Re: Mark 1:23

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Tue Mar 04 1997 - 23:02:15 EST

At 4:42 PM -0800 3/4/97, S. M. Baugh wrote:
>Re: "a man EN an unclean spirit"
>Rod Decker wrote:
>>>Wouldn't it make better sense to understand this as "with an unclean spirit?
>Carl Conrad wrote:
>Would it represent the Hebrew preposition B'? My sense for Semitisms as
>such is not as keen as my scent for the un-Greek, but when checking on
>usage of EN a few days ago I found it was already used in classical
>(albeit not frequently) in an instrumental sense, and I do think that EN
>instrumental usage.
>SmBaugh then wrote:
>Well I have to confess that you have made me re-think the meaning of EN
>in this example. Which I will do (but don't be surprised if my "wheels
>grind slow"!). However, I am confused by your suggestions.
>Rod's rendering a man "with" an unclean spirit certainly seems plausible
>in English, yet "with" in English may mean "accompaniment." I'm not
>familiar with any uses of EN (in place of META or SYN) with that
>meaning. Perhaps Rod meant "with" as instrumental, in which case Wes and
>Conrad's remarks now come into view as well as my confusion! How can EN
>have an instrumental sense with the lead verb EIMI (HN in Mark 1:23)?
>The prepositional phrase could not be adverbial and instrumental with
>EIMI can it? (EIMI here states the presence of the man in a
>synogogue--how can an instument.)
>Perhaps you are reading in some instrumental meaning with the previous
>EN clause: "Now straight off there was in [EN] their synagogue a man
>(conveyed there) by an unclean spirit and he shouted out. . . ." Is that
>what you meant by instrumental? Or were you taking it with ANEKRAXEN?
>The former seems rather too subtle for Mark's normal usage,and the
>latter seems to ignore the intervening KAI (which is semitic inspired W
>and typical in Mark).
>Well, I'll ponder some more . . .

I think you are right in questioning the notion of "instrumental" here.
That this phrase was understood in the sense of "having an unclean spirit,"
however, seems quite clear from the parallel passage in Luke 4:33-37. Luke
renders the statement as


I don't think it's necessary to take a stand on the issue of Marcan
priority to see the importance of the parallel passage from Luke. It shows
that whether Mark wrote before or after Luke, someone else in the early
Church clearly understood the man in question to "have" an unclean spirit.
I don't think there is any good evidence to indicate that Mark understood
the situation any differently. If anything, his choice of EN + dative to
express the same thing just shows that his Greek was somewhat less polished
than Luke's (which is not a particularly new observation! :-)

Of course, EN + dative is commonly used to express an instument, but you
are right in pointing out that the notion of an instrument here is

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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