Re: Mark 7.19

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 21 1997 - 09:30:45 EDT

At 8:32 AM -0500 4/21/97, Mark Goodacre wrote:
>What does everyone think about the little clause at the end of Mark
>RSV, NEB, NASB all have 'Thus he declared all foods clean' (cf. also
>NIV), interpreting this as an editorial comment, with Jesus' speech
>ending at EKPOREUETAI.
>Older versions, however, take the clause as part of Jesus' speech,
>hence '. . . purging all meats' (KJV etc.). This would be my
>preference. I do not think that the Greek can bear the weight of the
>more modern translation. Do others agree?

A very interesting question, and one that probably requires every or most
every tool at the command of the intelligent reader and critic, including
those of lower and higher criticism. However, the solution must begin with
ascertaining the correct reading: if the participle with which this little
clause begins is the masculine KAQARIZWN, then it cannot apply to the
subject of the preceding clause, PAN TO EXWQEN EISPOREUOMENON EIS TON
ANQRWPON, which is neuter, and can only refer to the subject of LEGEI in
7:18, namely, Jesus. When one looks at the apparatus, one sees that the
masculine participle appears in by far the oldest and best MSS, while a few
later MSS have the neuter form KAQARIZON--and there are some other variants
too. It would appear that later copyists altered the masculine participle
to the neuter in order to get around the difficulty of having a masculine
participle so far removed from any implicit masculine noun to which it can

Metzger's note reads: "The overwhelming weight of manuscript evidence
supports the reading KAQARIZWN. The difficulty of construing this word in
the sentence prompted copyists to attempt various corrections and
ameliorations." In a footnote, he adds, "Many modern scholars, following
the interpretation suggested by Origen and Chrysostom, regard KAQARIZWN as
connected grammatically with LEGEI in ver. 18, and take it as the
evangelist's comment on the implications of Jesus' words concerning Jewish
dietary laws."

While admittedly the isolation of the masculine participle so far from its
implicit referent is awkward, a very similar unusual isolation of an
element that has to be construed with a referent far removed is to be found
in John 1:14, where PLHRHS CARITOS KAI ALHQEIAS(1) is far removed from
LOGOS, (2) would construe nicely with an intervening noun (DOXAN, hUIOU) or
pronoun (AUTOU), if it were not for the awkward fact that PLHRHS is

Two other factors ought to be mentioned regarding Mark 7:1: (1) Attractive
as it may appear at first glance to attach KAQARIZWN to PAN TO EXWQEN
EISPOREUOMENON EIS TON ANQRWPON as it makes its progress through the human
digestive tract, the logic of affirming that "anything coming into a man's
... STOMACH" should "cleanse all foods" is ultimately not very convincing;
(2) Mark's fairly consistent stance regarding the ritual law of Judaism as
interpreted by the Rabbis is to revise it in terms of what Mark's Jesus
declares its original intention to be (cf. the Sabbath dictum in 2:27-28
and the dictum regarding putting "new wine" into "new wineskins" in
2:21-22. I don't want to argue this point at length, as it raises all sorts
of form-critical and redaction-critical concerns which do not belong in
this forum.

In terms of Mark's redactional tendencies, however, I would like to add one
additional comment along these lines: although one might fault Mark with
writing poor Greek here, if we accept that KAQARIZWN must be construed with
the subject of LEGEI, I'm moving ever more strongly to the view that what
looks like bad Greek in Mark is explicable in terms of a conservative
tendency AGAINST rewriting a traditional text that he has received (the way
that Luke and Matthew seem to do more freely) and in favor of ATTACHING his
redactional elements where they are least obtrusive in the context of the
received tradition. Admittedly that would not be an easy proposition to
demonstrate and an attempt to do so exceeds the scope of discussion here.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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