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Bible Greek Jesus

Imagining the Dead Passages

Sometimes it’s the dead passages that draw you in and pique your curiosity — passages where there is no seemingly significant action. I’ll try to describe what I mean with two examples that I couldn’t help but visualize and imagine how the scene might look and feel.

Mark 10:32

What in the world is happening in this verse? Jesus has just finished some particularly hard teaching, but reading this verse still felt like a jolt.

Ἦσαν δὲ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀναβαίνοντες εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, καὶ ἦν προάγων αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, καὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο· οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο.Now, they were on the road going up to Jerusalem. Jesus was walking ahead of them, and they were amazed. And those who were following were afraid.

I don’t see a direct connection to what happens before this verse and the state of consternation and fear in those who watch Jesus walking along ahead of them. I guess they are watching him. I visualize the passage through the eyes of those following behind, looking at Jesus and feeling fear and wonder. I don’t see a particularly strong connection to what follows either.

To me, 10:32 seems like a somewhat random verse. In another sense, however, it captures what I sense as a strange mood of confusion and disorientation present in the middle of Mark. I mentioned this mood on Twitter and towards the end of the previous post.

What does he look like as he walks up ahead? Is he frustrated or sad? What are those around you whispering as they articulate their fear and amazement?

Mark 11:11–12

This seems like a classic calm before the bar fight movie scene. He enters the place where the confrontation will happen. He looks around, and you think it might happen. But he leaves, and we wait for tomorrow.

Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς τὸ ἱερόν, καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντα, ὀψίας ἤδη οὔσης τῆς ὥρας, ἐξῆλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα. Καὶ τῇ ἐπαύριον …And he went into Jerusalem, into the temple, and having looked around at everything, because the hour was late, he went out into Bethany with the twelve. And on the next day …

What did he do that evening? After he checked out the place, what was his demeanor like, and what were the conversation like with his friend around the fire? How early did he go to bed? Did he stare up at the sky that night? Was he rehearsing exactly what he would say and do in the temple the next day?

The next day he went into the temple and turned the place upside down. There is a really interesting point in that scene where he wouldn’t let anyone carry anything through the temple, but that is another story for another post. It’s not exactly a dead passage.