Re: Mark 7.19

From: Mark Goodacre (
Date: Mon Apr 21 1997 - 11:27:40 EDT

Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 08:30:45 -0500
To: Mark Goodacre <>
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <>
Subject: Re: Mark 7.19

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 refer.

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 nominative.

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
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


I found this response to my question most illuminating - many thanks.
It occurs as a result of this that the KJV etc. translation must be
dependent on the reading KAQARIZON (which I note is the Textus
Receptus) rather than KAQARIZWN. It is thus not legitimate to
compare the different translations (as I did in the original posting)
as if they are on a par with one another. And Metzger is clearly
right to prefer the latter reading. How interesting that Origen and
Chrysostom support this - I must look it up.

I still wonder, though, whether this may be an example of very loose
language - i.e. the KAQARIZWN does not refer back to LEGEI in 7.18
but stands alone? Certainly Mark is famous for some strained
grammar. The oddity would then explain scribes changing to KAQARIZON
in the attempt to make the participle agree with PAN TO . . . Or
does this rather strain plausibility?

"the logic of affirming that"anything coming into a man's ... STOMACH" should "cleanse all foods"
is ultimately not very convincing . . .": unless one takes
KOILIA here more broadly as 'digestive tract' and something that food
passes through - a contrast with KARDIA. Thus the saying is
affirming that food does not defile because it does not stay in the
body but passes through it. The passing through, into the latrine,
effectively cleanses the food, a crude but understandable image.

"Mark's fairly consistent stance regarding the ritual law of Judaism
. . .": I would agree with this reading of Mark. But I would still
see 'declaring' all foods clean here as rather over-translating
something which in the Greek seems much less weighty. Look at how
blatantly Mark flags up editorial comments when he really wants to
stress one - 13.14!

"a conservative tendency AGAINST rewriting a traditional text that
he has received" - mmm, very interesting.

Mark G.

Dr Mark Goodacre
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

Tel.: 0121 414 7512 Email:
Fax.: 0121 414 6866

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