Imperfect in Mark (SBL paper 2009)

November 17, 2009

Here’s a snippet of my paper for SBL this weekend. The entire paper will be posted later, probably Sat or very early on Sun.

Other imperfects serve as summary statements and are often found in summary sections which include a string of imperfect verb forms: 1:5 (2×), 1:32, 34, 45; 3:11 (4×), 12; 4:33–34 (4×); 6:5, 6, 13 (3×), 19–20 (7×), 55, 56 (4×). (“Summary” in this context does not refer to a summary of a preceding narrative, but rather to a synopsis of a series of events which are not described in detail.)

Note the following examples. In the first example the use of ὅταν is another pointer to a summary section.

3:11–12, καὶ τὰ πνεύματα τὰ ἀκάθαρτα, ὅταν αὐτὸν ἐθεώρουν, προσέπιπτον αὐτῷ καὶ ἔκραζον λέγοντες ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 καὶ πολλὰ ἐπετίμα αὐτοῖς ἵνα μὴ αὐτὸν φανερὸν ποιήσωσιν.
The unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, fell before him and cried out, “You are the son of God.” 12 He rebuked them sternly that they should not make him known.

4:33–34, Καὶ τοιαύταις παραβολαῖς πολλαῖς ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον καθὼς ἠδύναντο ἀκούειν· 34χωρὶς δὲ παραβολῆς οὐκ ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς, κατ᾿ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς ἰδίοις μαθηταῖς ἐπέλυεν πάντα.
With many such parables he was speaking the message to them as they were able to understand, 34 but he did not speak to them without parables, but he explained everything privately to his own disciples.

These summaries often occur at the end of sections and sketch the general situation at the time or the results of the previous events. Thus 4:33–34 serves as the summary of Jesus’ ministry and occurs at the end of the lengthy series of parables in 4:1–32. Likewise 6:19–20 summarizes the reason why John was in prison and his relationship with both Herod and Herodias. There are often other specific items in the context which reinforce this summary sense. For example, in Mark 6:55–56 there is not only a string of five imperfect forms, but there are also two ἄν constructions.