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:
At the very start the word “Τετυφλωκεν” (“He has blinded”) is used in John, but this word does not
appear in the entire LXX at all.
Later 31 extra characters are introduced in John, namely “επωρωσεν αυτων την καρδιαν”
(“has hardened of them the heart”), this is not present in LXX, but a similar concept appears
at the beginning of Isaiah 6:10: “επαχυνθη γαρ η καρδια” (“was thickened for the heart”).
We can find the matching word “καρδια”, and if we visualize this in the diagram, it looks like that:
This illustrates the difficulty of creation of certain structure diagrams: here, it is hard to decide if
the word “καρδια” is indeed taken from Isaiah (from a slightly different grammatical structure),
or just an own insertion of Jesus', by using a slightly different (but quite similar) concept.
Another 8 extra characters are added in John: “νοησωσιν” (“understand”). This word
is not present in the LXX at all, but a very close variant “νοησουσιν” exists, and it appears
in Proverbs 28:5 and Jeremiah 23:20. The contexts are, however, somewhat different.
Another candidate would be Isaiah 44:18 where several words and the context too have
some similarity: “βλεπειν τοις οφθαλμοις αυτων και του νοησαι τη καρδια αυτων”
(“to see with their eyes and to comprehend with their heart”). It seems, however, impossible
to make a safe conclusion.
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,
How to summarize these findings?
The same Old Testament passages can be referenced in different ways, even by the same author.
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.
Structure diagrams should be constructed carefully: sometimes more than one
diagram may be acceptable.
There is a need to develop an effective algorithm that finds fuzzy matches.
The getrefs algorithm does a remarkable job when searching for potential quotations.
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.