Just as he was

On Saturday we had an excellent 3-hour session at church on “Reading the Bible in a way that grips your heart”. As part of this we were exploring  in a small group the passage Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms the storm. While this account was familiar to us, by entering into the dramatic situation and exploring some of the details we all gained new insights.

One little phrase which  we puzzled over was “just as he was” in verse 36:

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. (New International Version)

Why did Mark include this little phrase? Somebody in the group asked how we had translated it in Kasem. Prepared for everything I fired up my laptop and found the passage. Initially I was concerned that we had left it out altogether! But a closer look showed that we had taken the phrase in a slightly different way, literally:

As Jesus was sitting in the boat like that, they took him, went away and left the crowd behind. (Kasem back translation)

Turning to the Greek text there is some ambiguity in how the phrase “as he-was” should be connected with the surrounding context:

and leaving the crowd they-took-along him as he-was in the boat (Greek back translation)

With a lack of punctuation in the Greek, we can see how two slightly different meanings may arise depending on whether as he-was is primarily linked with the preceding or the following phrase. From the context we know that Jesus was already seated in a boat in order to teach the gathered crowd (Mark 4:1). So it makes sense to take  the phrase here to be connected with the following: as he-was in the boat. This is how the Good News Bible takes it:

the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. (GNB)

Either way, you get a picture of the disciples taking charge of their rabbi who was physically worn out at the end of a busy day of teaching, saying to each other something like this:

“Teacher wants to get off to the other side of the lake and he’s in no fit state to do anything for himself. No point in moving him—just give him a cushion to make himself comfortable at the back of the boat where he won’t be in the way. We can handle it.”

How soon though the disciples realise they are in a situation they cannot handle themselves, as a storm whips up and seasoned fisherman call on the sleeping carpenter to rescue them. No wonder they end up with the question on their minds, “Who is this?!”

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3 responses to “Just as he was

  1. Oh I like this story about your discussion! It just goes to show how very, very careful we need to be when reading something in translation and inadvertantly attaching too much importance to every nuance of the text and building too much upon it. And ultimately, the precise original intention doesn’t matter in the overall context. However much we think we are in control, in our element, playing to our strengths, in our comfort zone – we can so quickly find ourselves after all out of control, weaker than we could have imagined and terrified for our very lives. At which point we remember, turn to and are saved by Jesus.
    Incidentally, this very gospel story was in my mind last Thursday evening when I was driving home down the A34 after dark and was struck by a severe cloudburst – couldn’t see a thing even with double-speed wipers, nowhere to pull off as all laybays were full of HGVs parked up for the night. Fog lights on to make sure I was visible, I and many others were keeping speed right down and a good stopping distance – but otherwise helpless as vehicles zoomed past at over 70 mph. All I could do was place myself and my life firmly in the hands of the carpenter and drive as safely as I could manage.

  2. Thanks, Dorothy. Even after over 40 years of working in the scriptures I find there are new treasures to be dug up. It’s also good to know that Jesus no longer has to be shaken awake to respond to our needs. Interestingly someone else in our discussion group mentioned the need for Jesus to protect him from the dangers of driving on the M25, often out of his control.

  3. Pingback: Bible and Mission Links 25 | Kouyanet

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