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Mark 7:1-13

Breaking Human Traditions

7:1 Now 1  the Pharisees 2  and some of the experts in the law 3  who came from Jerusalem 4  gathered around him. 7:2 And they saw that some of Jesus’ disciples ate their bread with unclean hands, that is, unwashed. 7:3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they perform a ritual washing, 5  holding fast to the tradition of the elders. 7:4 And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They hold fast to many other traditions: the washing of cups, pots, kettles, and dining couches. 6 ) 7  7:5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat 8  with unwashed hands?” 7:6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart 9  is far from me.

7:7 They worship me in vain,

teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. 10 

7:8 Having no regard 11  for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition.” 12  7:9 He also said to them, “You neatly reject the commandment of God in order to set up 13  your tradition. 7:10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ 14  and, ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death. 15  7:11 But you say that if anyone tells his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you would have received from me is corban 16  (that is, a gift for God), 7:12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. 7:13 Thus you nullify 17  the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.”

1 tn Grk “And.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.

2 sn See the note on Pharisees in 2:16.

3 tn Or “and some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 1:22.

4 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

5 tn Grk “except they wash the hands with a fist,” a ceremonial washing (though the actual method is uncertain).

6 tc Several important witnesses (Ì45vid א B L Δ 28* pc) lack “and dining couches” (καὶ κλινῶν, kai klinwn), while the majority of mss (A D W Θ Ë1,13 33 Ï latt) have the reading. Although normally the shorter reading is to be preferred, especially when it is backed by excellent witnesses as in this case, there are some good reasons to consider καὶ κλινῶν as authentic: (1) Although the addition of κλινῶν could be seen as motivated by a general assimilation to the purity regulations in Lev 15 (as some have argued), there are three problems with such a supposition: (a) the word κλίνη (klinh) does not occur in the LXX of Lev 15; (b) nowhere in Lev 15 is the furniture washed or sprinkled; and (c) the context of Lev 15 is about sexual impurity, while the most recent evidence suggests that κλίνη in Mark 7:4, in keeping with the other terms used here, refers to a dining couch (cf. BDAG 549 s.v. κλίνη 2). Thus, it is difficult to see καὶ κλινῶν as a motivated reading. (2) κλίνη, though a relatively rare term in the NT, is in keeping with Markan usage (cf. Mark 4:21; 7:30). (3) The phrase could have been dropped accidentally, at least in some cases, via homoioteleuton. (4) The phrase may have been deliberately expunged by some scribes who thought the imagery of washing a dining couch quite odd. The longer reading, in this case, can thus be argued as the harder reading. On balance, even though a decision is difficult (especially because of the weighty external evidence for the shorter reading), it is preferable to retain καὶ κλινῶν in the text.

7 sn Verses 3-4 represent parenthetical remarks by the author, giving background information.

8 tn Grk “eat bread.”

9 tn The term “heart” is a collective singular in the Greek text.

10 sn A quotation from Isa 29:13.

11 tn Grk “Having left the command.”

12 tc The majority of mss, mostly Byzantine ([A] Ë13 33 Ï), have at the end of v. 8 material that seems to have come from v. 4 and v. 13: “the washing of pots and cups, and you do many other similar things.” A slight variation on the wording occurs at the very beginning of v. 8 in mostly Western witnesses (D Θ 0131vid 28 565 it). Such floating texts are usually signs of scribal emendations. The fact that the earliest and most reliable mss, as well as other important witnesses (Ì45 א B L W Δ 0274 Ë1 2427 co), lacked this material also strongly suggests that the longer reading is secondary.

13 tc The translation here follows the reading στήσητε (sthshte, “set up”) found in D W Θ Ë1 28 565 2542 it sys,p Cyp. The majority of mss here read τηρήσητε (thrhsete; א A L Ë13 33 Ï co) or τηρῆτε (thrhte; B 2427), both translated “keep.” It is hard to know which reading is best: On the one hand, τηρήσητε/τηρῆτε has much stronger external support, but στήσητε is a more difficult reading. What makes “keep” suspect is that it appears in two different forms, suggesting independent alterations of a difficult reading. Further, scribes may have been influenced by the preceding “commandment of God” to change the text toward “keep” (TCGNT 81), a common enough expression (cf. Matt 19:17; John 14:15; 1 Tim 6:1; 1 John 5:3; Rev 14:12). Thus, the more difficult reading is “set up.” Also, the more natural opposite of “reject” (ἀθεῖτε [aqeite], literally “you set aside”) is “set up.” However, the Western reading may have been influenced by Exod 6:4 or Heb 10:9, but this likelihood seems remote. Thus, “set up” is more likely to be the original wording of Mark here.

14 sn A quotation from Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16.

15 sn A quotation from Exod 21:17; Lev 20:9.

16 sn Corban is a Hebrew loanword (transliterated in the Greek text and in most modern English translations) referring to something that has been set aside as a gift to be given to God at some later date, but which is still in the possession of the owner (L&N 53.22). According to contemporary Jewish tradition the person who made this claim was absolved from responsibility to support or assist his parents, a clear violation of the Mosaic law to honor one’s parents (v. 10).

17 tn Grk “nullifying.” This participle shows the results of the Pharisees’ command.

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