2 March 2022

Isaiah: Part 3

In this blog entry we continue focusing on the most complex structure diagrams in the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 6:9-10 in Mark 4:12 and John 12:40

(If you click on a structure diagram that contains Greek texts, you can change the Greek texts to their Latin transcriptions. A second click restores the Greek texts.)

The text of Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted not only in Mark 4:12 and John 12:40, but in Matthew 13:14, Luke 8:10 and Acts 28:26-27 – we already mentioned the last three occurrences. In Matthew and the Acts much more literal citations (2%, 5%) are given, and also in John we find less fuzzy matches (6%, 0%, 0%, 20%) than in Mark. As already pointed out, the introduction in Luke can be disputed if it is indeed an official start of a quotation, and therefore the text in Luke is not more than an allusion, given by Jesus. In Mark we have a quite similar situation. The introductory word “ινα” (“so that”) may be just a technical way to connect Jesus' thoughts and not necessarily an explicit notation for a quotation.

When considering Mark, if we assume here that Jesus indeed quoted the text from Isaiah directly, then we need to admit that several words from Isaiah were skipped and a couple of words were added. Not considering some minor grammatical changes, Jesus just adds the word “ακουοντες” (“hearing”), and that part of his statement (“ακουοντες ακουωσι”: “hearing they might hear”) becomes a kind of repetition and amplification of the first part of the verse (“βλεποντες βλεπωσι”: “seeing they might see”). In my opinion, the message in Jesus' statement is so serious and emphasized that a precise quotation had a lower importance in this part of the Gospel. Interestingly enough, Luke the Evangelist used both the fuzzy variant and the quasi-literal version of the text (in Luke 8:10 and Acts 28:26-27, respectively), so an intentional variation of the text of Isaiah seems plausible here (and in Luke 8:10 too).

On the other hand, John's text begins with a direct reference to the author Isaiah (see lookup KJV John 12:39), and this may result in a more literal quotation. Some texts are, however, skipped and added:
Both quotations (in Mark 4:12 and John 12:40) are common in skipping some parts of the text of the Old Testament and in introducing some minor differences. That is, our former classification can identify both quotations as mixtures of class 4 and 5 quotations. Even if John's text is introduced as a quotation from Isaiah, it is not a quasi-literal match, that is, Jesus (or John) dares to add some minor extensions. On the other hand, the grammatical changes in John's text are indeed smaller than in Mark's quotation (see the Jaccard distances).

In fact, both passages can be found via the getrefs algorithm, because the first 12 characters “βλεποντεσ βλε…” in Mark are unique, and two parts of the quotation in John also (they are “ιδωσιν τοις οφθαλμοις και” and “…φωσιν, και ιασομαι αυτους”, of lengths 22 and 20, respectively).

How to summarize these findings?
  1. The same Old Testament passages can be referenced in different ways, even by the same author.
  2. It seems the authors dared to add some minor modifications or additions to the quoted text, even if the source of reference was given by them explicitly.
  3. Structure diagrams should be constructed carefully: sometimes more than one diagram may be acceptable.
  4. There is a need to develop an effective algorithm that finds fuzzy matches.
  5. The getrefs algorithm does a remarkable job when searching for potential quotations.
  6. Statistical results can give evidence if a topic is important. Here, sadly, a historical turning point is predicted: the (temporary) fall of the Jews – and, as opposition, the raise of the followers of Christ.

Continue reading…

See also a filtered list of the entries on topics GeoGebra, technical developments or internal references in the Bible.

Zoltán Kovács
Linzer Zentrum für Mathematik Didaktik
Johannes Kepler Universität
Altenberger Strasse 54
A-4040 Linz