Sunday, June 28, 2015

Little Girls & Old Women

Early to rise, but today is Sunday and getting up any later than this would run me late for the morning. As well, our gospel reading from Mark is on my mind, deterring me from returning to other than a quick snooze after the chat to Father Nature. This one bit of dark chocolate melting on the tongue with the sip of Kona should quicken the mind adequately to order a couple paragraphs sensibly.

Here’s the reading, in the Disciples Literal New Testament translation — 

Mark 5:21-43 Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT)

A Synagogue Official Comes To Jesus About His Dying Daughter. Jesus Goes With Him

21 And Jesus having crossed-over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd was gathered to Him. And He was beside the sea. 22 And one of the synagogue-officials comes, Jairus by name. And having seen Him, he falls at His feet 23 and begs Him greatly, saying that “My little-daughter is at the point of death. I beg that having come, You lay Your hands on her in order that she may be restored and live”. 24 And He departed with him. And a large crowd was following Him, and they were pressing-upon Him.

On The Way, a Woman Touches His Garment And Is Healed Because of Her Faith

25 And a woman — being in a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and having suffered many things by many physicians, and having spent everything of hers and not having been benefitted at all, but rather having come to the worse, 27 having heard about Jesus, having come in the crowd from behind— touched His garment. 28 For she was saying that “If I touch even His garments, I will be restored”. 29 And immediately the fountain of her blood was dried-up, and she knew in her body that she had been healed from the scourge. 30 And immediately Jesus— having known in Himself the power having gone forth from Him, having turned around in the crowd— was saying “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples were saying to Him, “You see the crowd pressing-upon You and You say ‘Who touched Me?’” 32 And He was looking around to see the one having done this. 33 And the woman— having become afraid, and while trembling, knowing what had happened to her— came and fell-before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And the One said to her, “Daughter, your faith has restored you. Go in peace and be healthy from your scourge”.

The Daughter Dies Before Jesus Arrives. He Raises Her From The Dead

35 While He is still speaking, they come from [the house of] the synagogue-official, saying that “Your daughter died. Why are you troubling the Teacher further?” 36 But Jesus, having ignored the statement being spoken, says to the synagogue-official, “Do not be fearing, only be believing”. 37 And He did not permit anyone to follow with Him except Peter and James and John (the brother of James). 38 And they come to the house of the synagogue official, and He sees a commotion and ones weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And having gone in, He says to them, “Why are you being thrown-into-a-commotion, and weeping? The child did not die, but is sleeping”. 40 And they were laughing-scornfully at Him. But He, having put everyone out, takes along the father of the child and the mother and the ones with Him, and proceeds in where the child was. 41 And having taken hold of the hand of the child, He says to her, “Talitha koum” (which being translated is “Little-girl, I say to you, arise”). 42 And immediately the little girl stood-up and was walking around (for she was twelve years old). And immediately they were astonished with great astonishment. 43 And He gave-orders to them strictly that no one should know this. And He said that something should be given to her to eat.

There’s Mark’s spell for today, a “pericope,” a little story complete in itself like a slice cut from a tree trunk. It’s well known and one of my favorites. I meant to have it for discussion in our adult Sunday School class this morning, but it’s likely that our whole hour will be spent chatting about the goings on at our churchwide General Convention in Salt Lake City, so I’ll write a little about the gospel now.

I like the DLNT because rather than a rendition that’s smooth in modern English, the translator tries to give us the sense of how Mark actually told it, wrote it, and how he meant his first audience to hear it — and we can also notice some of Mark’s writing peculiarities. To keep this short, I won’t elaborate.

Mark likes to put us in suspense here. The main story is about the little girl, I like to call her Talitha, which is Aramaic for “little girl.” Talitha is deathly ill, and we start worrying about her and whether Jesus will get there in time to save her. But he gets distracted by this nonemergency of a pathetic old woman, raising our anxiety about Talitha. Hurry up, hurry up, please hurry, will you hurry up, a little girl is dying, will you hurry up, for heavens sake. And while he’s fooling around chatting with his disciples about somebody touched his robe, and stopping to visit with this old woman, the little girl dies. We know the story, of course, so the plot is spoiled for us, but hearing it the first time, Mark’s audience did not know. It turns out that time and death are no obstacles to Jesus’ power, he simply takes Talitha by the hand and speaks gently to her, and she is well. For one who adores daughters and worries about them as I do, it’s the most moving story in all Scripture. 

The story of the woman with the issue of blood is dynamite too, and look how cleverly Mark has created such tension for his audience, as slowly we come to realize who and what this man Jesus really is. It’s a story to stir our faith, isn’t it. For discussion, the old woman had faith, but Talitha has no faith, in fact by the time the story is over she’s dead and beyond faith; rather, it’s her father’s faith in coming to Christ, and Jesus’ power, that saves her.

It’s four o’clock now, and I hear thunder, but my “Titan” weather app shows just a small storm that will move quickly through and be gone before time to leave for church.

The other things I want to mention about Mark have to do with his style and agenda, and are maybe more subtle than the faith story about Talitha and the old woman. These things show up especially well in the DLNT, which is why I like it so much.

Notice that Mark has this writing peculiarity of beginning almost every new thought with “and,” which leaves us breathless as we rush through his gospel. He increases the sense of urgency by rushing along through each step of his pericopes with the word “immediately.” No scholar, but I think Mark does it on purpose as part of what I discern as his overall agenda of leaving us totally frustrated at the end of the story, when nobody but the demons and the Roman centurion have realized who Jesus is, not even the women at the empty tomb, and stirring us to jump up and rush out to proclaim Jesus. I think Mark is the ultimate evangelist, because he tells his story in such a way as to make evangelists of us.

Anyway. The other thing is the so-called “markan secret” or “messianic secret” in which for some reason or reasons that Bible scholars have puzzled over and argued about for twenty centuries now, Jesus tells the witness or witnesses around him not to tell anyone — about himself, or who he is, or what he has done. That oddity of Mark also shows up in today’s reading.

Oh, I nearly forgot. The DLNT shows, as our NRSV does not, Mark's use of something called the "historical present." Instead of flattening a story out by telling it all in the past tense (as our modern translators do, what a shame), Mark brings us into the story live by telling parts in the present tense, part of the breathlessness of his gospel and his style. I really like that, and I'm sorry that almost all modern translations fail to give us that wonderful sense in Mark's marvelous storytelling. 

So there you go. Time for another cup of coffee.


TW+

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