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Mark 1:41 NIV:

Jesus was indignant.[a] He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’

[a] Many manuscripts Jesus was filled with compassion

The Easy-To-Read version has an interesting footnote:

Mark 1:41 ERV:

These last words made Jesus angry.[a] But he touched him and said, “I want to heal you. Be healed!”

[a] These … angry Most Greek copies have “Moved with pity ….” But it is hard to explain why some good Greek copies and Latin versions have “Filled with anger …,” so many scholars now consider it to be the original reading.

So was Jesus "indignant" / "angry" or "filled with compassion" / "moved with pity"?

If it was the former, what would have made Jesus angry?

Footnote: for research, I checked out a number of versions, all of which chose the compassion / pity translation.

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I was surprised to find all of Ehrman's "A leper in the hands of an angry Jesus" here. In addition to a witty title, it provides a good overview of the arguments in support of this reading. –  Susan Jul 8 at 12:07
I'm surprised this question has never been asked here before, given Ehrman's popularization of this manuscript discrepancy in Misquoting Jesus and the significant difference in textual notes shown in most modern translations. GREAT question! –  Daи Jul 9 at 2:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As Wikis noted, there are many Bible versions which render the Greek aor. pass. part. masc. sing. nom. verb CΠΛΑΓΧΝΙCΘΕΙC (σπλαγχνισθεις) as "moved with compassion, " or "moved with pity".

The form of that verb, however, properly means "to have the bowels yearn" (Strong's G4697). And the root of that verb form (σπλαγχνoν) refers to "the chief intestines, viscera [internal organs]; the entrails, bowels" (Moulton's Analytical Greek Lexicon; cp. your preferred lexica).

Souter, in his Pocket Lexicon, rendered σπλαγχνoν as a Hebraism saying, "I am filled with tenderness," and explained that it meant:

"the heart, etc., and especially, Hebraistically, as the seat of certain feelings, or from the observed effect of emotion on them, compassion and pity."

Prior to the release of Codex Bezae (D/05, ca. 375-499 CE), the verb CΠΛΑΓΧΝΙCΘΕΙC (σπλαγχνισθεις) appeared in earlier Greek-language codices Aleph/01 A/02 B/03 W/032 at Mark 1:41. But someone changed that verb to ΟPΓΙCΘΕΙC (οργισθεις, meaning to be angry or furious) in Codex Bezae. Why it was changed, I can't say with certainty. But, there it is.

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The Idea in Brief

The passage leans more toward the reading σπλαγχνισθεὶς based on various textual readings to include Ephraem Syrac's commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron.


Based on best evidence, Arland et al (2012) provided this verse as follows in their Fourth Edition of The Greek New Testament:

Mark 1:41 (mGNT)
41 καὶ σπλαγχνισθεὶς ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἥψατο καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ θέλω καθαρίσθητι:

The footnotes acknowledge the variant reading for ὀργισθείς; for example, the earliest occurrence in Greek (and Latin) occurs in the Codex Bezae (which is the second word on line seven here), where no emendations or corrections are evident in either the Latin or Greek leaves. According to Cambridge University, which hosts the text (and website), the Codex Bezae is dated to end of the 4th century to the early fifth century. Nonetheless the editors and Committee of The Greek New Testament ascribe their level of confidence as {B} ("almost certain") that the best reading is σπλαγχνισθείς, since more compelling evidence was available. The late Bruce Metzger (1994), who was one editor and Committee member for The Greek New Testament, commented in greater detail regarding this verse.

  It is difficult to come to a firm decision concerning the original text. On the one hand, 
  it is easy to see why ὀργισθείς (“being angry”) would have prompted over-scrupulous copyists 
  to alter it to σπλαγχνισθείς (“being filled with compassion”), but not easy to account for the 
  opposite change. On the other hand, a majority of the Committee was impressed by the following 
  considerations: (1) The character of the external evidence in support of ὀργισθείς is less 
  impressive than the diversity and character of evidence that supports σπλαγχνισθείς; 
  (2) At least two other passages in Mark, which represent Jesus as angry (3:5) or indignant 
  (10:14), have not prompted over-scrupulous copyists to make corrections; (3) It is possible 
  that the reading ὀργισθείς either (a) was suggested by ἐμβριμησάμενος of ver. 43, or (b) arose 
  from confusion between similar words in Aramaic (compare Syriac ethraḥam, “he had pity,” with 
  ethra’em, “he was enraged.”)

Metzger then makes mention of Nestle (1901), who commented on this passage and suggested the confusion between ὀργισθείς and σπλαγχνισθείς was based on the similarity of guttural pronunciation of words, which copyists mistook for related homonyms. Please click here. Thus Metzger and his colleagues had come to the conclusion that σπλαγχνισθείς was the more certain reading than ὀργισθείς, since the confusion seems to have originated from homonyms in the original Syriac of the Diatessaron. That is, the original source of “being angry” was the Syriac translation of the commentary of Ephrem Syrus on Tatian's Diatessaron, where “being angry” had occurred; however, the Arabic version, which was based on the Armenian translation of this text, reflects “he had pity,” and thus casts more ambiguity on the original sources for these texts.


The Codex Bezae, which is written in Greek and Latin, appears to have received “being angry” from the Latin translations of the commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron by Ephrem Syrus, which was in Syriac, but survives today in Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian among others. In some cases, the phrase “being filled with compassion” occurs in these various versions, which were based on other translations. In other words, the translations of translations in various languages (Syriac/Greek -> Arabic/Latin -> Armenian, etc.) increase the likelihood of the original error, which was the copyist misinterpretation of the original Syriac homonyms in their context. So as Metzger indicated, the original Syriac ethraḥam, “he had pity,” is the homonym of ethra’em, “he was enraged.” So when the latter word was translated into other languages, such as appeared in Greek as ὀργισθείς, the variant reading appeared. However, some copyists (such as the Arabic translation of the Diatessaron in the Armenian language) did not copy the same error, but preserved the meaning of “he had pity.” In summary, the most accurate reading in the Greek New Testament therefore is σπλαγχνισθείς.

Arland, Kurt, et al. (2012). The Greek New Testament (Fourth Edition). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 122.
Metzger, Bruce (1994). A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Fourth Edition). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 65.
Nestle, Eberhard (1901). Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament. Edinburgh: Williams & Norgate, 262-263.

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