Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου· φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ, 1
As it has been written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, a voice crying in the wilderness, ‘(You) prepare the way of the Lord, you make straightway his paths!
“As it has been written” seems to be an odd transition. Καθὼς usually expounds upon a previous statement. Therefore, the content that follows will expound on the introduction, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. It seems most logical that Καθὼς is further developing Ἀρχὴ from v. 1. In other words, the “beginning” begins with something foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
γέγραπται is a perfect, passive indicative. What has been written has already been written in the definite past. The locative dative of the forthcoming quote is said to be ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ (in Isaiah the prophet). τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ and τῷ προφήτῃ are appositional datives. The prophet is Isaiah; Isaiah is the prophet.
The problem is that the first part of this quote is not from the prophet Isaiah. In fact, it is from Exodus 23:20 and/or Malachi 3:1. The latter half, beginning in v. 3, is from Isaiah.
Due to the awkwardness that this causes it appears that scribes noted the apparent error and changed the text to read “in the prophets” rather than “in the prophet Isaiah”. Let us take a look at a couple of notes of this text critical issue.
First, Bruce Metzger writes,
The quotation in verses 2 and 3 is composite, the first part being from Mal 3.1 and the second part from Is 40.3. It is easy to see, therefore, why copyists would have altered the words “in Isaiah the prophet” (a reading found in the earliest representative witnesses of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text) to the more comprehensive introductory formula “in the prophets.” 2
Second, the NET translation committee included this note,
Instead of “in Isaiah the prophet” the majority of mss read “in the prophets” (A W Ë13 Ï Irlat). Except for Irenaeus (2nd century), the earliest evidence for this is thus from the 5th (or possibly late 4th) century (W A). The difficulty of Irenaeus is that he wrote in Greek but has been preserved largely in Latin. His Greek remains have “in Isaiah the prophet.” Only the later Latin translation has “in the prophets.” The KJV reading is thus in harmony with the majority of late mss. On the other hand, the witnesses for “in Isaiah the prophet” (either with the article before Isaiah or not) are early and geographically widespread: א B D L Δ Θ Ë1 33 565 700 892 1241 2427al syp co Ir. This evidence runs deep into the 2nd century, is widespread, and is found in the most important Alexandrian, Western, and Caesarean witnesses. The “Isaiah” reading has a better external pedigree in every way. It has the support of the earliest and best witnesses from all the texttypes that matter. Moreover it is the harder reading, since the quotation in the first part of the verse appears to be from Exod 23:20 and Mal 3:1, with the quotation from Isa 40:3 coming in the next verse. The reading of the later mss seems motivated by a desire to resolve this difficulty. 3
The more difficult (apologetically) reading would be “in Isaiah the prophet” since the quote is a composite quote and it is only the latter half that is from the prophet Isaiah. It should be notes that this does not cause as many problems as some make it. It only shows that the exactness of quotations in the ancient Greco-Roman world do not correspond to Western source citing, plagiarism sensitivities.
In fact, this is true in some cultures even today. I have been doing grading for graduate level students and I have noticed, and it has been confirmed by a few others whom I have spoke to on this matter, that many students of Asian heritage do not have the same sensitivity to crediting an author.
It has been said by one student that this would be disrespectful. When my wife did a group project a year or so back she had a partner of Asian heritage that was newer to the United States. It became problematic because each of her contributions were copied and pasted from previous sources. While this discussion on Mk. 1:2-3 has little to do with the difference between North American and Asian approaches to source citing, it does show that authors from different cultures, not to mentioned eras, should not be judged by our standard of source citing. Therefore, the author of the Second Gospel had all the right to attribute a composite quote to the prophet Isaiah even though some of it was from the prophet Malachi.
The quote begins with the interjection Ἰδοὺ (“behold!”). ἀποστέλλω is a first person, present, active indicative. It appears that God is the speaker. In the Malachi 3:1 reference YHWH foretells his arrival at the temple. It can be argued here that this is the first Markan statement regarding the deity of Christ. If this passage goes on to speak of Christ as being the one who fulfills YHWH’s proclamation then it suggest that the author sees Jesus as embodying YHWH’s actions.
The accusative τὸν ἄγγελόν is a reference to a messenger, not an angel. Since ἄγγελος can mean messenger or angel the interpreter must go with the meaning that is contextually sound. In the case of Mark 1:2 it is messenger since the context later reveals this to be a prophecy applied to John the Baptist. It would be stretching the limits of sounds, logical translation to make John the Baptist into an “angel”. 4
μου is a possessive genitive. John the Baptist is “my” messenger, as in YHWH’s messenger. The preposition πρὸ indications a direction toward and it can be translated “before” or “in front of”. The messenger is being sent “before” the προσώπου. The KJV, ESV, and NASB attempt to retain the most literal rendering “face”. The NIV and NET understand it to be the more figurative “ahead”. The function of the genitive σου is partially determined by the rendering. If “face” it may be possessive genitive. If “ahead” we may suggest that it is a genitive of place/space.
To be continued…
1. Aland, Kurt ; Black, Matthew ; Martini, Carlo M. ; Metzger, Bruce M. ; Robinson, Maurice. ; Wikgren, Allen: The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (With Morphology). Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993; 2006, S. Mk 1:2-3
2. Metzger, Bruce Manning ; United Bible Societies: A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.). London; New York : United Bible Societies, 1994, S. 62
3. See http://net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Mar&chapter=1#n4
4. Unless one applies the principle of translation used in Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, and 14. It is here that “angel” appears to be a fitting translation, rather than mere messenger, yet it is often argued that this is the title given to the pastors of these churches. Of course, there are others who see this as being references to actual angels who oversee the churches in a way similar to angelic oversight of nations in the OT. See Daniel 10:13.
It only shows that the exactness of quotations in the ancient Greco-Roman world do not correspond to Western source citing, plagiarism sensitivities.
In the end, that is what it really comes down to.
So you leave me hanging with either genitive of possession or genitive of place/space.
I go with the genitive of place/space because of the second line from the Isaiah text. It seems to be a stairway Hebrew parallelism, second line completing the thought of the first.
I will look more into the OT quotes before I decide on whether or not I think it is a genitive of possession or place/space. I like your thought on the matter though!
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