Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mark 13:30: A Passing Query

Coptic Icon of St. Mark
Booking now for the Little Apocalypse...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Readers may have noticed that my recent blog entries have become shorter. Possibly, they have welcomed this trend but may also have wondered why.

Well, wonder no more. The reason is that the semester is underway, and I am weighed under. Way under. Hmmm... that ought to be a single term: wayunder.
"How's it going this semester?"

"It's well underway, and I'm well wayunder."

"Sorry to hear that. I hope you surface again soon."
But I wanted to focus upon a different linguistic point, one that some Greek expert who happens to read this blog entry might be willing to answer.

A listserve that I participate in is currently focusing on the "Little Apocalypse" of Mark 13, and a possible reading of Mark 13:30 has been suggested. One of the members has put forward the possibility that the statement in Mark 13:30 about "this generation" can be read as referring to the generation in which the apocalyptic events take place.

For convenience, let me post the verse here in the original Greek, in a transliteration, and in my translation (from Textus Receptus, base text being Stephens 1550, with variants of Scrivener 1894):
αμην λεγω υμιν οτι ου μη παρελθη η γενεα αυτη μεχρις ου παντα ταυτα γενηται. (Original Greek, without accents or breathing marks.)

amayn legoe humin hoti ou may parelthay hay genea hautay mechris hou tauta panta genaytai. (My idiosyncratic transliteration: "ay" = long "a," "oe" = long "o," and "ai" = long "i," in the standard English pronunciation of these vowels)

Amen, I say to you that certainly not will pass away the generation, this (one), until these things, all (of them), happen. (My idiosyncratic translation.)
The suggestion has been proposed that "the generation, this (one)" (i.e., "hay genea hautay") could refer to the very generation in which all of the terrible events portending the end of the world, as well as the very end itself, will take place. In other words, within a single generation -- namely, the generation in which these eschatological events begin to be observed -- the entire eschatological process, from beginning to end, will occur.

The point being made by the listserve member is that "this generation" need not refer to the generation of individuals in Mark's Gospel who are depicted as listening to Jesus's words. Instead, it can mean some later generation. This is an interesting suggestion, but in that case, rather than "this generation," I'd expect "that generation" -- the Greek ekeinay (that) rather than hautay (this). Perhaps such an expectation reflects my sense of idiomatic English more than my knowledge of idiomatic Greek. Others with a better knowledge of Greek might let me know whether my Greek intuition here is correct.

In the larger context of Mark 13 (cf. vv. 17 (ekeinais tais haymerais), 19 (hai haymerai ekeinai), and 24 (ekeinais tais haymerais), all three of which refer to "those days"), I can see how one might be tempted to read "this generation" as ambiguous between this generation now and this generation of the apocalyptic times.

Any experts willing to weigh in if they're not too weighed down?

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At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert, but since nobody has commented yet, I thought I would comment--not with respect to your proposed interpretation, but with respect to your text. The Textus Receptus originally referred to the six NT manuscripts that were used by the translators of the KJV. They all came from a particular family of manuscripts, and it was a family that developed somewhat late in the game. The tendency over time was to make texts longer by adding in words, phrases, and formulae from similar texts in the NT. The Textus Receptus is thus longer, but not more reliable than the much earlier manuscripts that have been discovered since the sixteenth century. I recommend you use the standard text published by the United Bible Society.

Having said all that, I haven't looked at the text in question, so I don't know if that point was really worth mentioning with regards to this specific passage.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, for commenting, Nathan. No one else has, so the query must be relatively uninteresting.

I did look at some other texts and didn't notice a difference in the particular verse, though I ought to have checked the entire passage, I admit.

I chose the Textus Receptus merely because I'm partial to the language of the KJV, which relied on the TR. I guess that I ought to break myself of that partiality...

Jeffery Hodges

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