[b-greek] the intent of the Spirit/flesh saying at Mk. 14:38

From: Wayne Leman (Wayne_Leman@SIL.ORG)
Date: Tue May 29 2001 - 22:23:03 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeffrey B. Gibson" <jgibson000@home.com>

> I wonder if List Members would share with me what they see that can be
> gained from the Greek text of Mk 14:38 regarding the intent behind the
> "The Spirit is indeed willing but the Flesh is weak" saying?
> Does it function as an explanation of why Jesus has told Peter, James,
> and John to pray what he urges them to pray?
> Is it a warning of some kind, and if so about what?
> Any other possibilities?

What a wonderful question for the list, Jeffrey! I consider it most
appropriate for b-greek since it deals with the rhetorical cohesion within
this particular Markan pericope, and yet is not one of those pesky
theological issues that gets us twisted up. Also, I like the fact that you
ask the question because to me it indicates at least an initial assumption
that this statement by Jesus is intended to make sense within this pericope.
But if we examine the Greek too locally, we can't find that sense.

Well, as they say in Spanish at this point, "mas musica, menos blah, blah,
blah"! <g>

What is the rhetorical function of the spirit/flesh statement here? It's not
easy to figure out, is it? In his "An Index of Implicit Information in the
Gospels" (Dallas, SIL: 1993), Ellis Deibler considers that there is an
ellipsis of event following TO MEN PNEUMA PROQUMON which can be verbalized
as "to resist temptation." That should be fairly obvious, I think.

For myself, as I examine the entire quote starting at v. 37b, it seems that
we have, in order:

1. Rhetorical question with the function of reprimand (37b)
2. Conjoined command (38a) with purpose (38b)
3. Elaboration (38c) upon the purpose of 38b.

Perhaps the disciples might have questioned what temptation they might
succumb to at this point, so Jesus elaborates with 38c. Perhaps he
anticipates a possible rejoinder, so he lets the disciples know that he
understands human frailty, that in this case, even though they might not
want to succumb to temptation, it is still so easy to do. As with many
indicative (declarative) statements in the NT, we should immediately ask, as
we should always do, whether there is a higher rhetorical function to Jesus'
stating this fact about human frailty. I don't know if we can figure it out
with any certainty here; there would be several possibilities, but I would
think that your suggestion of rhetorical warning should be at the top of the
list. If it is a warning, I would think that it would be a warning not to
give in to the weakness of the flesh, and hence succumb to temptation.

I realize my analysis may seem rather simplistic, but I cannot see anything
more at this time. It is a delight to wrestle with you on this, since I am
one of those who has been getting my eyes opened recently to so much
rhetorical cohesion and function in the gospels which I had not previously
seen, as I have been translating Luke to another language.

I look forward to further comments from others and from you on this
question, Jeffrey,
Wayne Leman
Bible translation site: http://www.geocities.com/bible_translation/

B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
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