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Bible Greek Jesus

Breaking the Fourth Wall

When you read scripture, do any of the characters ever look directly into the camera? I was discussing this phenomenon with a friend once, and he told me the theater term for this is “breaking the fourth wall.”

New Oxford American Dictionary
New Oxford American Dictionary

Mark 14:41 is a perfect example. Here, Jesus and the disciples are in the garden. He has come for the third time and found them sleeping. Jesus is standing over three of his friends as they sleep, and no one else is in the scene.

This time, instead of encouraging them to watch and pray, Jesus says, “Sleep on, and rest. It’s fine.” I imagine him looking down at the disciples because though they are sleeping he is clearly speaking to them. In the next sentence, however, he starts to look up, directly into the camera.

The transition happens as he says, “The hour has come,” and by the next word he is staring directly into your eyes. “Look,” he says, “the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Who else would he be talking to but the reader?

Sure, he could still be looking at the sleeping disciples, but do you really say “look” to sleeping people? It is your attention, no one else’s in the scene, that ἰδού is intended to grab. (That is the word I’m translating “look,” traditionally rendered behold.) If that word is intended by the author to grab your attention, then why wouldn’t you imagine the character who is saying it to be looking at you, the reader?

In the next sentence, Jesus turns back to the disciples and says, “Get up. Let’s go. The one betraying me is here.” For one brief moment in the garden, however, Jesus breaks the fourth wall. With heavy eyes and a heavy heart, no doubt, he invites you the reader to look and watch.