I want to continue my discussion of the virgin birth in the NT, with a set of reflections that is pretty unusual: the views of the Virgin Birth in Mark and John (who do not narrate it!). I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but it’s been a few years, and is worth thinking of again.
It is interesting that Mark, our first Gospel to be written, does not have the story of the Virgin birth and in fact shows no clue that it is familiar with the stories of the Virgin birth. On the contrary, there are passages in Mark that appear to work *against* the idea that Jesus’ mother knew anything about his having had an extraordinary birth.
There is a complicated little passage in Mark 3:20-21 about Jesus’ family coming to take him out of the public eye because they thought he was crazy. It is a difficult passage to translate from the Greek, and a number of translations go out of their way to make it say something that it probably doesn’t say. The context is that Jesus has been doing extraordinary miracles, attracting enormous crowds, and raising controversy among the Jewish leaders. Jesus then chooses his disciples and they go with him into a house. And then come our verses.
In the Greek the passage literally says that “those who were beside him came forth” in order to seize him, because they were saying, EXESTH. The two problems are: who is this group that has come, and what does it meant that he EXESTH? It is widely thought among translators and interpreters – and I think this has to be right – that “those who were beside him” means “his family.” It cannot mean the disciples, because they are already with him in the house. It must be people who were personally attached to Jesus (that’s what the phrase “were beside him” means). And so that appears to leave his family members. No one else is “on his side,” as it were.
Why then did his family members come? Because they thought he was EXESTH. Whatever the word means, it can’t be good. The whole point of this section of Mark is that…
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