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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 '14 at 12:07
  • 3
    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!
    – Dan
    Jul 9 '14 at 2:16
  • He is always angry at sin and the curse which brings devastating consequences to people. Jul 1 at 4:28
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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.

Discussion

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.

Conclusion

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.

REFERENCES:
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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Since none of the other answers seem to have recounted the standard arguments used by those who prefer the angry reading, I'll start by recapping the lengthy discussion given by Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, pp. 132-138. When there are two readings, we should generally prefer the more difficult one, since a scribe would be unlikely to change a less difficult reading to a more difficult one. This is the main reason for preferring the reading involving anger. A second reason is that Matthew and Luke, presumably working from Mark, both cut the description of Jesus's emotion entirely, which they would be unlikely to do if it were a description of compassion.

There are perfectly reasonable reasons for Jesus to be angry here. The leper is ritually unclean, and the Temple has a prescribed and expensive ritual for cleansing him, which is laid out in detail in Leviticus 13:2. The leper is transgressing by accosting Jesus, and is trying to shortcut the correct purification ritual. Jesus's command to go to the Temple for a follow-up visit (1:44) is natural because, although he disdains the people running the place and rejects their authority, he reveres the Temple itself, and it has the equivalent of high-tech medical equipment. The Egerton papyrus has additional descriptive material about this incident, in which the leper tells Jesus his case history (he was traveling and eating with lepers), and Jesus says "Μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε," meaning basically stop sinning/making mistakes by violating the Mosaic law's purity code.

I don't think the meanings of the two words are even as disparate as is often supposed by English speakers. The word σπλαγχνίζω, usually translated as "to have compassion for," comes from a word σπλάγχνον for innards or guts (it's cognate with "spleen"), which is metaphorically the seat of emotion, and seems to have something to do historically with the practice of eating the innards of a sacrifice. (Cf. "I was gutted," "eat your heart out.") In other words, its more literal meaning here would be that Jesus finds the sight of the leper "gut-wrenching," which is a reasonable reaction to someone with a loathsome disease. Since σπλάγχνον was a fairly common word (3349th most frequent), I think it would be obvious to a Greek speaker that this was semantically about guts, just as much as for an English speaker hearing "gut punch," "gut feeling," "gut check," etc.

The verb ὀργίζω, to anger, more broadly means to arouse passions, and may or may not be related to ὄργια, a secret rite or ritual. If so, then both of these words are discussing the unleashing of emotions indirectly, by relating them to outward ceremonial situations. This is sort of a general thing in Greek, which is that where in English we describe emotions using adjectives for inner emotional states, in Greek emotions are described using verbs that describe outward manifestations or causes of the state. Where we say in English, "John was happy," in Greek it's more often "John was fortunate," or "John rejoiced."

In any case, it is not true in general that Greek words for expressing emotion correspond one-to-one with the conceptual categories we use in English.

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    Thanks for presenting the alternate interpretation. Engaging with multiple viewpoints is one of the things that makes this site work. (+1) Feb 28 at 22:23
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In Mark 1.41 Jesus is telling a man asking for his skin disease to be healed: {variants: Compassionate/angry/ b g1 have nothing} stretching out his hand, he said: "I will, be clean". Camille Focant in "The Gospel According to Mark" (2012) says on 41: "Critical editions prefer splagnistheis {compassionate} well attested by different types of texts, whereas the commentators generally opt for orgistheis {angry} despite the fact that this reading only occurs in manuscripts of the western type (D it [a ff2 r1]) ... We cannot explain why copyists would have replaced splagnistheis by orgistheis". He then quotes the opinion that "orgistheis was inspired (awkwardly) by the following context (Mk 1.43)" (inspired by "he threatened him"). This, I believe, is correct. 1.43 reads: And he threatened him {variants: and he cast him out/ and immediately he sent him away}. This verse only makes sense as the work of an interpolator who assumed that the skin disease was caused by a spirit inside the man that needed to be expelled, but there has been no mention of such a spirit. Hence some manuscripts rewrite with the second of the variants, which refers to the man. Possessing a manuscript with this variant, a reader inevitably took "he threatened him" to refer to the man, arguing that, since Jesus threatened the man, he must have been angry with him. So he put "angry" in 41. Since readers have expressed their preference for "compassionate" (splagnistheis) I would like to suggest a third solution, that, as in b g1, Mark wrote nothing. In favor: If Matthew 8.3 and Luke 5.3 had "compassionate" in their texts of Mark, it is not easy to see why they would have omitted something so clearly complimentary to Jesus. Greeven in the Huck-Greeven synopsis says that b g1 have nothing because some reader objected to something not in Matthew or Luke. It is very hard to believe that some early reader had such a low opinion of Mark that he was prepared to omit something just because it was not in Matthew or Luke. Nor is there any obvious reason for an accidental omission. On the other hand, the addition of compassionate, giving an obvious and very complimentary reason for Jesus' action, is very easy to believe.

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  • Welcome to BHSX. "Interesting" answer that will provoke some discussion. I suggest you also consult, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament" by Bruce Metzger for a slightly different view.
    – user25930
    Aug 13 '18 at 21:35
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If he was angry or resentful "indignant," maybe because he was asked so often "the question," are you willing? No, I would prefer that you continue to suffer. It's easy to be offended when he knows that he came just for that and never refusing anyone. Are we doing that today also, God are you willing to heal me, are you willing to bless me and so on? So, not angry with the man with leprosy, but annoyed with the question maybe?

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Jesus had compassion on the man with leprosy and was angry at the sinful condition of the world and disease. He was indignant at the lack of faith and indignant with at how evil had triumphed in the life of the leper and wanted him to be clean from the disease. He proved it in His willingness to heal heal him by doing so right in that moment. I do not see Jesus as being impatiently indignant. That goes against the character of Jesus Christ the the Son of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords the Almightyis righteous anger. He was angry but did not sin. He was kind yet indignant with evil.

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    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. I struggle to understand the wordy point you try to make. It would help to add some references to support your assertions.
    – Dottard
    Dec 14 '20 at 9:56
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Jesus, the incarnate, or better than "incarnate" is to say "inhumanate" (for the Greek ἐνανθρώπησις is a better theological term than ἐνσάρκωσις, and Latin "inhumanatio" than "incarnatio") eternal Logos and God, became fully human and thus has everything human except for sin.

Now, is anger a sin? No way! Correctly applied anger is not only not a sin, but a good thing. As Plato says in the "Republic", "if one does not have anger ready in one's heart, how can he repel evil thoughts and desires that may beset him? Thus anger is like a shepherd dog repelling a wolf (i.e. evil thought/desire) lest it destroys sheep (i.e. good and holy thoughts/desires)."

Indeed, Jesus had a good anger, not though in Platonic sense that He had a need of repelling evil thoughts/desires from Himself, for He did not have them, but a good anger as a healthy reaction of His human heart and intellect. In fact, in this specific place (Mark 1:41) He expressed His anger on behalf of a stupidity and heartlessness of Pharisees, who entertained a patently self-contradictory and even a schizophrenic thought that it was a sin against God to do God-ly deeds on Sabah day. Surely, even though He could contain and hide this just and good anger, He did not do so, definitely for pedagogical reasons.

If anger is not permissible and sometimes even necessary, how could His apostle say: "Get angry, but do not sin" (Eph. 4:26)? Does not this mean that anger is one thing and sin another? Of course it is so! A teacher will be a good teacher if he expresses his anger to a student, when the latter performs badly and lazily, for this anger is governed by love and desire to do good to the student, but this teacher will sin if this anger will lapse into a hatred of this student.

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If we read the entire occurrence in Mark it can be extracted that the Lord was upset that this man was going to broadcast the healing and make it impossible for the Lord to continue to minister openly in the city. The Lord has perfected prophetic powers, He knew what the man was going to do, he warned him sternly not to do it, He knew the man would do it anyway. I don't think the Lord was angry, either about a Torah violation or the man begging to be healed, despite the wording the man used, the man was suffering horribly, the Lord knew this and knew the man could not possibly think at His level due to this suffering. I think He did not like the fact that His ministry was about to be negatively affected by the actions this man was going to take and He did not want that to happen, but knew it would.

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    – agarza
    Mar 23 at 16:55
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Why can’t it be both. Jesus was compassionate and frustrated. He’s trying to reach people’s hearts, but their focus keeps coming back to what He can do for them, healing. He’s compassionate towards our plights but He wants so much more than fixing our earthly problems. He wants that eternal relationship.

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  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works.
    – Dottard
    Jan 24 at 20:57
  • Hello @Williams, This site is aimed more towards textual exegesis rather than general statements of theology and doctrine.
    – Robert
    Jan 25 at 5:21

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