Temples and Leprous Houses

October 8, 2006 | 38 comments
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Upon seeing this title, my husband asked, “Was that the ancient Hebrew equivalent of Better Homes and Gardens?” Not quite, dear. Leviticus 14 establishes the procedure for cleansing a leprous house. (As to what that actually meant: probably mold. Maybe fungus.) The basic outline involved four steps:

(1) the priest empties the house (Lev 14:36)

(2) the priest examines the house (Lev 14:37)

(3) after a week-long waiting period, the priest examines the house again to see if the situation is better or incurable (Lev 14:44)

(4) if the corruption is too severe, the house must be destroyed, and it is done is a (somewhat peculiar, even for Leviticus) manner: “And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place” (Lev 14:45).

Why do we care about this? Because it appears that a section of Mark’s Gospel is patterned after the procedure for cleansing a leprous house, except that the leprous house is . . . the temple. Ouch! Here’s how it works:

(1) Jesus ‘empties the house’ when he empties the temple (Mark 11:15)

(2) Jesus examines the house through a series of discussions aimed at assessing the extent of the corruption of the current leadership (Mark 11:27-12:37)

(3) the extent of the corruption is established as it is realized that the law has been inverted: instead of the leadership taking care of widows, a widow is supporting a corrupt leadership (Mark 12:38-44)

(4) the destruction of the leprous house is accomplished prophetically (note the extremely similar wording to Lev 14:45):

And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Mark 13:2)

Sidenote: It is very difficult to understand Mark 13:2 in any context besides a comparison to a leprous house, since–while the temple was in fact destroyed–it was not literally left so that there was not one stone upon another. In fact, most arguments for dating the Gospel of Mark to 67 or 68 (which is the generally accepted date) rely on the fact that 13:2 would almost certainly have been cleaned up if it had been written later–no one want to make Jesus look like a false prophet!

Now, everything above I’ve, er, borrowed from an article called “No Stone upon Another: Leprosy and the Temple” by J. Duncan M. Derrett. But there’s another link between the temple and leprous house that Derrett missed–Mark 14:3:

And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. (Mark 14:3)

When Jesus is anointed (more on this story here), it (among other things) follows the pattern of the royal anointing of ancient Israel (i.e., the ceremony by which a king is made a king; cf. 1 Samuel 10:1f) and, by rights, the anointing should happen in the temple. But where does it happen in Mark? In a leprous house. The inversion is complete: the temple has been dismissed as incurably leprous and the leper’s house becomes the scene of a temple rite. The advent of Christ truly has made all things new; the first become last and the last first as the presence of Jesus sanctifies a leper’s home.

38 Responses to Temples and Leprous Houses

  1. Idahospud on October 8, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Julie, I love your scriptural exegeses, and hope you continue to do more of them. You are a gifted teacher and scholar.

    Any chance DB or other publishing house will pick up your book for the coming year studying the NT? For those not aware, Julie’s _Search, Ponder, and Pray_ is a study of the Gospels outlined in question format, and her insights are extraordinary. I finally got my copy back that I had lent out, and I’m looking forward to using it as the new SS year approaches.

    Thank you.

  2. Clair on October 8, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    This is waaay too obvious, in hindsight. How can the Book of Mark be 2000 years old and this hasn’t been noticed until now? What else are we missing?

    Many thanks.

  3. Julie M. Smith on October 8, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks, Idahospud.

    Clair asks, “How can the Book of Mark be 2000 years old and this hasn’t been noticed until now? ”

    The short answer is that for 1900 of those years, it was assumed that Mark was nothing more than an abridgement of Matthew and therefore not worthy of study in its own right. Virtually nothing was written on Mark until it was proposed that Mark was written first. Now, Mark gets lots and lots of attention, but the one thing true about patterns is that they are usually only obvious in hindsight :).

  4. Adam Greenwood on October 8, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Vaya, vaya. Thanks, Julie M. Smith.

  5. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 8, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    Julie, I love your scriptural exegeses, and hope you continue to do more of them. You are a gifted teacher and scholar.

    Amen.

    What else are we missing?

    Reading David O McKay, Joseph F. Smith and Brigham Young on the equality of women (such as Brigham Young’s sermon on how women make just as good of shopkeepers, accountants, lawyers, doctors and politicians as men, the only thing they don’t do as well is dig ditches …) and how their audiences missed the point, I used to ponder what were we being told now that we were just oblivious to.

  6. The Voyeur on October 9, 2006 at 9:48 am

    Simon wasn\’t a leper, he was a potter. If he were a leper, he wouldn\’t have been living in the town.

    Mary anointed Jesus, not a prophet of God as was the case of Shemuel\’s anointing of Saul and David. And John\’s account makes it clear Mary anointed Jesus\’ head and feet, and wiped it with her hair. This has nothing to do with the anointing of a king of Israel.

    Furthermore, Jesus interprets Mary\’s actions himself, stating it is in preparation of his burial. Also note Matthew, who is very much interested in providing proof texts of Jesus being the Messiah, ignores what you suggest.

    The reason Derrett \”missed\” the link, is because it does not exist.

  7. Linda Youngblood on October 9, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Then what you are saying, if I understand you correctly, is that Christ was symbolically annointed King of Kings in a leper\’s house. If this is so, then what hasn\’t been mentioned is that His symbolic annointing was done by a woman. Wow…the whole concept is left pregnant with meaning (excuse the pun). Linda

  8. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    The Voyeur,

    Your link isn’t working; please try it again.

    “If he were a leper, he wouldn\’t have been living in the town.”

    This is a possibility: that it is his house, but he isn’t there. Another is that Jesus is healed him and another is that Jesus is radically negating purity laws.

    Re your reference to Mary and John’s account: If you’d like for me to open another thread where we can discuss this story from a historical or form critical perspective, I’d be happy to do that because those are interesting questions. But they aren’t germane to a thread that approaches the story from a literary perspective. Mark doesn’t have a “Mary” in this story and Mark isn’t concerned with John’s account that won’t, of course, even be written for another generation.

    I think your larger point, however, is that Mary (i.e., a woman) couldn’t have done an anointing with messianic overtones. I don’t accept that assumption however, especially given Mark’s numerous gender inversals, especially those in close proximity to this story (i.e., a man carrying a pitcher of water).

    Jesus’ interpretation doesn’t prohibit other interpretations and it isn’t hard to see why he might have chosen to not mention other interpretations given his audience’s level of understanding. As far as Matthew: it is clear that Matthew puts this story to very different use, so I wouldn’t have expected the OT prooftexting there.

    Linda, yes.

  9. The Voyeur on October 9, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    The link is:

    http://www.aramaicnt.org/HTML/MATTHEW/evidences/Simon.html

    If it gets stripped out by your WordPress, google “simon leper” and click “I’m feeling lucky”.

    Ms. Smith, you are presenting a series of possibilities that are little more than arguments from silence. The peshat is that he is not a leper, but is a potter, according to the Aramaic and the plain historical context of the Law of Moses.

    Ignoring the parallel accounts of Matthew and John in order to force your own reading only shows how far you are willing to go to avoid the peshat in order to fabricate this “feminist reading”.

    Occasional thematic gender reversals do not a prophet make. The woman is not a prophet, is not called of God, is not doing anything but anointing Jesus for burial, as he indicates himself. There is nothing messianic in the anointing, nothing at all. None of the gospel authors even hint at it. And it is not a temple rite, as you suggest, not by Shemuel, not by Mariah, not in any historical context. You have to inject a uniquely Mormon context of Mariah’s anointing of Jesus to get a temple context via the second anointing, and if you do that, then you must admit the context is that of burial and nothing else.

    You are forwarding a reading entirely without support in the text, and it ignores the original language and historical context. The entire premise of your reading is that of being in a leper’s house. Your defense is that the leper is not there or is no longer a leper. In others words, it is not a leper’s house. You have to overreach to make your point, and in doing so, fall over.

  10. Ben on October 9, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    “according to the Aramaic and the plain historical context of the Law of Moses.”

    I was unaware we had any original Aramaic text underlying the Greek of Mark. Syriac, sure, but that’s later and a (back)-translation from the Greek. No English versions translate according to this later Syriac interpretation (NRSV, NIV, NET, NEB, KJV, NAB, or any of the other 20-odd versions I was able to check. The Complete Jewish Bible just says tsara’at, the Hebrew word for leprosy.)

    Bruce Metzger doesn’t list it as a significant variant in his Textual Commentary on the Greek NT.

    The Nestle-Aland critical apparatus also doesn’t see fit to grace us with a reference to this Syriac interpretation.

    Accusations of “forcing a reading” seem somewhat out-of-place, seeing as how no one has adopted the one you cite.

  11. The Voyeur on October 9, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Ben,

    Jesus did not speak Greek, he spoke Aramaic. A common sense approach to the Aramaic fits here, the same as it does Matthew 19:24 camel/rope. This one is only more obscure, because Christians generally do not understand the Law.

    A leper would not be found in a house or owning a house because the Law of Moses excluded them from the community, this forces the reader to reevaluate the text, because the peshat makes no sense according to an easily established context. So you look at the original language, Aramaic, and discover the words for “potter” and “leper” are very similar in Aramaic. It makes sense. A potter would have a home in a community, a leper would not. Translating from Greek to Hebrew and back again offers nothing useful, anything more than translating from Greek to English and back again does. Perhaps you would like to offer some explanation, in the light of the Law of Moses, why a leper had a home? It makes no sense. Arguing that Jesus was an iconoclast who ate with sinners and publicans does not hold in the context of infectious disease.

    If you want to use scholarly adoption as a test of rightness, you must reject Ms. Smith’s reading outright since it is certainly novel and unadopted.

  12. Ben on October 9, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Show me that the shift works in 1st century Palestinian Aramaic instead of Syriac and we’ll talk :)

    And, btw, there is some argument that Jesus could speak Greek (though he probably didn’t teach in it) from no less a Semiticist than Joseph Fitzmeyer.

    “Ms. Smith’s” reading has the excuse of novelty. How long has your Syriac “solution” to this “crux” been around and yet not been adopted?

  13. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    The Voyeur,

    Again, your historical (i.e., Aramaic) arguments would be very interesting on a thread about the historical act described in this passage. But they are completely irrelevant to a literary reading, unless you care the make the argument that Mark wrote in Aramaic, which I think is a tough sell. Further, the page you link seems to have no appreciation for the irony and characterization (again: literary reading) issues in Mark.

    “Ignoring the parallel accounts of Matthew and John in order to force your own reading only shows how far you are willing to go to avoid the peshat in order to fabricate this “feminist readingâ€?.”

    Mark did not have access to John. Matthew makes a different point with this story. I wonder why you seem so unwilling to engage a literary reading of Mark. Again, I’d be happy to open another thread on historical and redactional issues, but they just aren’t relevant in the context of a literary reading.

    I don’t need to interject a Mormon reading: the messianic context is established several ways; as I explain here: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2918.

    “Jesus did not speak Greek, he spoke Aramaic. ”

    But Jesus isn’t speaking in verse 3; there’s no solid reason to expect Aramaic to underlie the narration.

    “A leper would not be found in a house or owning a house because the Law of Moses excluded them from the community,”

    Again: he may not be in the house, he may be healed, Jesus may be negating ritual purity requirements (as he does when, for example, he touches dead bodies). But most likely: Mark, as a storyteller, is toying with the reader’s (1) shock and (2) inability to determine which option is correct.

  14. Robert C. on October 9, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    (Warning: I’m feeding the threadjack about whether Simon is a leper or a potter, so please skip if you’re not interested.)

    The Word Biblical Commentary argues that the Bethany mentioned in Mark 14:3 is not the “Bethany beyond Jordan” in John 1:19-28 but the region of Batanea documented in the temple scroll from Qumran Cave 11: “And you shall make three places to the east of the city, separated from one another, to which shall come the lepers and those afflicted with discharge.â€?

    The WBC continues: “This does not mean that Simon was still leprous on the occasion of Jesus’ visit; this is quite improbable (for the disciples and the unnamed woman would scarcely have gone into this man’s house for a meal). This Simon had been a leper, but now was cleansed, perhaps by Jesus. Reference to “Simon the leperâ€? has occasioned speculation. Torrey (Four Gospels, 101; Our Translated Gospels, 96) suggests that the description of Simon as “the leper,â€? has resulted from mistranslating the Aramaic גרב×? gÄ?rÄ?bÄ?’, a “jar-merchant.â€? The same consonants can be vocalized as garbÄ?’, meaning λεπÏ?ός, “leper.â€? Black (Aramaic Approach, 9), however, points out that garbÄ?’ is the usual vocalization, that it always means “leper,â€? and that there is no lexical evidence for gÄ?rÄ?bÄ?’ meaning “jar-merchant.â€?

    __

    Black, M. An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts. 3rd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967.

  15. The Voyeur on October 9, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    Mr. Ben,

    This passage in Aramaic has the same relevance Matt. 19:24 in Aramic as in Aramaic.

    How long has the Matt. 19:24 explanation of camel/rope been around and yet totally fabricated “eye of the needle” interpolation of a gate in Jerusalem is perpetuated ad nauseum? Your appeal to scholarly adoption or lack thereof is not compelling either way. The simple fact of the matter is the passage makes no sense in the light of the Law of Moses.

    Besides Mr. Robert indicates some other scholarly source does advocate the reading. Does that convince you?

    Ms. Smith,

    You did not attempt to propose a “literary reading” until the original details were challenged and shown to be flawed. Now you are appealing to an acontextual “literary reading”, developed in a vacuum as though other authoritative accounts do not exist, in order to deal with clear problems in your highly speculative reading. Your approach is the same as any postmodern deconstructionist who fabricates readings at will. You have to ignore a great deal of evidence to defend. More evidence than Derrett is clearly willing to ignore. I am unwilling to entertain a “literary reading” because you are making the rules up as you go rather than admit your reading is wrong.

    No solid reason to accept Aramaic underlying the narrative? You must be joking. They all spoke Aramaic, not Greek. And your speculations over why he might not have been “Simon the leper” and yet still “Simon the leper” are just that, speculations, after the fact, none of which are even hinted at in the text. Show one indisputable example outside the current one of Mark deliberately attempting to shock or baffle the reader in an attempt to convey some sort of hidden meaning.

    Ms. Smith, your reading on this passage is weak, at the very best, and unsuportable in any kind of rigorous reading when challeneged. You offer others no mercy when they have made what you think are errors in Scriptural exegesis. Why is it you expect leniency when you offer none?

    Mr. Robert,

    What does your WBC have to say on the Aramaic camel/rope issue of Matt. 19:24? One that is well known.

  16. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    Robert C., that WBC quote is very interesting and something I haven’t considered before (i.e., the ‘other’ Bethany). One thing about it that I don’t get is this: the WBS seems to say in the 2nd paragraph that Jesus and co. would never have dined in a leper’s house but in the 1st seems to say that they would (and did) go into a leprous area. I don’t get this: if they are concerned enough about impurity to avoid a leper’s house, why would they go into an entire area of leper’s houses?

    Voyeur writes, “You did not attempt to propose a “literary readingâ€? until the original details were challenged and shown to be flawed.”

    The entire original post is a literary reading.

    “Now you are appealing to an acontextual “literary readingâ€?, developed in a vacuum as though other authoritative accounts do not exist, in order to deal with clear problems in your highly speculative reading.”

    John did not in fact exist when Mark was written. Neither did Matthew for that matter.

    “Your approach is the same as any postmodern deconstructionist who fabricates readings at will.”

    There is a wide difference between literary criticism in biblical studies and deconstructionist biblical studies.

    “No solid reason to accept Aramaic underlying the narrative? You must be joking. They all spoke Aramaic, not Greek. ”

    The autograph was in Greek. There’s no justification for assuming the misreading of an Aramaic text as an explanation for a word in a text originally written in Greek. I notice that you basically ignore all of Ben’s excellent reasoning on this and instead point to the camel passage–where one possible explanation is an Aramaic mistranslation, yes, but several other possible explanations exist, such as hyperbole. (There’s something in the rabbinic literature to support this–an elephant going through the eye of a needle, I believe it was.)

    “Show one indisputable example outside the current one of Mark deliberately attempting to shock or baffle the reader in an attempt to convey some sort of hidden meaning.”

    Now you surely must be joking. Syrophenecian woman. Bleeding woman touching his hem and–instead of him becoming unclean–she becomes clean. Jesus going into the tombs in a gentile area. Jesus dining with Gentiles. You’ll note that all of these do exactly the same thing that dining in the home of Simon the leper does: illustrate that Jesus interacted with people in a way that would have caused him–under the Law of Moses–to become unclean but instead rendered the other party clean.

  17. Robert C. on October 9, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Mr. Voyeur #15: The WBC rejects the notion “small gate” interpretation of the camel, considers the Aramaic “rope” interpretation, but ultimately favors the literal “camel” reading based on (1) there being scant evidence for camel in the earliest documents (the argument is that this was an early attempt to weaken the harder impossibility doctrine as taught by Christ), (2) the context seems to allude to OT about nothing being impossible with God (compare Mark 10:27 with Gen 18:14; JOb 10:13; 42:2), and (3) other Rabbinic sayings give similar impossibility statements like this (e.g. Baba Mezia, “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: ‘My sons, present to me an opening no bigger than the eye of a needle, and I will widen it into openings through which wagons and carriages can pass'”). Here is a fairly recent discussion several of us had regarding this issue which goes into a little more detail on typical (recent, scholarly) views on this camel/rope issue.

  18. Robert C. on October 9, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Julie #16: I think the idea is that there may’ve been an area for lepers’ quarters in the east of Jerusalem Bethany (see also Mark 11:1, 11, 12 for this Bethany “near Jerusalem”), not interspersed houses per se (“[Bethany’] may have accommodated quarters for lepers” is the WBC wording—Craig Evans is the author of this particular volume…). I don’t know enough about leper colonies back then to know how likely or strained Evans’ point is. But from a literary point of view, I’m not sure it’s that important: the designation of Simon the leper seems to make your point about Jesus undermining Mosaic expectations….

  19. The Voyeur on October 9, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    The entire original post is a literary reading.

    No, it is not. Your original post is largely derivative from Derrett’s commentary, wherein he draws parallels between the cited Leviticus text and the Markan text. That is NOT a literary reading, it is straight exegesis. He is interpreting the meaning of an NT text in the light of an ancient Hebrew one. This is classical exegesis, not “literary reading”. You then continue with his line of thought to extrapolate something he allegedly “missed”. It is only when pressed you introduce this “literary reading”, which can pretend other parallel accounts do not exist and plain historical context is irrelevant. If historical context is irrelevant in your “literary reading”, then why even bother to look for parallels between the Leviticus and Markan texts? You cannot have it both ways, Ms. Smith. If historical context is relevant, then Lev, Matt and John are in. If they are not, then none of them are in. You cannot selectively discard the historical texts which are inconvenient to your reading.

    John did not in fact exist when Mark was written. Neither did Matthew for that matter.

    Irrelevant for purposes of exegesis. Both of them are clearly speaking of the same event and serve to inform the reader of what occurred. Ignoring them to forward your reading only weakens your position. The eagerness with which you discard these parallel accounts shows plainly you are not interested in determining the meaning of the events, but only in forwarding your personal viewpoint.

    There is a wide difference between literary criticism in biblical studies and deconstructionist biblical studies.

    You have bridged that gap in the position you are now defending.

    The autograph was in Greek. There’s no justification for assuming the misreading of an Aramaic text as an explanation for a word in a text originally written in Greek. I notice that you basically ignore all of Ben’s excellent reasoning on this and instead point to the camel passage–where one possible explanation is an Aramaic mistranslation, yes, but several other possible explanations exist, such as hyperbole. (There’s something in the rabbinic literature to support this–an elephant going through the eye of a needle, I believe it was.)

    There is a lot of justification for assuming the misreading of Aramaic to Greek. You just do not want to see it, because it undermines your position. Rather than admit that, you twist and turn, pretending they did not speak Aramaic.

    I did not ignore any of Mr. Ben’s comments. His appeal was for scholarly support of the Aramic, and I addressed that appeal by presenting a similar case which is widely regarded among the scholarly community. Nothing was ignored. His main point was addressed.

    You, however, are ignoring a lot of the problems with your reading that I point out. For example, you have ignored the fact that Mariah’s anointing does not parallel Shemuel’s at all as you suggest, or would you pretend it was not Mariah who anointed him, but some woman. Shemuel was a prophet sent by God to anoint a king, Mariah was a woman who anointed Jesus for his burial. And you ignore the fact that none of the gospel authors, not even Mark, even remotely suggest there is anything messianic about the passage at all, not one. And all of them, including Mark, plainly present Jesus as saying it is for his burial, and not anything else. Suggesting anything else is grasping at straws.

    Now you surely must be joking. Syrophenecian woman. Bleeding woman touching his hem and–instead of him becoming unclean–she becomes clean. Jesus going into the tombs in a gentile area. Jesus dining with Gentiles. You’ll note that all of these do exactly the same thing that dining in the home of Simon the leper does: illustrate that Jesus interacted with people in a way that would have caused him–under the Law of Moses–to become unclean but instead rendered the other party clean.

    Ms. Smith, in all of these cases the author explicitly presents the case without ambiguity, so they do not support your position at all. Mark is not attempting to shock or baffle the reader, he lays out the situation plainly and clearly lays the ground work for the theological import. All of these cases bolster my position and weaken yours because in every single case the peshat of the text is Mark’s intent.

    In the present text Mark in no way ties any of the events of the anointing in any way to there being some connection to the house of a leper, not in any way. Mark makes some offhand comment and you take it way beyond anything the author ever suggested or hinted at. There is absolutely nothing in the context to suggest theological import to the context of it being in a leper’s home, completely unlike all of the cases you present. Jesus being an iconoclast does not make your weak acontextual readings any less weak or acontextual. His being an iconoclast does not mean you can make things up and inject them into the text whenever you like. The peshat of Mark’s text is Jesus is being anointed for burial.

    Jesus interprets the actions of Mariah, and your interpretation is completely at odds with his. Your reading is also completely contrary to the literary straightforwardness of Mark’s consistent pattern of presenting the peshat of the text as his intent, which you contradict by pretending there is some shock or hidden meaning. Mark simply does not do this, and the examples your provide prove it.

    Again, Ms. Smith, when you attack others so vigorously for failing to follow plain contextual exegesis, why do you expect to be let off the hook and be allowed to fabricate things as you see fit?

  20. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 10:19 pm

    Voyeur, I apologize: I should have realized after your first few comments that a rational discussion would not be possible with you. Your ideas (i.e., that Mark was originally written in Aramaic, that John’s Gospel–which was not yet written when Mark wrote–should be used to determine what Mark meant, etc.) are so far outside of the mainstream of scholarship that I see no point in continuing to discuss this with you.

    I am tempted to respond to your assertions point by point only because I am concerned that other readers who are unfamiliar with the issues might think that there is some validity to your illogical and egregious assertions, but I’ll refrain. I’ll just remind everyone what Ben’s qualifications are for the arguments that he made and what Voyeur’s are and let that speak for the rest of the discussion.

  21. Robert C. on October 9, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    I didn’t see many arguments in #19 to respond to but the conversation has made me curious to what extent “mainstream academic discussion” views the annointing idea in Mark 14:3 as plausible. Unfortunately, I don’t have the Anchor Bible on hand, but the two sources I do have handy couch the annointing allusion here in surprisingly (at least to me) strong terms:

    The WBC (Craig Evans) cites a classic study by C. E. B. Cranfield, “Cranfield (415) comments that it is ‘not likely that the woman thought of herself as anointing the Messiah, but Mark doubtless intended his readers to recognize the messianic significance of her actions.'” (Evans, C. A. (2002). Vol. 34B: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 8:27-16:20. Word Biblical Commentary (360). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.) Other OT kingly annointing allsusions cited are: 2 Kgs 9:6 (same LXX wording); Ex 29:7; 1 Sam 10:1; 2 Kgs 9:3; Ps 133:2.

    The Oxford Bible Commentary (C. M. Tuckett) writes, “As we shall see, much of the passion narrative is dominated by the idea that Jesus is a king: he will be mocked as a king, and crucified as a royal pretender. So too he has entered Jerusalem in royal fashion (see Mark 11:1-10). Annointing is also an act associated with a king: Jesus then is portrayed here as the annointed royal figure who as such, goes to his death.”

  22. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks, Robert C., and your sources are spot on: there is no serious debate that the anointing as used by Mark has messianic significance.

    (But it burns my britches that commentators think that the woman didn’t know the significance of her actions because I find it unlikely that they would make that argument if the anointer had been male. It’s kind of like the reams of speculation as to what the sin was of the woman in Luke 7 who anoints Jesus–but no one ever speculates on what Peter’s sins were when he tells Jesus to depart from him because he was a sinful man. End feminist rant.)

  23. Robert C. on October 9, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    Re feminist rant in #22: Hmm, I think you have a good point. I think if one accepts the idea that the woman was intended annointing for burial, one has just as much reason to accept the messianic intent. In the Markan passage, Evans writes, following the Cranfield quote:

    Why would the woman not think of her action as a messianic anointing? Her action was spontaneous and impromptu and would not have been interpreted in any official sense, to be sure, but anointing the head of one whom she and the disciples regarded as Israel’s Messiah would in all probability have been perceived in a messianic sense.

    Why is this act considered spontaneous? Unexpected from the other disciples perspective, sure, but why should we think of her act as spontaneous? In the John 12:1-8 account, I can see why the reader might think this (the drying of tears with her hair suggests spontaneity), but it seems to me like most regard the Johnanine account as a hybrid of two different events (per Luke 7:36-38 and Mark 14:3-9) mixing the more-spontaneous hair drying in Luke with the Markan text….

  24. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    Exactly, Robert C. It strains credulity that someone would just happen to be walking down the street with tens of thousands of dollars of ointment, walk in uninvited to a dinner party, and anoint the head of the guest of honor as a ‘spontaneous’ and ‘impromptu’ act.

  25. Julie M. Smith on October 9, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    I will add, though, that I am sympathetic to scholars who say that the woman had no idea what she was doing because if you grant that she did know, she becomes the single most important character (except for Jesus, of course)–and this becomes the single most important story– in Mark’s Gospel and, obviously, many people will be uncomfortable with the implications of that.

    You would have thought v9 would have set the issue at rest (when does Jesus ever talk about anyone or anything else that way?), but alas . . .

  26. The Voyeur on October 10, 2006 at 8:26 am

    Ms. Smith,

    Voyeur, I apologize: I should have realized after your first few comments that a rational discussion would not be possible with you.

    How gracious of you to resort to ad hominems rather than address the subject at hand. You accuse me of ignoring the subject, and then you wholeheartedly ignore the subject at hand. Hypocrite.

    Your ideas (i.e., that Mark was originally written in Aramaic,

    I never said or even suggested any such thing. That is false attribution, Ms. Smith. This reflects poorly on you.

    that John’s Gospel–which was not yet written when Mark wrote–should be used to determine what Mark meant, etc.) are so far outside of the mainstream of scholarship that I see no point in continuing to discuss this with you.

    Ms. Smith, all Biblical commentators use related texts to explain the text at hand. You advocate the very same thing above in the original post in using Leviticus to interpret Mark. Now you reject it? Why? Because it undermines your dubious reading.

    I am tempted to respond to your assertions point by point only because I am concerned that other readers who are unfamiliar with the issues might think that there is some validity to your illogical and egregious assertions, but I’ll refrain.

    You refrain only because you can not do so without exposing the weakness of your position. How is practicing standard exegesis illogical and egregious? It is not. What you are doing is ripping a text out of its historical context, ignoring parallel accounts of the same event and then torturing the text to fit your self-serving ideas. You selectively apply rules of exegesis when they suit your needs, and then selectively ignore them when they do not.

    I’ll just remind everyone what Ben’s qualifications are for the arguments that he made and what Voyeur’s are and let that speak for the rest of the discussion.

    Ms. Smith, I addressed Mr. Ben’s questions regarding the applicability and utility of the Aramaic with respect to discussion at hand. At no point did I ignore them. His appeal was for additional scholarly uptake of the possibility of Aramaic influence on the Greek of the passage we are discussing, and Mr. Robert presented evidence that there was scholarly uptake of it. How then does that do anything for Mr. Ben’s argument against mine? Nothing. You are desperately grasping at straws in attempting to appeal to Mr. Ben’s qualifications.

    You are bowing out of the discussion because your position is indefensible, and not for any other reason. Pretending anything otherwise is simply dishonest.

    Re #21, Mr. Robert, whether there is a remote possibility of there being messianic overtones is irrelevant to Ms. Smith’s original argument. Her original argument, which she is eager to avoid, is that Derrett “missed” something that she caught. That the anointing was part of a temple rite of anointing a messianic king in a leper’s home which was designed to overthrow Herod’s temple. Whether the use of oil in anointing a person has messianic overtones is without question as moshiach means “anointed”, so it would be impossible to divorce the word from that context, you cannot break a tautology. But, Ms. Smith takes this scrap of evidence and spins a wild story to futher her position. Her story falls apart not in the anointing, but in everything else she weaves around it. An anointing is messianic, yes, and A is A. Go beyond that, and you have nothing.

    Additionally, Mr. Smith, please note Mark himself, in addition to the other gospel authors, quotes Jesus as explicitly identifying the purpose and meaning of the anointing, namely in preperation for his burial. It is amazing to me that people are willing to ignore such a statement to further their personal agendas. It was a burial anointing, not a kingly anointing. Pretending otherwise is simply deliberate ignorance.

    Re #22, Ms. Smith, male versus female is not the issue at hand. The issue is commissioned prophet of God, such as Shemuel anointing Saul and David, versus woman anointing for burial. Mark and the other authors all explicity state the meaning of the anointing, that it was in preperation of burial, and not for any other reason. Burning feminist britches aside, this is not a feminist issue. It makes no matter whom anointed Jesus for burial, man or woman. An anointing for burial is not a kingly anointing, not by any stretch of the imagination. That Mariah was not a nabi only serves to show how bad your personal reading is.

    Re #23-25. What really strains credulity is the manner in which people ignore the original text, which says it was an anointing for burial, and the parallel texts, which indicate Maraiah also anointed his feet, further divorcing what she did from being a kingly anointing, in order to forward their personal interpretations. Most amazing of all is the manner in which John’s account is ignored and discounted, especially when he was an eye witness to the events.

    Ms. Smith, amazing that you will accept scholarly sources that support your reading, and yet ignore scholarly sources that are hostile to it (ergo, the sources that support the view that Simon was a potter and not a leper). Ms. Smith, you pick and choose what you like and ignore what you do not like.

    Again, why is it you hold others to a standard you yourself do not maintain? You would rake others over the coals, and yet you seek to not have them applied to yourself. You condemn others for what you yourself do.

  27. Ben on October 10, 2006 at 10:09 am

    “This passage in Aramaic has the same relevance Matt. 19:24 in Aramic as in Aramaic.”

    You seem unable to distinguish between Syriac and Aramaic. They are not identical. Jesus did not speak Syriac, nor is the Syriac the source of the Greek text. Matthew Black (as quoted above) who has done much work on the Aramaic background of the Gospels, states that there is no evidence for the “potter” vocalization in Aramaic.

    I will return to studying for my Akkadian exam, and leave you to your stone throwing ;)

  28. The Voyeur on October 10, 2006 at 10:57 am

    Mr. Ben,

    Stone throwing? An accusation from one who apparently adds ammunition to one pile and while taking away from another.

    So it is Torrey who is in favor of the “potter” reading and Black who is not in favor. And you select Black. Your original complaint against the “potter” reading was there was no scholarly uptake. When evidence of scholarly uptake is presented by Mr. Robert, you take the same quote from Mr. Robert and favor the contrary position. Would you care to explain why? Is it simply because “Black…has done much work” or is it something else? Is it your personal background and expertise in Syriac and Aramaic? Is Mr. Black’s expertise sufficient to invalidate Mr. Torrey’s? Is this opinion or fact, based upon what? Akkadian aside, I might conclude, owing to the lack of your own proposed reading on the passage in question and reliance on external authorities, that your skills at Aramaic and Syriac are no better or worse than mine.

    If scholarly uptake is the measure, then Ms. Smith’s reading, as forwarded originally, must be rejected because no scholar has forwarded it. But, if you are going to change positions and favor a particular reading, please explain why. It is obvious Ms. Smith will favor Black’s reading and reject Torrey’s based solely upon her predisposition of the outcome. But, favoring Black’s reading still presents a serious problem with the text: a leper in town when the Law forbids it. Ms. Smith’s forwarded possibilities only hamstring her own reading (ergo, he is no longer a leper but was a leper, Mark is trying to shock us rhetorically), so, in coming to her defense, perhaps you could offer some better reading on why Simon really is a leper and living in town? Favoring Torrey’s reading resolves the problem in the text nicely. What reasons do you, Mr. Ben, propose to be a more objective measure in this matter between Mr Black and Torrey than context?

  29. Julie M. Smith on October 10, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    Voyeur, I meant it when I said that I was done with this discussion with you. You may continue if it pleases you and I will continue to note for the benefit of other readers who are unfamiliar with the issues that your positions are not supported by any reputable scholars.

  30. David Brosnahan on October 10, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Lev. 26: 31 And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.

    Song 1:12 While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

    Song 3: 6,11 Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?. . . 11 Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.

    Song 4:10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!

    Matt 26:7, 12 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious aointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.. . 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it afor my burial.

    Luke 14: 3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

    John 12: 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

    The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
    Chapter XVII.-Beware of False Doctrines.

    For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head,118 that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?

    For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head,119 that His Church might breathe forth immortality. For saith [the Scripture], \”Thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore have the virgins loved Thee; they have drawn Thee; at the odour of Thine ointments we will run after Thee.\”120 Let no one be anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of [the prince of] this world; let not the holy Church of God be led captive by his subtlety, as was the first woman.121 Why do we not, as gifted with reason, act wisely? When we had received from Christ, and had grafted in us the faculty of judging concerning God, why do we fall headlong into ignorance? and why, through a careless neglect of acknowledging the gift which we have received, do we foolishly perish?

  31. Julie M. Smith on October 10, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    David, I’ve always found the Songs 1:3 (that Ignatius quotes) interesting because it makes the link between naming and ointment that is found in Mark 14.

  32. A. Nonny Mouse on October 10, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Don’t mean to flare things up again, but what the devil is a peshat?

  33. Julie M. Smith on October 10, 2006 at 7:43 pm
  34. The Voyeur on October 10, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    #29 Ms. Smith, Mr. Robert presented both supporting and hostile scholarly evidence, so how is there no evidence? But, how ironic you would argue no scholars support my position when in fact no scholars, certainly not Mr. Derrett, support yours. Once again you hold others to standards that you do not apply to yourself.

    You fail to reply for no other reason than your position is indefensible when challenged.

  35. Julie M. Smith on October 10, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    Voyeur, I meant it when I said that I was done with this discussion with you. You may continue if it pleases you and I will continue to note for the benefit of other readers who are unfamiliar with the issues that your positions are not supported by any reputable scholars.

  36. The Voyeur on October 11, 2006 at 6:37 am

    Note to self: When Ms. Smith says “reputable scholar” she means “someone who agrees with her position”, and when she says “discussion” she means “praise and adulation”.

    Ms. Smith, is Derrett a “reputable scholar”? Reputable enough to borrow from, but not reputable enough to recognize he “missed” your connection because it does not exist?

    The reason you are unwilling to discuss this matter is because it impeaches the highly speculative notions forwarded in your Masters Thesis.

  37. Julie M. Smith on October 11, 2006 at 11:04 am

    Voyeur, I meant it when I said that I was done with this discussion with you. You may continue if it pleases you and I will continue to note for the benefit of other readers who are unfamiliar with the issues that your positions are not supported by any reputable scholars.

  38. A. Nonny Mouse on October 11, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Thanks Julie… Don’t know why I didn’t think of the good ol’ Wikipedia.