“Let the Reader Understand”: A Contextual Interpretation of Mark 13:14 -- By: Larry Perkins

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 16:1 (NA 2006)
Article: “Let the Reader Understand”: A Contextual Interpretation of Mark 13:14
Author: Larry Perkins


“Let the Reader Understand”: A Contextual Interpretation of Mark 13:14

Larry Perkins

Graduate School of Theological Studies Trinity Western University

Robert Fowler argues that the clause “let the reader understand” in Mark 13:14 is an example of “parenthetical comment by the narrator to the reader.” It is unique because it addresses the recipient of the story directly. As a result this comment could not be part of Jesus’ discourse. In contrast, this article argues that this clause is part of Jesus’ discourse because its language fits the way that Jesus in Mark challenges people to read—that is, interpret correctly—the Old Testament. This statement fits well with Jesus’ frequent corrections of his disciples’ misunderstandings. The third-person form parallels other instructions that Jesus gives to his disciples. The need for understanding occurs in two other contexts where Jesus is talking with his disciples. Jesus wants them to understand correctly his use of the phrase “the abomination of desolation.” Readers of discourse also hear the injunction.

Key Words: Markan discourse, authentic words of Jesus, abomination of desolation, parenthetical comment

The narrator of Mark’s Gospel often provides editorial comments to insure that the reader or listener grasps the point of the story. Robert Fowler has outlined the various ways in which “explicit commentary” occurs in the text: the title and epigraph; the epitome (1:14-15); as well as “interpretation” (“commentary on the story by the narrator”) marked by parenthesis, anacoluthon, and weaker signals (καί, δέ, or apposition).1

Fowler begins his survey of explicit commentary with reference to Mark 13:14, “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand ), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”2 For him this is “the clearest example in the Gospel of a comment by the narrator on the discourse.”3 It is an example of “parenthetical comment by the narrator to the reader” but distinguished from other examples because “it is the only place in the Gospel

that the storyteller calls the recipient of the story by name.” He is certain of this and states that “the word reader makes the parenthetical remark impossible as a statement by Jesus at the story level because characters wit...

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