Mark 6.7-13

And he went about among the villages teaching.

And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts–but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.

And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and annointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

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9 responses

  1. “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts–but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.” One can hear what is going on here more clearly if one adopts a more literal translation: “…And he charged them that nothing they should take on the way except a staff only, not bread, not a wallet, not in the girdle copper, but having had tied on sandals, and do not put on two tunics.” Can’t you just see Mark ticking off the rules one by one on his fingers as they come back to his mind? “Jesus said, um, let’s see: don’t take anything on the way — except a staff, you can take that — no bread, he said, no wallet, and then he said no copper on your girdle either, ’cause some of them were thinking about doing that if they couldn’t have a wallet — but you don’t have to go barefoot, you can tie on sandals — oh yeah, and don’t put on two tunics, either.”It’s worth noting that other versions of the discipline of the first apostles appear in Matthew 10:5-14 and Luke 9:2-6. Matthew’s version is, as usual, the most carefully explained. Where Mark’s version merely says, “Wherever you-all enter into a house, there remain until you go out from there,” Matthew elaborates, “…Into whatever city or village you-all may enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there remain until you may go. And entering into the house, greet it; and if indeed the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it be not worthy, let your peace return unto you.”Leif Vaage, in his book Galilean Upstarts. Jesus’ First Followers According to Q, which I also quoted in my last comment here, points out that these rules are rules that had previously existed in the Greek Cynic tradition. For instance, Diogenes Laërtius quotes Diokles as saying that Antisthenes, the founder of the Cynic movement, “was the first to double his cloak and be content with that one garment….” Antisthenes’ star pupil Diogenes of Sinope (he of the lantern and the barrel) boasted that he carried no staff on his missionary travels, “even through an army camp if need be, and amid brigands; for I have no enemy, public or private, who opposes me.” And so forth.So Christ was deliberately imparting to his apostles the observable discipline of Cynic holy men as they preached his gospel through the Hellenized Jewish world.Regarding the bit about where the apostles were to stay when they entered a village, Vaage quotes Pseudo-Crates, a Cynic apostle of the early Christian era, explaining the discipline of his sect: “Do not beg the necessities of life from everyone, nor accept from everyone what is given to you (for it is not right for virtue to be supported by vice). Rather, beg only from those persons and accept gifts only from those who have been initiated into philosophy. Then it will be possible for you to demand back what belongs to you and not to appear to be begging what belongs to others.” Vaage comments (p. 32), “The beggary of the Q people [the early followers of Christ], like that of the Cynics, was … part of a broader strategy of social engagement: one that we might call a ‘militant mendicancy’.”

  2. There is certainly a resemblance to the Cynic tradition here, but the differences are more significant than the similarities.Horsley & Silberman, _The Message & the Kingdom_: “…we can see that they would never have been identified as Cynic preachers by any of their contemporaries. While a Cynic preacher was recognizable in the Hellenistic cities by his tattered cloak, walking staff, and hanging purse in which he held the handouts he collected, Jesus explicitly instructed those he sent into the villages to carry no purse, no knapsack, no sandals, and not to talk to people along the way. [potential Herodian spies(?)] Far from being beggars on the move, tossing out pithy sayings to anyone who would listen, they were instructed to work for a certain period of time in each village, staying in the household of their host and eating whatever was put before them.”Cynics were barefoot; Jesus’s disciples are putting on sandals to go out to the countryside. The Cynics were professional outsiders who made their living, in urban marketplaces, as philosophical entertainers, preaching the renunciation of all human status and institutions. While they encouraged converts, they were not seeking a society of Cynics (in which they would have found nobody producing the wherewithall to give them alms.)The disciples are going to small, impoverished villages. Rather than performing in the marketplace, they are seeking out a local mensch, intending to live as his guest while performing services to the community. Rather than distaining the good opinion of the community, they uphold a respected local leader and gain honor from his patronage (if all goes well.) The object is not to collect alms but to recruit the village to the cause of their Messiah.If rejected, they are to shake off the dust from their feet as a testimony against the town. “We came all this way, through all this dust, and when God gets around to it, man, is this place going to be sorry!”This word “repent” is likewise not what people ususally take it for. It did not mean, “anguish yourself with regrets,” but (as I’d heard) “turn around, take a new direction” and according to someone’s recent post elsewhere, “to renew one’s mind.” In the process, they are finding many sick with malnutrition and dispair, and healing them. Uniting the village to care for each other rather than falling separately to a runaway system of exploitation, offering a chance to serve God’s Messiah in restoring the nation to its intended form, all this must have healed many such ills.

  3. Another thing, about this “authority.”Is this like a delegation of power, as it sounds? “All right, if you run into any evil spirits tell them I sent you, and they’ll behave”?Or is it a matter of training, knowing something about the nature and weaknesses of these spirits (and/or ailments) that renders them harmless?

  4. Yes, forrest, it is quite true that the first apostles “would never have been identified as Cynic preachers by any of their contemporaries.”But they were employing the same symbols as the itinerant Cynics — the itinerancy and preaching itself, the poverty, the deliberate simplicity of lifestyle, the dramatized opposition to established-religion hypocrisies. And this is no minor point: those who use the same symbols are participants in the same subculture and the same dialectic. They are related like Baptists and Greek Orthodox (who both use the symbols of Christianity) rather than unrelated like Baptists and Buddhists (who have no symbols in common).Moreover, most of the differences between Christ’s first apostles and contemporary Cynics — the forsaking of the staff and purse, the not talking to people on the way, and the willingness to be useful laborers while teachings — were in fact returns to the practices of the first Cynics, Antisthenes and Diogenes. Thus these differences were suggestive of a reformed Cynicism — a return from the corrupt, self-indulgently-filthy pseudo-poverty that the present generation of Cynics had fallen into, to the starker, healthier asceticism and more righteous practices of the two great figures who’d started the movement — rather than being suggestive of a movement that had nothing to do with Cynicism.

  5. Very informative! I take it (perhaps wrongly) that Marshall intimates that Jesus may have been strongly influenced by the (genuine) Cynics.It does appear to me that Jesus was likely just as much a Greek as a Jew. Long ago I asked a professor of N.T. how much of it was Jewish and how much Greek. Off the top of his head he said, about half and half.

  6. By the time anyone got around to writing any of this down (evidently), much of the congregation and certainly the people doing the writing were Hellenists writing in Greek. Even so, there are traces of Aramaic idiom (especially the frequent, vehement use of metaphor, which is what it takes to say a lot of things in a language mostly built up from a few root concepts.)I used to see a lot of hippies wearing old military clothes. Many of them were old military people, of course, but those symbols were being used with a significant twist.The Cynics were reacting to a world that honored democracy but had fallen virtually everywhere to military dictatorship. Achieving the Good in public life was out of the question; so they opted instead to stand for their own individual virtue–whereas the disciples were working for a national establishment of the Kingdom. Embracing poverty was a common ideal–but a matter of necessity for many of Jesus’s contemporaries.Probably Jesus’s initial audience was too rural, too Jewish, too busy skritching for a living, to have picked up much Greek culture–except as symbols for what was oppressing them. The fact that pagans were successfully oppressing them was, of course, a source of considerable confusion and cultural unease.

  7. While too am fascinated by the connections between Jesus, his disciples, and the Cynics — I’m mindful that this is all speculative. At best we can say — this is a possibility. It indicates a likely influence (or more likely a common complaint against certain aspects of the then Roman culture). I’m in the same boat with the Jesus — was he Greek or Jew or 50/50 split — I’m a Canadian — one of the subject peoples of the American Empire. I’m also a Christian a Quaker an employee husband and cat owner. Am I one sixth of each of those things. No, I’m 100% each of those. The arithmetic of the heart doesn’t follow the same rules as the mathematics quadratic equations.

  8. I noticed something curious — the word translated as “demons” — one legitimate translation apparently — “gods”One becomes aware of how much 2000 years of Christian worldview(s) can colour the reading/interpretation of the text.

  9. “demons” == “spirits”, “gods,” “angels”, etc.Remember Socrates’ “daemon”? A “spirit”, to his Greek contemporaries. Another one of them pagan “demons” to some early Christians, just a foreign angel (or god) to a Jew, different connotations for different views.

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