Critique of Gibson's Conference Paper
L. J. Swain
larry.swain at wmich.edu
Wed Oct 23 19:37:27 EDT 2002
JFAlward at aol.com wrote:
> JOE ALWARD
> "[Jesus] said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."...Then he returned to his
> disciples and found them sleeping...Could you not keep watch for one hour?
> Watch and pray so that [fill in the blanks]. The spirit is willing, but the
> body [flesh] is weak." Once more he went away...When he came back, he again
> found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy"
> The story goes like this:
> 1. Jesus says, do not fall asleep
> 2. Jesus goes away.
MOre specifically, Jesus goes a little apart and begs that the hour pass
him by, and then resubmits to the Father's will.
> 3. Jesus returns and finds them asleep.
> 4 Jesus tells them to pray that God give them the strength
> a. not to fall asleep, again
> b. not to test God.
Ah, here is the principle rub. "Strength" nowhere enters the verse or
the passage. There is no "Pray that you be given strength" in this
passage. So your equestion below, which makes more sense, is a false
> 5. Jesus returns and finds them asleep, again.
> Which does common sense and context tell you makes more sense, 4a, or 4b?
A better question, Joe, is what does the text say?
> With the second choice, the one Jeffrey Gibson advocates, the story line is
> suddenly interrupted. Mark was talking about sleep before and after the
> prayer request. Are we to believe that the prayer was about not testing God,
> rather than not sleeping?
Yes, for is Mark really talking about sleep, or is he talking about
"spiritual slumber," in which case why isn't the testing of God a case
caused by lack of spiritual awareness something that Mark does NOT have
in view here? Seems to me to fit the context and story line very well.
And I don't mean that he was talking about "spiritual sleep" only in
this verse, for isn't that what is in view in the entire passage,
physical sleep as a sign of spiritual obtuseness?
> Futhermore, in Gibson's scenario we have the son of God asking that God be
> prayed to avoid God being tested. Does that make more sense than praying for
> help to stay awake? Does it even make any sense at all?
I think you've misunderstood. It that they watch and pray, so that they
do not test God, which would result from their not watching and
praying. That is, the "so that..."clause is not the subject of the
> Too much emphasis I think has been paid to the esoterica of Greek grammar,
> and this has allowed some members, in my opinion, to pay less attention to
> context and obvious surface meaning than I believe they deserve.
I would disagree, for I don't see a conflict between understanding the
grammar of a passage, its context, and its obvious surface meaning;
these all are part of one another. However, it seems clear to me, and
please do not take this personally for it is not meant so, that you have
not grasped the grammatical, semantic, and interpretive problem this
verse presents. At the very least, I invite you to review the early
part of Jeffrey's paper where he reviews several key interpreters of
this passage and the difficulty they have had reconciling the
interpretation you present with what the text actually says. And there
are far more than those Jeffrey cites who have noted this difficulty.
> I do not think we should imagine that the translation committees of dozens of
> different Bible versions were all wrong about the context. They all made it
> clear that they believed that Jesus was asking the disciples to pray for the
> strength to stay awake until Jesus returned from his prayer, and I have a
> hunch that most members of this forum have a strong inkling that they were
> correct, no matter whether it is possible to see in the syntax and grammar
> alone the completely different meaning Gibson is proposing.
I'm not sure just where or what you are thinking of. Those translations
dependant on the KJV are: KJV, 21KJ, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB and on the
Vulgate are the Douay-Rheims and Jerusalem Bibles. Thus, the only ones
that aren't directly related to hoary tradition are Young, Knox, and
NIV, and a few other minor ones. Youngs was done over a century ago, so
hardly counts as a modern translation. Knox is outdated as well. THat
leaves NIV, and they translate, unlike the fairly literal NASB, "fall
into temptation", but ERXOMAI does not mean "fall", they've interpreted
in the translation. Such a change in the meaning of the main indicates
by the way that the NIV committee had a problem with the passage and
debated on how to make clearer sense of the passage, thus the slight
change in meaning. NASB has "come into temptation". So the only quibble
then about how Jeffrey is translating must be over the word
"temptation", but as I've recently pointed out on the list, "test" or
"trial" is better since temptation has shifted in meaning. So that
should resolve any issues of "translation committees".
> I think that if one doesn't let grammatical construction (using Sid's words
> here) be a tail wagging a dog, and instead lets common sense and context
> rule, then just on the basis alone of the outline I have presented above, I
> think we have no choice but to choose the first one, never mind all of the
> other reasons I mentioned elsewhere.
a) the outline does not represent the text of Mark
b) Common sense would seem to indicate that we would want to pay
particular attention to grammar if we want to know what a passage SAYS,
rather than what we want it to say. Thus, the problem that Jeffrey and
other commentators have noted.
c) The other reasons you've noted elsewhere do not engage any of the
material Jeffrey has presented, and so can not be taken seriously as an
assault on that position. Until you deal seriously with the evidence
presented, your argument is flat.
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