Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mark 1:41 and the ESV

I was reading Bryon's blog on Mark 1:41 and getting ready to right a defense of the NA27 reading disagreeing with Ehrman and supporting the the conservative position (yes I can be fair). The issue with Mark 1:41 is that the evidence is heavily mixed. Here is an excellent text note from the comments on the NET bible which presents the evidence fairly:
The reading found in almost the entire NT ms tradition is σπλαγχνισθείς (splancnisqei", “moved with compassion”). Codex Bezae (D), {1358}, and a few Latin mss (a ff2 r1*) here read ὀργισθείς (ojrgisqei", “moved with anger”). It is more difficult to account for a change from “moved with compassion” to “moved with anger” than it is for a copyist to soften “moved with anger” to “moved with compassion,” making the decision quite difficult. B. M. Metzger (TCGNT 65) suggests that “moved with anger” could have been prompted by 1:43, “Jesus sent the man away with a very strong warning.” It also could have been prompted by the man’s seeming doubt about Jesus’ desire to heal him (v. 40). As well, it is difficult to explain why scribes would be prone to soften the text here but not in Mark 3:5 or 10:14 (where Jesus is also said to be angry or indignant). Thus, in light of diverse mss supporting “moved with compassion,” and at least a plausible explanation for ὀργισθείς as arising from the other reading, it is perhaps best to adopt σπλαγχνισθείς as the original reading. Nevertheless, a decision in this case is not easy. For the best arguments for ὀργισθείς, however, see M. A. Proctor, “The ‘Western’ Text of Mark 1:41: A Case for the Angry Jesus” (Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 1999).
What prompted Bryon's comment I believe was the fact that the IBS had gone from "compassion" (NIV) to "anger" (TNIV). I think compassion with a text note (like the NRSV, NLT, GNT, CEV... do it) is a reasonable position. Because NA27 is meant to be a standard it should err on the conservatism when the evidence is mixed, which in this case staying with the TR/MT reading. And I don't think anyone can say the evidence isn't mixed here. That is I think it is reasonable and proper for translations to follow the UBS/NA studies here; if the NA28 or NA29 makes the change, which seems likely, then I'd be more critical of this approach in a translation based on them but they didn't so I have no problem with taking the conservative position on this verse at this time.

As Bryon mentions the REB takes the Ehrman positions and has "with anger" with a text note saying that many manuscripts have "with pity". Again a reasonable choice. It is likely they felt comfortable going with anger here because Dodd (NEB) handles this issue creatively with "In warm indignation Jesus ...."

Now turning to our favorite dishonest translation the ESV, goes with pity but makes no mention of the variant reading at all. Essentially removing a text note from the NRSV. They take the RSV's reading:
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."
word for word. I don't have a problem with a 1950s translation missing this, I do with one from 2001. Just to pick from the opposite extreme the Scholars Version (Jesus Seminar) has several paragraphs on the importance of anger and messianic secret in their commentary (which is what prompts Ehrman's indignation about this change) yet they still honesty report they are going with a minority of the manuscripts. Again evidence that the ESV is more ideologically unbalanced in its treatment than the Jesus Seminar.

Why does anyone take this translation as anything more than conservative propaganda? It is beyond me.

Also coming in for some level of condemnation here is the NIV for not noting this properly, even though the debate had occured by then. I can almost excuse they rarely have text notes on variants and they are from a quarter century ago but still it deserves mentioning since I'm slamming the ESV so hard on this.


Bryon said...

I've since lost all my RSVs. It might be interesting to compare the RSV footnotes to the ESV footnotes in a few places. This would be to find out if the greatest milestone in Bible translation just grandfathered in all the RSV footnotes.

tc robinson said...

CD-Host, I did a post on this text. You may find it helpful.

CD-Host said...

TC --

Good post, I agree with what you wrote in it. Yeah I side with the NA27 on this one. I was blasting the ESV not footnoting this, in fact removing a footnote and not thus not indicating to readers it is controversial.

I don't have a strong personal opinion on this verse. As I commented over on Bryon's site the Ergotten gospel has neither so I just don't think there is enough evidence currently. That being said removing a footnote is what really set me off, not which way a translation chooses to go.

JJ-Israel said...

okay maybe i'm deaf dumb & blind, but there is no discussion on how the two alternatives affect the motives of either Jesus or the leper. Isn't that more important than spending years debating which is accurate? What does Jesus being 'angry' mean to you?

How do you read it?

As far as I'm concerned, I read it that this man was so ostracized by the Israel community that he had no home, no friends, no-one to show compassion on him, and he felt isolated, helpless and useless. Imagine being kicked out of society. Wouldn't you? That is sufficient reason to get Jesus indignant - it's consistent with his character. Granted, the law said they must be put out of society because of their uncleanliness, but who would feed them? Where would they live? How would they work? How would these people survive?

Humanity has proven that we like to forget about people inconvenient to our lives. We don't do well with mourning with those who mourning - we'd rather rejoice with those who rejoice. For example, we put our parents in old age homes and let somebody else deal with the burden. Under the law, it was just to treat lepers like this - if that's how you read it. But Jesus was concerned with one another relationships, and that was also in the law. Love the leper, feed him, take care of him, until he be reconciled to God - then bring him back home.

Another example of how people can read the law to justify their sin is the parable of the good Samaritan. These Levites and priests would become unclean should they touch this bleeding man, so they justified ignoring him - hiding behind the law. How many times do we all do this?

And yet, this leper came worshiping, face down, head on the ground, bowed on his knees. He had faith in Jesus, not in man, and he was desperate. Finally, HIS messiah came.

That's how I read it.

To explain the other translation is simple - why not feel compassion for the suffering of a human being? And yet, anger is passion, and so is compassion. Maybe Jesus felt both.

CD-Host said...

Hi JJ welcome to the blog. but there is no discussion on how the two alternatives affect the motives of either Jesus or the leper. Isn't that more important than spending years debating which is accurate?

Probably it is more important. But the discussion is about what translation to buy not what kind of life to lead. I'm leaving the more important topics to ministers and going after the less important issue. So you have me there. OTOH there are lots of blogs which cover the big topics, this blog is a niche blog. It is for people who are interesting in discussing those sorts of details.

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