When Watchdogs Become Sinners

The reversals in Mark’s Gospel are fascinating. Throughout Mark 2, the Pharisees and scribes are checking Jesus out, scrutinizing his conduct in light of their own conceptions of Law-observance.

They query Jesus as to his eating with sinners (2:16) and his disciples’ conduct on the Sabbath (2:24). By Mark 3:1-6, however, they find themselves plotting evil on the Sabbath.

The motives and behavior of these self-appointed watchdogs reveal the truth:

The Pharisees are described as “watching closely” (paretēroun) to see if Jesus will heal on the Sabbath. This same verb is used in Ps 36:12 (one of only two LXX usages), where it is sinners who lie in wait for the righteous person to slay him (cf. Ps 129:3) – a portrayal similar to the description of the Pharisees’ plot at the end of our passage (3:6). Through the intertextual echo with Psalm 36, then, the same Pharisees who have objected to Jesus’ eating with “sinners” (2:16) are now revealed to belong in the camp of sinners themselves.

Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8, 252.


3 responses to “When Watchdogs Become Sinners

  • gjohnston2244

    I’ve heard good things about Marcus. I wonder if he sees 3:6 and all following notes on the conspiring, plotting and scheming on the part of the Jewish leadership in the context of Psalm 2:1-2? Different Greek verbs, but there are indications that Mark knows the Hebrew and ignores the LXX (e.g., both Mark 1:10 and 1:11). I haven’t checked Watts but in light of Jesus appropriation of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 in his trial declaration, I would think it very possbile that the conspirators of Psalm 2 are flying their colors in Mark.

  • Andrew

    I’m unfamiliar with Watts, but I see no use of scripture at all in [Mark 3]. [Mark 5] is also somewhat scarce. Only these two chapters appear to have no reference to OT scripture.

    With respect to [Psalm 2] (לָמָּה רָגְשׁוּ גֹויִם וּלְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ־רִֽיק׃) the use of גּוֹי makes the raging found in [Psalm 2] to be a thing of empires and kingdoms, rather than corrupt priests or priestly classes. In this light then, [Psa 2] reads like [Dan 7] with nations raging against the Holy Kingdom (because of the Holy King).

    Main idea: the rock (of stumbling) cut without human hands has grown into a Holy Mountain ( the promised Kingdom of priests ), Zion, and now Babylon (the Roman Empire as a beastly nation) has taken notice and realized that the King’s character (stone of stumbling) is reflected in the Mountain of the Lord.

    Holy Mountain (or “Kingdom of God” which ever you prefer):
    [Isa 11:9] – They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain (a people, not a feature of geography – see [1 Peter 2:5])
    [Isa 30:29] – You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of YHWH, to the Rock of Israel (the Messiah).
    [Isa 56:7] – .. these I shall bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.’

    Compare this to the imagery of the godless nations that rage:
    [Isa 17:12] – Ah, the thunder of many peoples; they thunder like the thundering of the sea! Ah, the roar of nations; they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!

    This is the heart of the imagery found in [Eph 4:14] and [Jud 1;11-13] (see also [Psa 98:7] and [Isa 17:12]).

    So godless nations will oppose the emergence of the Kingdom of God in history because this Holy Mountain, like its archetype is a rock of stumbling; in other words, the nations raging is the sea casting itself against the Holy Mountain. This isn’t found in Mark so much.

    With respect to [Psalm 2], we find it referenced in [Mark 1:11 -> Psa 2:7] re-emerging in [Mark 9:7 -> Gen 22:2, Deut 18:15; Ps 2:7], though there appears to be smatterings of [Psa 22][Psa 110], and [Psa 118] throughout Mark (as well as others).

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