of the water, he saw the sky splitting open and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him. 11 Then a voice appearedj from the sky, “You are my Son, the beloved; in you I am pleased.
12 Then immediately the Spirit casts him outk into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan, and he was with the wild animals, and the angels ministered to him.
14 Following the arrest of John, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God 15 saying, “The time has been fulfilledl and the reign of Godm has come near: repent and believe in the gospel.”
16And walking alongn the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting nets in the Sea, for they were fishers. 17And Jesus said to them, “Come follow me,o and I will make you to become fishers of people.” 18Then immediately, leaving the nets, they followed him. 19Then after going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, and they were in the boat mending nets. 20And right away he called to them. Then they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers and went after him.
21 They came to Capernaum; and then on the sabbath, having entered the synagogue, he was teaching.p 22 And they were amazed at his teaching, for he was teaching themq as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 Then suddenlyr there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out 24 saying, “What do we have in common, Jesus of Nazareth?s Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are, the holy one of God!” 25 Then Jesus rebukedt him saying, “Shut upu and come out of him!” 26 Then the unclean spirit, having convulsed him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they all were astounded such that they discussed among themselves saying, “What is this? New teaching with authority: he commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 Then the news about him immediately spread out everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.
29 Immediately, having left the synagogue, they went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down sick with fever, and so they were speaking to Jesusv concerning her. 31 Going to her he raisedw her, having taken her by the hand. The fever left her and she served them. 32 When evening came, at the setting of the sun,x they brought to him the sick and the demon-possessed; 33 and the entire city had gathered at the door. 34 He healed many sick – those who had various diseases – and he cast out many demons, and did not permit the demons to speak because they knewy him.
35 Having risen early in the morning while it was dark,z he went out and came to a deserted placeaa and there he prayed. 36 Simon and those with him searched diligently for him 37 and found him and said to him, “Everyoneab is lookingac for you!” 38 He said to them, “Let us go elsewhere – into the towns nearby – so that even there I may preach, for this is why I came.” 39 And he went preaching in the synagogues of all of Galilee and casting out demons.ad
40 There cameae to him a leperaf begging him [and kneeling]ag and saying, “If you will it, you are able to make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassionah and having stretched out his hand, he touched him and said to him, “I will it. You are clean.” 42 And suddenly the leprosy left him and he was clean. 43 Strictly warning him,ai he immediately sent him awayaj 44 and said to him, “Be sureak to not say anything to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing that which Moses commanded as evidence to them.”al 45 But having gone out he began to proclaim freely and spread the word, so that Jesusam was unable to go into a city, but remained in deserted places. And there came to him people from all over.
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.
i The Greek phrase I have translated as “it happened in those days” is kai egeneto en ekeinais tais hēmerais. The lead verb, egeneto, also appeared in 1:4 where we read, “John appeared [egeneto Iōannēs].” But whereas egeneto in 1:4 was intended to create a dramatic and sudden appearance of John both in the Markan narrative as well as in the scene itself, here egento is coupled with the Greek conjunction kai which with the temporal expression en ekeinais tais hēmerais is intended to indicate a new event in the narrative flow.
j Here too we also read egeneto and I have chosen to translate it as “appeared,” though voices don’t appear. But I think the Markan author is deliberately using egeneto rather than a verb like legó (“I say”) and harkening back to 1:4 where we read “John appeared [egeneto Iōannēs].
k The phrase “casts him out” is a single word in the Greek text: ekballei, a compound of the preposition ek (“out”) and ballo (“I throw” or “I cast”). It is frequently used in Mark to refer to exorcism (see Mark 1:34, 1:39, 3:15, 3:22-23, 6:13, 7:26, 9:18, 9:28, and 9:38).
l The verb I have translated as “has been fulfilled” is peplērōtai, a perfect tense verb in the passive voice. The root verb, pléroó, is only used three times in Mark: 1:15, 14:49, and 15:28. However, that final instance in 15:28 is a later addition to the text of Mark.
m I have chosen to translate hē basileia tou theou as “the reign of God” as opposed to “the kingdom of God” (NRSV). Here I have followed the work of Mary Ann Beavis who writes in her commentary,
The phrase translated here as the reign of God (hēbasileia tou theou) – often translated as “kingdom of God” – announces one of the main themes of the Gospel (4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14, 15, 23, 24; 12:34; 14:25; 15:43). In English, reign captures the meaning of basileia better than “kingdom….” (Beavis, Mark, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament [Baker Academic, 2011], 43)
Beavis herself quotes from John Donahue and Daniel Harrington’s commentary on Mark. They write,
Translation is a problem here, and not simply because of the androcentric overtones of “king.” The word “kingdom” is static and evokes a place where a king (or queen) rules. Greek basileia is more active and dynamic, with the nuance of “reigning” of God as well as a setting for that reign. (Donahue and Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina [The Liturgical Press, 2002], 71.)
n The Greek text has paragōn para, a rather redundant expression since paragōn is a compound word from the preposition para (“along side”) and the verb agó (“to lead/to go”). The Matthean author avoids this redundancy by changing paragōn para to peripatōn…para(Matthew 4:18). Some mss of Mark also change the reading to fall in line with the text of Matthew.
o The Markan text reads, Deute opisō mou – literally, “Come after me.” When opisō is followed by the genitive then the sense is “to follow” and so my translation of “Come follow me.” This happens again in 1:20 where we read that James and John leave their father and “went after him [apēlthon opisō autou].”
p The verb edidasken is sometimes translated as “he began teaching” or “he began to teach” (NIV, NLT, NASB, etc.). But there is no reason to consider the imperfect form here as an inceptive imperfect. As Rodney Decker points out (Mark 1-8: A Handbook on the Greek Text[Baylor University, Press, 2014] 24-25), Mark normally uses the verb archomai when he intends to communicate that something “began” to happen (see 1:45, 4:1, 5:17, etc). Thus translations like the NRSV, ESV, and others translate edidasken as “[he] taught” or “[he] was teaching.”
q “[F]or he was teaching them” is ēn gar didaskōn autous and is an example of the Markan use of periphrastic constructions. Simply stated, periphrasis occurs when an author combines an anathrous participle (i.e. a participle lacking the definite article) and a verb of being like eimi (“I am/I exist”) to express an idea. Mark uses periphrasis over two dozen times, about eight times more than the Gospel of Matthew.
r The word I have translated as “suddenly” is the frequently appearing euthus. Here the sense is that the appearance of this man with an unclean spirit has abruptly shifted the focus away from Jesus’ teaching and onto the demon-possessed man.
s “What do we have in common…?” is ti hēmin kai soi, quite literally, “What to us and to you?” R.T. France notes that the force of the expression is to say, “Go away and leave me alone” (The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC [Eerdmans, 2002], 103). A similar formulation is found in the LXX of 2 Samuel 16:10 where David says to Abishai, “What do we have in common [ti emoi kai humin], sons of Zeruiah?”
t “[R]ebuked” is epetimēsen. At its core, the root verb epitimaó means “to rebuke” or “to warn.” Robert Guelich translates epetimēsen not as “rebuked” but as “subdued.” Drawing from the work of H.C. Kee, he notes that epitimaó is related to the Hebrew verb ga’ar which conveys the sense of a command intended to bring another into submission. For more see Guelich, Mark 1 – 8:26, WBC [Thomas Nelson, 1989], 57-58.
u “Shut up” is phimōthēti, an imperatival form of phimoó. The substantive phimos is the term used for a muzzle (though phimos does not appear in the New Testament).
v Literally, “him.”
w Greek, ēgeiren.
x The Markan wording here is redundant, a feature common to Mark (see 1:35, 2:20, 4:35, 14:30, 15:42, and 16:2). The genitive absolute found at the beginning of the verse (Opsias…genomenēs; “When evening came”) implies that sunset has come. Therefore Matthew (8:16) drops the clause I have translated as “at the setting of the sun” and retains only the genitive absolute. This is a classic example of Matthean redaction of Mark whereby he seeks to smooth out Mark’s repetitiveness.
y Greek, ēdeisan. This is a very rare instance of a verb in the pluperfect tense. The pluperfect in the indicative mood appears in narrative material to supplement narrative elements. For more, see Constantine R. Campbell, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Zondervan, 2008), 105-106.
z Greek, prōi ennycha lian anastas. The awkwardness of this phrasing has been long noted and is smoothed out by the Lukan author (Luke 4:42) who chose to employ a genitive absolute: Genomenēs…hēmeras, “When day came” (NRSV, “At daybreak”). Translated literally, the Markan phrase would be something “having risen early at night very.”
aa Greek, erēmon topon. The idea is that Jesus wanted to get away from everyone. This could be translated alternatively as “a remote place.”
ab Greek, pantes. Markan exaggeration like what we find in 1:5. This is for dramatic effect, i.e. Jesus is so popular that when he goes missing everyone tries to find him.
ac Greek, zētousin. In the Markan Gospel, the verb zēteō always carries negative connotations (i.e. 3:32, 8:11, 8:12, 11:18, 12:12, 14:1, 14:11, 14:55, 16:6).
ad Jesus’ activity in Galilee is described using two present tense participles: kēryssōn (“preaching”) and ekballōn (“casting out”). In this verse, following the aorist verb ēlthen (“he went”) the construction begins with kēryssōn and ends with ekballōn, exhibiting some degree of symmetry. That is, it begins and ends with a present participle.
ae Greek, erchetai. The use of the present tense here is similar to how in English we use indentation to indicate a new paragraph.
af Greek, lepros. The term used in the New Testament does not necessarily refer to leprosy as we understand it but rather is a generic term for one who had a skin disease, particularly one that would have made them ceremonially unclean and therefore unable to enter the temple (see Leviticus 13-14).
ag Greek, kai gonypetōn. Both NA28 and UBS5 place kai gonypetōn in brackets to indicate that it appears in some ancient manuscripts like Codices א (Sinaiticus), L (Regius), and Θ (Koridethi) but does not appear in others including Codices B (Vaticanus), D (Bezae), and W (Washingtonianus). For more, see Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition (UBS, 1994), 65.
ah Greek, splanchnistheis. This is the reading of Codices א, A (Alexandrinus), B, and others. However, Codex D reads orgistheis, “he became angered.” This is a possible reading and one favored by some scholars including Bart Ehrman. See his essay “A Leper in the Hands of an Angry Jesus” in Amy M. Donaldson and Timothy B. Sailors (editors), New Testament Greek and Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Gerald F. Hawthorne (Eerdmans, 2003), 77-98. See also Robert Guelich, Mark 1-8:26, WBC vol. 34a (Thomas Nelson, 1989), 41.
ai Greek, embrimēsamenos. This emotionally charged participle is omitted by both Matthew (Matthew 8:4) and Luke (Luke 5:14).
aj Greek, exebalen. This is the same verb used throughout Mark to describe exorcism of those who had been possessed by demons. Here the sense is not as harsh as in those other places.
ak Greek, hora. Literally “See that” or “See to it that.”
al Greek, eis martyrion autois. Robert Guelich renders the phrase “as evidence against them,” noting that “the normal function of [martyrion] with the dative [i.e. autois] to connote incriminating evidence against a defendant…strongly supports that rendering here” (Guelich, 77). But against whom? In context, Jesus has told to the healed man to go to “the priest” and not “the priests.” Perhaps it is a reference to the context of the Markan community in which there were charges that Jesus ignored entirely the Mosaic law. Or perhaps it is a reference to the community of which the leper was a part so that his offering for his cleansing is a witness against those who had treated him as an outsider. The text just isn’t clear enough to offer a definitive answer. My translation is intended to convey that the offering for his cleansing was proof that he was indeed clean, not as evidence against his opponents.
am Literally, “he.”