n 1959 I found myself attempting to study the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark with a view to translating it to modern Hebrew. The rather strange Greek of Mark, the Hebraic word-order, and the impossibility of rendering to Hebrew some of the special Markan Grecisms (like καὶ εὐθύς and πάλιν, which have no ancient Hebrew equivalents) left me wondering what kind of literary creation we have in this fascinating book.
Of course, a translator who is mainly interested in producing the message of a book for the Hebrew-speaking Church in Israel need hardly occupy himself with the question why a short book like Mark shares so many verbal parallels with Matthew and Luke, yet rarely manages to give exact verbal parallels to these for more than a phrase or two. However, my curiosity was aroused and I began to wonder whether it was not important to get to the bottom of questions like these.
I tried first to see if ancient manuscripts of Mark might shed some light on a possible vorlage (a prior version) of Mark which would show a less linguistically confused text. This proved a blind alley. It is clear that second-century Greek Christians felt the oddities of Markan order and wording, but their attempts to “improve” its text by replacement of phrases from Matthew or Luke only show that their real problem was with the kind of text we have in our printed Greek versions of Mark.
The above article, originally a large part of the Introduction to Robert. L. Lindsey, ed., A Comparative Greek Concordance of the Synoptic Gospels (3 vols.; Jerusalem: Dugith, 1985-1989), has been emendated and updated by Lauren S. Asperschlager, David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton. The tables were created by Pieter Lechner. For a review of Lindsey’s concordance, see R. Steven Notley, “Book Review: Robert Lindsey’s A Comparative Greek Concordance of the Synoptic Gospels.”
Today when we hear the word “gospel” we tend to think of a message about Jesus that tells people how to “get saved.” But in the ancient world in which Jesus lived the word “gospel” was applied to “good news” of a certain type. When people in the ancient world heard the word “gospel” they understood it to mean a royal proclamation that someone had become king.
Explore this fascinating topic with Joshua Tilton in his new eBook “Jesus’ Gospel.”
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