Re: Mark ch 15, v. 2

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (
Date: Tue Jun 02 1998 - 12:40:11 EDT

In rsponse to a question from a "wordy" inquirer Ben Crick wrote:

> > SU LEGEIS is a legal response to a leading question from the prosecution,
> > which amounts to a prosecution demand for Jesus to confess or admit the
> > charge. Actually it is the Judge hO PILATOS who puts the leading question,
> > SU EI hO BASILEUS TWN IOUDAIWN; "Are you the King of the Jews?"
> >
> > To this the only "neutral" response is to say "That is what you are alleging;
> > that is what you have to prove". SU LEGEIS: "That is what you are saying".
> > PERI EMOU; (John 18:34).
> >
> > To translate "You said it!" as if agreeing with the charge is to forget the
> > Courtroom scenario of the pericope.
> >

To which Carl Conrad, quoting his own private response to Mr. Word,

> "As for the question itself--regarding the meaning of Jesus' response in Mk
> 15:2, I've heard/read the same comment again and again, to the effect that
> Jesus is saying, as you put it, "Yes!" But personally I've never felt
> CONVINCED that this was right, however plausible it may be. I find it just
> as plausible to understand Jesus' response in the sense: "YOU're the one
> who is making that assertion about me"--with the implication that Jesus
> himself is not making any claim at all. I don't say that I find this latter
> reading MORE plausible than the other; rather, I've never felt that there's
> really a preponderance of evidence for one way of looking at the passage
> over the other. I might add that this is not the only passage of the sort
> whereof I think our efforts to interpret are reduced to conjecture. I'd
> just rather honestly admit that I don't feel fully satisfied by the
> arguments I've heard/read. And that (rather than because of the multiple
> addressees and the pseudonymous sender--is why I didn't respond to the
> question myself."

Ben and Carl,

Though I am sympathetic to this interpretation of SU LEGEIS, I still
have two questions:

1. How do we know that SU LEGEIS is "legalese"? - an expression drawn
from the world of the court, let alone that "in legalese" it had the
meaning you attribute to it? Is there independent evidence to support
the claim that the phrase SU LEGEIS is known legal terminology and means
(to quote A.L. Weber in _JC Superstar, Your words, not mine"? That is to
say, do we find the expression used in, say, transcripts of trials or in
stories of court proceedings other than Mk. 15 *and* with the meaning
ascribed to them here?

2. Is there not a confusion here, assuming that Jesus himself actually
said these words, between the meaning the expression might/would have
had in its original historical setting and what it has in Mark? It would
seem to me that within the context of Mark, the expression is laden with
irony and cannot be tied down to having one meaning. After all, Pilate
(however reluctantly) takes the answer as an affirmation. And certainly
Mark assumes that Jesus *is* King of the Jews. Moreover, can we really
assume, if these are indeed the words of Jesus and that they were given
in answer to what Mark reports Pilate asked, that Jesus himself was
*not* being ironic?

OK, that's three questions.


Jeffrey Gibson
Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626

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