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Linguistics and Loanwords in the Gospel of Mark

November 17, 2019

Scholarly readers of the Gospel of Mark have long noted the conspicuous presence of non-Greek terms and phrases.  A forthcoming article sets the analysis of the phenomena on a more sophisticated level:  Alfredo Delgado Gomez, “Get Up!  Be Opened!:  Code-switching and loanwords in the Gospel of Mark,” forthcoming (2020) in Journal for the Study of the New Testament.

Scholars have often explored whether the use of such non-Greek words and phrases was indicative of the provenance (or destination) of the GMark.  For example, the Latin words have led some to propose a Latin-speaking setting/destination.  Others, pointing to the greater frequency of Hebrew and Aramaic terms have argued for an “Eastern” setting in Palestine or Syria.

To my knowledge, Delgado Gomez’s article in the first study to address the wider phenomenon of what are called in linguistics “loanwords”, whether Latin, Hebrew, or Aramaic.  And he does so bringing to bear principles and insights from social linguistics.

After setting out those principles and insights, he then surveys sequentially the use of Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic loanwords and phrases.  And he explores cogently how these items would have influenced early readers.  For example, the Aramaic loanwords/phrases are largely on the lips of Jesus.  This, Delgado Gomez proposes, would have given to the character of Jesus in the GMark what we might call “local color”, and gave readers a sense of hearing occasional words of Jesus in his own language.

The article is a translation of the Spanish version: “¡Levàntate!  ¡Ábrete! El Idiolecto de Marcos a La Luz de La Sociolingüistica,” Estudios Ecclesiàsticos 93 (2018): 29-86.  After Delgado Gomez brought the article to my attention, I read it and was very impressed.  But I urged him to prepare an English translation for publication in a journal focused more on the NT.  This would bring his study to a wider circle of scholars (most of whom don’t have Spanish as one of their languages).  He did so, and I’m pleased that JSNT accepted it for publication.   I’ve seen the proofs of the English version, and it is worth looking out for when it appears.

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  1. Hanoch permalink


    Hello Professor Hurtado. Related to this post about linguistics and loanwords in Mark, Evangelical Quarterly (John Nolland, ed.) has published three papers of mine, two of which investigate puzzling Markan verses: Mark 3:17 and Mark 10:38–39:

    “Rethinking Mark 3:17: Did Jesus give both Boanērges and Huioi Brontēs as Apostolic Names?”
    EQ 89.2 (2018), 162–180

    “Mark 10:38–39: Was Jesus’s Challenge ‘Drinking the Cup and Becoming Drunk’? Extended Senses of Baptizō in the NT”
    EQ 90.3 (2019), 246–263

    The third paper suggests a solution for 1Cor. 15:29 based not on a passive, but on the middle voice (subject focused) reading of the participle and verb for baptizein. I suggest Paul breezes by the Jewish custom of purifying the dead before burial as preparation for the resurrection (compare Acts 9:37).

    “Whether Jews, Whether Greeks: Was 1 Cor. 15:29 Addressed to Jewish Disciples of Jesus?
    EQ 88.4 (2016/17) 331–348

    With a limit of 8,500 words per EQ article it was not possible to cinch up everything completely, but Professor Nolland did let me rework the papers six or seven times each to achieve the required “maturity” for publication, as he termed it. I optimistically list myself as an “independent researcher”.

    Best wishes, best of health, and thank you for your continued posting of very interesting information.

  2. ROY KOTANSKY permalink

    Do you recall, Professor Hurtado, whether the author thinks the Latinisms, esp. quadrans, might point to a Roman provenance for Mark’s gospel, as re-argued recently by Incignieri, THE GOSPEL TO THE ROMANS (2003), whom I think is correct? Many thanks.

    • Delgado Gomez doesn’t take the foreign words as accidental, but deliberate, and intended to have certain effects on first readers.

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