Re: Syntax of Mark 2:2

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Wed Apr 14 1999 - 22:25:54 EDT

At 06:01 99/04/14 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>At 12:17 AM -0300 4/14/99, Carlos Navarro wrote:
>>Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>>> I asked the same question on Mark 2:2, to which Carl gave the same
>>> answer as he did this time.


I want to pick up on two (pretty peripheral) questions about this pericope
in Mark, arising from Carl's comment. He says:

>It's not altogether clear to me that the house in
>Capernaum so very briefly sketched in Mark's setting is likely to have a
>courtyard, although I wouldn't rule that out either. It evidently has a
>thatched roof that is easily removed by the friends of the paralytic so
>that they can let the litter down with ropes through the opened roof; this
>makes it more plausible to me that it is a simple dwelling place, somewhat
>less likely to have a courtyard.

Carl, I have long pondered the question of how they lowered this man. When
his friends brought him to the house, there is no likelihood that they
expected in advance to be lowering him through the roof. They expected to
bring him in through the door. They only adopted the desperate "roof"
expedient when it became totally obvious that they were not going to get in
through the door. Then they went up the outside stairway, and uncovered the
roof, etc. In these circumstances, then, they would not have brought any
ropes with them. (Why should they have?) And now they are rushing him up on
to the roof.

Where did these ropes suddenly appear from? It is of course possible to
conjecture that the man's friends happened to see ropes lying around the
outside of the house somewhere (and that this suggested to them the plan
they followed), or even that some other person standing nearby saw their
predicament and volunteered some ropes. But surely these conjectures are
stretching things somewhat!?

No, I would take it that when they made the opening in the roof his four
friends lowered the man at their arms' length, each of them holding one
corner of the mattress on which he was being carried. In the ordinary house
of that time, the roof was not so high as to render this impossible or even
dangerous - especially if they chose to do it over the raised bed/platform
area which was standard at one end of the room (and was where the family
slept at night). Even so, the lowered man would of course still be some
distance above the floor, but those below could then receive the
mattress-plus-man, and lower this to the floor. That this is what happened
is the impression that I get from the text. Carl, am I missing something?
Where would the ropes have come from?

>Now, let me ask whether anyone has ever pondered the strange formulation in
>the verse immediately following? KAI ERCONTAI FERONTES PROS AUTON
>PARALUTIKON AIROMENON hUPO TESSARWN. I've always wondered, when I come to
>this verse, how many persons are involved in getting this paralytic to
>Jesus: are the four who carry his KRABATOS the same as those who ERCONTAI
>FERONTES? This is, of course, another of these fringe questions that has
>absolutely no bearing upon the central focus of this narrative, but it has
>nevertheless always piqued my curiosity whenever I read it.
>Carl W. Conrad
>Department of Classics/Washington University
>One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
>Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

Carl, I agree with the point you are making. The wording does indicate, it
seems to me, that the paralyzed man was being brought by quite a company of
all of them would have, or would need to have, an actual hand on the
mattress itself on which the man lay - this would be carried by just four
people, one at each corner (AIROMENON hUPO TESSARWN).

And I reckon the faith of ALL of those on the roof (the paralyzed man and
his four friends) was amply demonstrated when they leaned over the hole
they made and lowered the man through it at arms' length - there must have
been a real possibility that they could lose their balance and all go
tumbling through the hole.


Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College

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