part 3: the Gender Inclusivity of Jesus in Mark
In this 3rd part of posting on the Gender Inclusivity of Jesus in Mark, I’m going to offer my own English translation of the Greek translation. What came out of the mouth of Jesus, in Greek, was this:
Τὸ σάββατον διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐγένετο
καὶ οὐχ ὁ ἄνθρωπος διὰ τὸ σάββατον·
ὥστε κύριός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
καὶ τοῦ σαββάτου.
Shabbat was, for the Human Being, generated as in a breeding,
and the Human Being was not born and bred for Shabbat.
So he, the Human Male Offspring, is Master
and of Shabbat.
The Hellene takes readers back to Hesiod’s Theo-Gony, to the LXX’s Genesis, to Aristotle’s Generation of Animals. The gods are making the heavens and the earth and the sea. God is making Human Beings in His Likeness. This is the Nature of Procreation, with animal species like but certainly lower than the Human species.
The most Hebraic phrase of all, the Hellene-letters σάββατ*, takes readers back to Greek Exodus, to the Decalogue in the Pentateuch. Moses in Alexandria, Egypt among the Jewish community there speaks Greek and relays the Ten Commandments of Kurios, of Master. The one is that the variety of species, animals, and the Human in all its gendered diversity, must observe Shabbat. It was born and bred for them. It is the Nature of things. The Master himself observed Shabbat, is Master of all, and of Shabbat. (This most holy high Hebrew, this phrase of Moses, of G-d. In Alexandria, Egypt sometime around 260 BCE, the Jews living there rendered it into Hebraic Hellene. A century later, suggests historian Sylvie Honigman, this Greek version of Moses became “as sacred – at least as sacred as the Hebrew original.” The readers of the Greek gospel of Mark hear this, remember it, make it as holy.)
The frozen phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου takes readers back to the wordplay of the “Psalmoi” in Greek and then the rest of the Scriptures for Greek reading. We speculate, with a certain plausibility, that the Alexandrian Jews knew their Greek. They seemed to enjoy wordplay in Hellene. Those translating the Psalms seem to have engaged in literary sparks as notes Albert Pietersma reading the Greek for the NETS Septuagint.
In one Psalm, what we refer to as Psalm 8, there’s the hierarchy of Master over all creation. It’s middle lines bring forth an anthropos (ἄνθρωπος) under heaven, out of earth, lower than an angel, above the animals of every species in every place. The LXX translator has Greek readers hearken back to the Hellene Genesis creation story again.
Once I tried to convey, to render, to translate, to bring across some of this Greek into some English. It goes like this:
The hierarchy constructed, and then deconstructed, by the movement of the Greek Psalm here is important. The classes of things in Nature, constructed and deconstructed, is important.
This sort of wordplay, the literary sparks and interpretive spins here, play against the tight classes of Aristotle. Aristotle keeps the various natural categories pure, separate, stratified.
Below is Aristotle writing his Eudemian Ethics. Towards the end of the excerpt, he quotes a playwright, Sophocles (whom Aristotle disparages for his confused rhetoric elsewhere); those who would make unequal classes equal are like the playwright who would have Zeus not just a master ruler but some sort of fathering father of all offspring, of everybody, as if everybody is equal with everybody else. As I did above with my English and the LXX Greek of the Psalm, I’ve highlighted the concordant phrases, putting the English on one side and the Greek on the other. The following fine English translation is by Brad Inwood and Raphael Woolf. Very clearly these translators show Aristotle’s attempt to work classes and categories in binary “either / or” pairs, the one over the other. A close reading of the phrases shows what Mark, the gospel writer, might have been working with. At the very least, I hope readers of this post will see the gender inclusivity of Jesus in Mark. Now here’s Aristotle: