Is it a question or not

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at
Wed Nov 10 18:32:42 EST 1999

At 1:10 PM -0600 11/8/99, Michael McCoy wrote:
>In Mark 1:24, we find this statement HLQES APOLESAI hMAS.  Is this a
>continuation of the question immediately preceding it, "Did you come to
>destroy us", or is it an indicative statement, "You came to destroy us"?

Tony Prost responded:
> what would account for such an unaccountable ambiguity in such a text? why
> would the author not structure it so that it is clear? the dilemma puzzles

The original text was a record of oral tradition, and the oral rendering
would not have been ambiguous due to intonation.  When written, the original
text would not have been ambiguous since the oral rendering would have
survived and was conveyed with public readings.

Now for us, what do we have to go on, assuming our traditions do not form a
continuous stream w/ the oral tradition ( ;-) ).  The clause in question is
preceded by a question and followed by an assertion.  I would tend to go
with the flow of the prior question and call this clause a question.  The
prior question indicates antogonism between Jesus and the speaker, which is
also indicated by this clause.  The switch to assertive mode in the
following clause is marked clearly by OIDA, and this is perhaps the
strongest indicator in the context that the middle clause should be a

Finally, does it make much difference which way it is taken??  In any event,
a demonized man has simply raised the issue of whether Jesus has come to
destroy "us".  Whether he raised the issue as his belief in its facticity,
as a question to find out if his suspicion was true, or as a taunt to turn
the people against Jesus, does not really matter.  Other questions could be
raised about this outburst, such as: who is "us"--the man and the demon, or
the congregation in the synagogue?; what was the tone of the man?; how did
he make the subsequent assertion, with belief or irony??  How did the
congregation respond to this man and his outburst, and what did they
understand him to mean?  They probably understood in many different ways of
astonishment, fear, indignation, etc.  But what is very clear from the text
is that Jesus' reaction was to command the demon(ized man) "Shut up!", and
Jesus demonstrated his authority.

Just some thoughts on a terse passage that could have said more, but which
says plenty enough to keep us wondering, wondering--like the people--at
Jesus' authority!

God Bless!
Joe Friberg

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