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Jesus’ Anger in Mark 1:41

So far in this thread I have argued that Mark 1:41 originally said that Jesus got angry when the leper asked him to heal him; and I have shown that elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel Jesus gets angry in context involving healing. And so: if Jesus got angry when the leper asked for healing in Mark 1:41 – what exactly was he angry about? Over the years numerous interpretations have been proposed, and some of these explanations are highly creative.

Some interpreters have argued that Jesus became angry because he knew that the man would disobey orders, spreading the news of his healing and making it difficult for Jesus to enter into the towns of Galilee because of the crowds. The problem with this view is that it seems unlikely that Jesus would be angry about what the man would do later — before he actually did it! Other have suggested that he was angry because the man was intruding on his preaching ministry, keeping him from his primary task. Unfortunately, nothing in the text says anything about this as a problem, and it seems odd as an interpretation in Mark’s Gospel in particular, where healings and exorcisms play so much a greater role than preaching.

Others have suggested that Jesus was angry with the leper for breaking the Law by coming up to him to be healed, instead of avoiding human contact and calling out “unclean, unclean” as the Law commands (Lev. 13:45). But this does not seem to work, since it fails to explain why Jesus himself would then have broken the Law, by physically touching the person.

 

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The Messy World of Second Century Gospels
Jesus Getting Angry

40

Comments

  1. Avatar
    fishician  September 23, 2013

    I think it’s strange that Jesus seems to get angry when asked for a sign (Matt.12:38f). If you are claiming to be a miracle-working messiah it seems reasonable to expect some proof of this claim. Interesting that Jesus is sometimes portrayed as having difficulty performing miracles in his home town (Mark 6:5) or when under examination by a more sophisticated audience (as in Matt.12). I also wonder if his statement in Matt.12:43-45 is actually an answer to his critics who wondered why some of the people Jesus healed seemed to relapse. Often “faith” seems to be necessary for healings to occur. These are the same sort of difficulties seen with modern faith-healers and miracle workers.

  2. Avatar
    Wilusa  September 23, 2013

    Umm, okay, this does seem to make sense. But Jesus comes across as unreasonable – being very snippy when someone doubts his *ability* to perform miracles, overreacting when someone may just be trying to ask for his help *politely*. Let’s assume the historical Jesus never did perform any miracles. Why would the Gospel author have wanted to portray him this way? Is it just a matter of cultural difference – to the author, these attitudes *wouldn’t* have seemed unreasonable?

  3. Avatar
    dennis  September 23, 2013

    ” Jesus is angered ___ not at the illness, or at the world , or the Law , or Satan____ but at the very idea anyone would question , even implicitly , his willingness to help one in need ” Might his wrath been have been directed not at the poor confused leper , but at his detractors ( Scribes , Pharisees , Priests etc. ) whose slander was the source of the leper’s confusion ?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 24, 2013

      Whatever explanation you come up with, I think you need to find suggestions for it in the text itself.

  4. talitakum
    talitakum  September 23, 2013

    This is the most accurate, convincing and beautiful exegesis I’ve ever read on this passage.. And it comes from a non-believer!! Thanks Dr. Ehrman.

  5. Avatar
    JamesFouassier  September 23, 2013

    Is it possible that Jesus is angry because, in each of these situations, a display of his ability to “heal” might have resulted in a premature acclaimation of his messiahship (with the resulting political implications of same) or in some other way interfere with what many belive was Jesus’ well defined “timetable” ? Regardless of whether one subscribes to the idea of a “Messianic Secret” in Mark, it does seem that Jesus went out of his way to avoid “imperial entanglements” until he was ready (as, for example, by leaving Jerusalem each evening until he was ready to be taken).

  6. cheito
    cheito  September 23, 2013

    To me all this irrelevant because I don’t accept Mark as a reliable source of what Jesus said or did. I don’t believe mark’s book is inspired by God. I place Mark on the same category as the Apocryphal books.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 24, 2013

      Uh, I don’t think it’s accurate either. I’m not talking about something that really happened.

  7. Avatar
    SJB  September 24, 2013

    Prof Ehrman

    Do you see any relationship between these episodes of Jesus’ anger and the episode of Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14, 20-21?

    thanks

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  September 24, 2013

    I would have never guessed this conclusion about the source of the anger of Jesus in a thousand years, but I certainly don’t have any better idea. Being a psychiatrist, I think you are describing in Jesus what psychiatrists might describe as anger in response to a “narcissistic injury.” Schweitzer in his 1911 book entitled “The Psychiatric Study of Jesus” mainly discusses whether or not Jesus was psychotic and concludes that he was not psychotic. Schweitzer does not discuss the possible diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder in Jesus, but most of the terminology about narcissism was not developed until several decades after Schweitzer’s book.

  9. Avatar
    Matt7  September 24, 2013

    Bart,

    In making the statement below, do you believe you are referring to the “actual” words of Jesus from the oral tradition, or to the words of the character of Jesus invented by Mark in his semi-fictitious story?

    “Jesus is angered — not at the illness, or the world, or the Law, or Satan — but at the very idea that anyone would question, if even implicitly, his willingness to help one in need.”

  10. Avatar
    billgraham1961  September 24, 2013

    It shows the more human aspect of Jesus.

  11. Avatar
    hardindr  September 24, 2013

    I was wondering if you would comment about an alternative solution to the problem of Jesus becoming angry in Mark 1:41, that the passage in Greek is based on translational interference of the original Aramaic by the author of Mark. Maurice Casey makes this argument in his book, “Jesus of Nazareth” on page 63. He claims that the author of Mark took the original Aramaic word that has a variety of different meanings (he claims the word for “become angry” was “regaz,” which can also mean “became deeply moved” or “trembled” instead of only “became angry”), and used a Greek word for it (origisthesis), which only means to “become angry,” and thus created the problem that led Matthew and Luke to leave the word out of their versions of the story (Luke 5:13 and Matt. 8:3). If you accept this (that the alternative meanings of the original word, like “to be deeply moved” or “tremble’ were intended), then the passage makes a lot more sense than it does in the translated Greek of Mark. I know that you stated in a much earlier blog post that you did not agree with much of what Casey has to say about the Aramaic origins of the NT, but I was wondering what you thought of his idea in this instance.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 24, 2013

      Yes, this didn’t originate with Casey (as I recall). The problem is that the change was done by SCRIBES who were copying the Gospel in Greek. So I don’t see how issues in Aramaic would have affected them (since they didn’t know Aramaic).

  12. Avatar
    Steefen  September 24, 2013

    Part of Jesus’ anger is towards the Temple establishment’s “secularism.” Jesus was not the only rabbi with “magical” powers. Why isn’t Jesus in a place of authority in the Herodian courts as Daniel in Babylon or Joseph in Egypt? How would he be as great as those religious heroes? How would he have been as great or greater than Moses if he didn’t learn Egyptian magic? In Josephus one learns of the Egyptian prophet who preached in the vicinity of the Mount of Olive. He was a contemporary of Jesus. Given Jesus’ scouting of places for his own gatherings, he comes in contact with the Egyptian prophet and probably mulled things over. More important than that: the rabbis record in the Babylonian Talmud that Jesus definitely went to Egypt and came back after he learned and empowered himself with Egyptian Magic.

    So, did the rabbis hold rabbis with magical powers gained via mysticism and mystery schools in high esteem? They did not. It did not matter that these were signs of God. With Jesus taking his spiritual journey from the Temple at the age of 12 to Egypt to learn and empower himself with the skills of Joseph (dream interpreter) and Moses (who grew up in the environment of royalty where sons of pharaohs were priests in Heliopolis and Luxor–exposed to Egyptian Magic), one would think one of the Herods would give Jesus a position of authority in the Temple. How could you not appoint Jesus to a high position in the Jewish Temple?

    Why get angry over doing miracles? Get angry because you are under appreciated by Temple authority. The Temple rabbis were not singing the Hallelujah Chorus of the Messiah because the sick people were made well by God’s powers given to mystical magicians. The rabbis opposing these acts of God by Jesus and other rabbis were God blockers. The purity of Jesus vs. the lack of purity and integrity of the God blockers is what made Jesus seethe.

    As you know, I’ve studied the book Jesus in the Talmud. Another book I’ve studied in sections and still am studying is Jesus the Magician by Morton Smith who also wrote The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark.

    (Despite today’s agnostics and atheists, there was and is a reality of “good news” to what rabbis, Chaldean astrologers, and Egyptian “magicians” and diviners could do. Even today, Reiki, aura cleansing, chakra balancing, listening to brainwave entrainment recordings, understanding astrology, and understanding quantum mechanics (Einstein’s spooky phenomena) gives us a glimpse of what lay beyond the Newtonian world where Jesus did “wonders” garnering him fame in Judea, the Oshroene, and Syria.)

    So, the matter is complicated.

    • Avatar
      Steefen  September 27, 2013

      I was talking with someone about my participation on EhrmanBlog–the above post and he asked me how is quantum mechanics (Einstein’s spooky phenomena) related to healing?

      Remember Jesus sometimes healed without touching a person which relates to the non-locality principle.

      As Science and Religion continues to move further away from a Newtonian paradigm, there is an opportunity to not dismiss the non-Newtonian elements of the historicity of Jesus’ actions. There are people who have tried to dismiss the non-Newtonian elements of Jesus’ biography and just make him a speaker but not a healer (because that isn’t scientific, I’d say, in the Newtonian sense of the word).

      [In a sermon series on Science and Religion, we were introduced to a book called The Quantum Enigma.]

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  September 27, 2013

        I’m not sure what the answer is. But does this mean that people today can still heal without any physical intervention on the basis of quantum mechanics? So, call me a skeptic!

  13. Avatar
    EricBrown  September 24, 2013

    You said the only time Mark has Jesus “angry” is when he is healing. I have always understood that in the episode of the fig tree, Jesus is angry. Am I just reading that in (or did my sunday school teacher read that in 40 years ago?). Or is this understanding of mine common (in non-scholarly circles)?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 24, 2013

      Well, you could read anger into the story, but the story doesn’t say anything about anger. It could be upset, surprise, disappointment, etc, e.g.

  14. talitakum
    talitakum  September 24, 2013

    I also think of Mark 5:39-40 (hence my nickname). Once they laugh at him, he put them all out and heal the girl.

  15. Avatar
    HaiKarate  September 24, 2013

    One thing I’ve never understood is why Jesus spent so much time building a public ministry (the previous paragraph says he traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues), and yet he kept telling people to be quiet about his miracles. I also find it interesting that the author of Mark didn’t give details as to what Jesus was teaching in the synagogues, but did give a detailed account of the miracle.

    Perhaps the author is defending the legends of Jesus’s miracle ministry by showing us that Jesus had his reasons for downplaying them/not talking about them.

    • Avatar
      Elisabeth Strout  October 19, 2013

      Dr. Ehrman, I’d be interested to hear your comments on this as well, the authors’ frequently portraying Jesus as asking that his miracles be kept quiet, when so many of his miracles, and so much of his ministry in general, were done in such public settings according to the gospels – what might have been the reason for these supposed requests to keep things hushed up?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  October 20, 2013

        Ah– that’s called the “messianic secret” (that Jesus’ tried ot keep his identity secret), found especially in Mark (not so much the others; just the opposite in John!). Maybe I’ll post on that. It’s a complicated topic!

  16. Avatar
    Wilusa  September 24, 2013

    Just received your new book! So everyone who preordered it from Amazon should be getting it today (Tuesday). I’ll definitely start reading it this evening.

  17. Avatar
    Peter  September 25, 2013

    Bart.

    Two quick questions:

    Is there any chance you could a post on the “Messianic secret” of Mark’s gospel if you get the chance at some stage? I’ve looked through the history of your posts and I can’t see it mentioned (apologies if I missed it).

    Did Bill O ‘Reilly consult you regarding his new book?! Will you read it?

    I just happened to be flicking around the channels earlier, and I saw him and two guests discussing it. Lucky for me that I did, for I am now aware it is “historical fact” that the apostle John wrote the gospel bearing his name!!

  18. Avatar
    JoeWallack  September 25, 2013

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtzIWPeun7c

    Professor Ehrman, since Professor Wallace agrees with you that “angry” is likely original to 1:41 than it must likely be original. Since it’s clear that there is no clear narrative reason for Jesus to be angry at that stage (so to speak), this opens up the possibility that there is a Literary reason for the author to attribute anger to his Jesus at that point.

    Note that 1:41 starts the Galilean Ministry and there Jesus is tagged with anger. Move forward to 3:5 where there is universal agreement as to Jesus’ anger. This appears to be the end of the Galilean Ministry (at least the 1st one). So “Mark” has attributed anger to his Jesus at the start and end of the Galilean Ministry. Is this phenomena of the same emotion at the beginning and end of a Markan story found elsewhere? Yes it is (“amazement”).

    Staying with Literary Criticism, does “Mark” have a theological reason to attribute anger to Jesus at 1:41? The only significant known Christian author before “Mark” was Paul who wrote that Jesus crucified his passions. Having Jesus angry at the Galilean Ministry fits Paul’s theology as in order to crucify (control) one’s passions (emotions) one would first have to have emotions, preferably strong ones to better make the point. Note that “Mark’s” Jesus is a man of action and emotions during the Teaching & Healing Ministry and becomes a man of inaction during his Passion Ministry. The author skillfully contrasts Jesus’ change with the opposite change of his enemies. They are emotionless while he is emotional and than become angry at his Passion.

    In my opinion the Literary Criticism evidence above is worthy Internal Evidence which should be added in support of “angry” at 1:41. This Literary Criticism has the key attribute of Scope which your Manuscript and Patristic evidence lack.

    Joseph

  19. Avatar
    gavm  January 15, 2014

    mark’s jesus is a bit of a prima donna. Elton Johns inspiration!!!

  20. Avatar
    Adam Beaven  February 14, 2015

    Doctor EHrman

    i couldn’t find relevant post on this blog to discuss the following passage from mark

    27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

    1 does mark think that there is another power in control of jesus’ power and can at will take power out of jesus?
    2. when the verse says, “immediately aware that power had gone forth…” does that mean, according to the greek, jesu was drained of his power?
    3 . is it correct to assume jesus isn’t even aware of who took power from him?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 14, 2015

      No, I think the idea is that Jesus has power that can go out of him. Yes, it appears to have been drained from him. And yes, the idea appears to be that someone, unknown to him, can drain him by having faith. Very odd indeed!

      • Avatar
        Adam Beaven  February 18, 2015

        Greetings Doc

        “20 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. ”

        matthew has reproduced this account and it seems to me that he does not seem to think that “And yes, the idea appears to be that someone, unknown to him, can drain him by having faith.”

        do you agree ?

        i note that ONLY after matthew’s jesus SPEAKS to the woman , the woman is “instantly healed”

        jesus CURSES the fig tree in matthew, the fig tree “instantly withers to its roots”

        it seems that matthew’s jesus does not have power that can go out of him . maybe i have not understood correctly ?

      • Avatar
        Adam Beaven  February 25, 2015

        Dr Ehrman, doesnt mark say that Jesus did not have POWER to do miracles because of peoples lack of faith? Doesn’t this indicate that lack of faith means Jesus ‘ power is in off mode? The question becomes who keeps it (power) in off mode? Could it be that spirit which decended on him? Maybe mark is thinking there is ANOTHER controller and Jesus is just a vehicle?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 28, 2015

          No, I don’t think it says he lacked the power, explicitly.

          • Avatar
            Adam Beaven  February 28, 2015

            Doctor Ehrman

            how do you understand the following verse:

            “5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.”

            is this an indication that jesus “battery power” is reading zero when it comes to curing disbelievers?
            the “not ” qualifies edynato/ability, right?

            dan wallace said :

            “(1) Mark 6:5-6/Matt 13:58—“he could not do any mighty work there except . . . ”/“he did not do many works there . . . because of their unbelief.” On this text Farmer comments: “the passage offers no clear indication that . . . Matthew has ‘toned down’ a phrase in Mark which ‘might cause offense or suggest difficulties’.”30 But this ignores the verbs used, for Mark suggests inability on Jesus’ part, while Matthew simply indicates unwillingness (οὐκ ἐδύνατο vs. οὐκ ἐποίησεν). Cf. also Mark 1:32-34/Matt 8:16/Luke 4:40 for a similar text.”

            do you agree that inability means unable to do something because DISBELIEF is the cause of inability ?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 1, 2015

            I suppose for Mark that since “your faith has healed you,” if no one has faith, then they won’t be healed. For Mark this is less of a comment on Jesus than on his unbelieving townsfolk.

          • Avatar
            Adam Beaven  February 28, 2015

            if i said , ” i am not able to lift this car of you because you don’t believe i am human”

            the ability is lacking /not there. the power is not there to lift the car.

            this is how i am trying to understand mark, but maybe i am wrong . did matthew understand mark like i did and thats why he changed it?

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