Re: Mark 2:23b

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jun 15 1998 - 07:24:02 EDT

At 2:22 AM -0400 6/15/98, <> wrote:
>Jim West further wrote:
>>"and it happened on the sabbath that they walked by the grain field, and his
>>disciples started to pick heads of grain on the way"
>>(less literal- and more english)- "So, on the sabbath as they walked by a
>grain >field, the disciples plucked some heads of grain as they went on their
>I know most translations translate it this way or something close. But I have
>a problem with "started to pick" or "went on their way." HRXANTO, the third
>person, aorist, indicative, middle voice of ARCOMAI, is used well over a
>hundred times in the GNT and LXX, and this form always takes the infinitive
>following. But here in Mark all of a sudden, translators rather than having
>the POIEIN being what is being "begun," they have the participial TILLONTES as
>what is being begun. This here in Mark 2:23 is the only exception to it, and
>I don't see any justification for the exception.
>Vincent in his Word Studies says this is a Latinism of Mark, from "iter
>facere." But Mark uses the HRXANTO-infinitive arrangement 25 times elsewhere
>in the ordinary way, in the Greek way, in which his gospel is written. So I
>guess I don't buy "started to pick."
>As for "went on their way," wouldn't that be redundant, because the verse
>already starts with PARAPOREUESQAI, saying "he was passing" or "going his
>way"? And there is nothing to translate into the English word "their."
>These are some of the reasons I consider the passage a challenge. Any more
>insights would be appreciated.

I've found this thread especially interesting for the very same reasons
David Palmer has just stated; the phrasing in Mark seems strange and the
traditional versions of this passage seem to reflect the parallel versions
of Luke and Matthew better than they do the Marcan text. I will note that
the synoptic parallels in this pericope are extraordinarily interesting, to
me at least; I find it definitely easier to assume that Mark's phrasing is
earliest and that it is improved upon by both Luke and Matthew.

I really don't find Vincent's explanation of hODON POIEIN as a Latinism =
ITER FACERE at all convincing; rather it seems to me more like "blaze a
trail" or "tread a path"--which makes most sense, as has been pointed out,
if one understands that there were no ordered rows in a Palestinian
grainfield where the seed is broadcast prior to plowing (that at any rate
is what I've read from commentaries on the Parable of the Sower), and that
therefore the disciples as they go through the grainfields to pluck the
ears are in fact trampling a path as they go.

And yes, I think that hODON POIEIN must refer to something altogether
different from PARAPOREUESQAI, which rather appears to be a verb parallel
to Mark's recurrent PARAGEIN for "go on further" in a sort of aimless
circuit journey--and indeed in the sequence of Mark 2:1-3:6, a
tightly-constructed sequence of controversy-stories, the PARAPOREUESQAI
seems to function as a minimal transitional phrase.

It is a very interesting passage in an interesting pericope in an
interesting sequence.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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