Mark’s Amazing Use of Participles [Attention: Grammar Geek Alert]

screenshot-2016-11-12-09-55-56Sometimes we think of the gospels writers as sort of barely literate yokels who didn’t really know what they were doing when they were writing their stories of Jesus.  Mark has a truly remarkable passage in which he dispels that notion.  In this screenshot of the text of Mark 5.25-30, I have marked the participles with a green highlight.  Most of them do not show up as participles because the translators have to take the Greek and make it readable in English.

One of the uses of participles is to background that particular verb because something MORE IMPORTANT is coming up.  Used this way it creates a sense of anticipation in the reader.  Here is an example, Running madly down the street and leaping over tall curbs, Johnny finally reached the ice cream truck. When we read this sentence it creates a sense of anticipation, why is Johnny running madly?  Why does he need to leap tall curbs? Only after building tension do we discover that little Johnny really loves ice cream.  We’ve used participles to build up to a main point.

Mark does that here.  He uses seven participles as he builds towards something important.  What is it that Mark is building towards?  Look at vs. 27, I will translate it using the participles which we can’t see in the ESV: “She had been hearing about Jesus so coming up behind him through the crowd, she touched his robe.”  Mark REALLY REALLY wants us to understand how important it was that she touched Jesus’ robe.

But that’s not all!

As if he thinks that we may miss his point, Mark does the exact same thing again.  He uses three participles as he builds tension as the reader awaits Jesus’ response: “Jesus, realizing at once that healing power was going out from him, turning around in the crowd he asked, “Who touched me?”

Mark wants to make sure that we see the main point of this interaction.  The woman touched Jesus and she was healed. Remember that Mark has a string of miracle stories here in which he illustrates Jesus’ power: He commanded wind and waves and they obeyed him; he threw a legion of demons out of a poor demonized man; and now a woman is being healed simply by touching Jesus even though he knows nothing about her, not even that she is there until she touches him in a crowd that is jostling around him, no doubt brushing against him again and again.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology comments:

Those who in faith touched even his clothes, like the one suffering from an “unclean” disease (Mk. 5:27), or those of Galilee whose diseases rendered them incapable of walking (Mk. 6:55), became well and were made whole (lit. “passed through to salvation” diesoœtheœsan, Matt. 14:36), for whether they knew it or not they had touched the form of glory and life.

This poor woman who had been trapped in her physical infirmity for twelve years is freed by touch. Her touch.  In faith.

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One Response to Mark’s Amazing Use of Participles [Attention: Grammar Geek Alert]

  1. Pingback: The Power of Touch | On Eagles Wings

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