Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine at his mother’s behest. This seems to prove that Mary believed in Jesus. I am wondering if, in Mark 3:20-21, Mary also thought Jesus was crazy like the crowd did.

Mark 3:20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (NIV)


Patterns of participant reference in Mark 3:21 & 3:31

This post is focused on just one aspect of the question. The move from vague to explicit participant reference in Mark 3:21 & 3:31 which raises questions about the identity of "His own people" in Mark 3:21.

Mark 3:21 NASB When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."

Mark 3:31 NASB Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him.

Mark 3:21 καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐξῆλθον κρατῆσαι αὐτόν· ἔλεγον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξέστη.

In field of NT text linguistics, the analysis of participant reference in narrative discourse has identified certain patterns of identifying new participants in contrast to participants who are already “active.” The default sequence is a full noun phrase e.g “Mary the Mother of Jesus” for introducing Mary as a new participant. Once Mary is active in the narrative she can be identified with with what it called “reduced encoding” which means something like a feminine singular pronoun “She” or the person and number inflexion on a finite verb where Mary is the subject. This sequence of participant reference is actually quite complex. The author may choose to use an elaborate full noun phrase “Mary the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ” when Mary is already an active participant. But the general pattern is from full noun phrase to reduced forms of reference.

What is not common is the opposite sequence, where a vaguely encoded reference to “new” participants like we find in Mark 3:21 οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ “his people/friends” [1] is followed by a more explicit “His mother and His brothers.” Saying it isn’t common doesn’t imply that it is impossible. All it means is that it isn’t what we would expect. Unless it can be demonstrated that οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ in Mark 3:21 has a unique unambiguous referent, e.g. Jesus’ Family, we end up with an expression which raises the question “who” in Mark 3:21, leading to scribal and translation attempts to alleviate the problem[1] and causing many readers to doubt that “his people/friends” in Mark 3:21 is explicitly referring to “His mother and His brothers” Mark 3:31.

[1] οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ has given scribes (see D = Codex Bezae & W = Washingtonianus) and translators trouble for eons. See The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: Fresh Studies of an American Treasure Trove, Larry W. Hurtado ed., SBL 2006, p. 7.

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Jesus' family didn't only include Mary (His mother) or Joseph. He also had many brothers and other relatives, such as aunts, uncles etc. John the Baptist, for example, was one of His cousins -which I'm sure everyone already knows. They were quite numerous! While a portion of his family certainly deemed Jesus to be "crazy" (who exactly or how many is unclear), the Scriptures later go on to say that His mother AND brothers were outside looking for Him. This infers that their presence wasn't there until after the derogatory remarks. They couldn't be at two places at once.

So while one may ponder whether or not Mary thought Jesus to be crazy, the Scriptures certainly make no direct indication of anything of this sort.

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Under a sub-heading "Blasphemy of the Scribes, verse 20 of Mark 3, opens with "He came home." This follows on the description of the miraculous works Jesus had done in the region of Capernaum. What it was that caused his relatives to think Him "out of his mind" is not really clear; was it the news of the crowd flocking Him and His not even having a meal? Was it the news that He had appointed the "twelve"; perhaps from their perception, as a sort of political arm.

Does verse 22 have to be taken as happening after the relatives' concern about His mental state? The focus on the Scribes, seems to suggest that the relatives were acting based on the opinion of the learned Scribes.
I should think Mary, having experienced her Son's extraordinary abilities when only 12 years old, and remembering the unusual circumstances of her child's conception and the birth, would in no way be party to thinking Jesus "out if his mind"!

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  • 1
    Hi, welcome to Hermeneutics! Sub-headings in the Bible aren't part of the actual Bible text and should not have any bearing at all on how to interpret the what the Bible means. So, they don't need to be mentioned. Also, just use "Mark 3:20", not a long-worded version, when discussing here. – Jesse Steele Jan 22 '19 at 15:08

Friends or Family?

καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ παρ' αὐτοῦ ἐξῆλθον κρατῆσαι αὐτόν· ἔλεγον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξέστη( Mark 3:21 Textus Receptus Stephanus 1550)

"And having heard (of it), those belonging to him went out to seize him they said indeed he is out of his mind."(Interlinear translation)

The "οἱ παῥ αὐτοῦ," (those of one's family, i. e. his kinsmen, relations),(from Thayer's Lexicon), indicates more than the KJV, which says,"And when his friends heard of it." This also is confirmed by the previous statement, μὴ δύνασθαι αὐτοὺς μήτε ἄρτον φαγεῖν(not they are even able them even bread to eat)(vs 20), it is Jesus and His disciples, and not merely Jesus who is regarded "out of their mind" or "besides themselves".

This is an important distinction, because in this passage there are numerous issues to be considered "out of one's mind" about. There are the throngs, who've so crowded Jesus and His disciples, and there are the scribes and Pharisees, who have accused Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the "prince" of demons.(vss 22-27)

The "κρατῆσαι"(to seize) Him, could be extrapolated as "doubt" about His ministry; "κρατῆσαι"(kratos-to rule) which is the root word of "kratesai"(to seize), which appeared to be the intention of his mother and family. But notice how Jesus deflects their concerns, and yet assures them of His control.(vss 31-35)

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. 33And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

He reminds His mother again(Luke 2:49)

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

And yet He declares that those who do His Father's will are also His Family. This rebuke sets His family straight about His Father's business, yet assures them that He hasn't disowned them, He's invited them into a 'larger family' of those who do His Father's Will.

Mary pondered both Jesus's and the angel's words in her heart(Luke 1); she certainly knew His destiny. It appears from vs 20-21 she was concerned about His physical wellbeing, but was assured again(vs33-35) He was doing the Will of the Father, and would not be dissuaded from it. Her next course of action was to be a "woman of faith" who would also do the Will of His Heavenly Father.

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I believe the scriptures point to the fact that Mary Did think Yehoshua (Jesus) was crazy, but that in the end she turned from her bitterness.

Another question we could ask is was Yehoshua's family saved?

The scriptures seem to point to the fact that none of them were saved, with the exception of Mary.

I questioned whether even Mary was saved after her request for more booze: John 2:1-11, her keeping "all these things, and ponder[ing] them in her heart" Luke 2:19 (a sign of bitterness), her lack of knowledge for Yehoshua's life's mission: Luke 2:48-50, and your example of Mary and Yehoshua's brothers trying to stop Him from preaching: Luke 8:19-21.

But the verses that seem to point to Mary being saved are John 19:25-27 as it is stated:

26 When Yehoshua therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Mary's name means "bitter" and points to a bitter bride who has gone through much humiliation because of her calling. But in the end, she was directed to be taken into a household of a believer by the Most High.

You're right, Yehoshua had many brothers and sisters, but where were they at His crucifixion? Why did Joseph of Aremthia bury Him and not His own family?

All the evidence points to the fact that Yehoshua's own family disowned Him. This truth sheds light onto Micah 7:5-7 and Matthew 10:34-39 that express in summary that Christ came to draw a line in the sand between those who are willing to give up everything and go against "the Matrix" and those who remain brainwashed that believe building another synagogue with catchy music is the answer. Anyone who truly follows Christ will be an outcast, by his/her family, his/her friends, and even his/her church.

It's comforting to know that Mary turned away from her bitterness in the end. :)

Yahuwah bless you!


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The miracle of turning water into wine at his mother’s behest (John 2:1-11) does seem to prove that Mary believed in Jesus, while Mark 3:20 suggests otherwise.

Consider the verse in Mark for a moment, in the broader context of verses 3:20-30:

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

Verses 20-32 form a chiastic structure, an ancient literary device in which an opening set of events is mirrored by a second set in which the events occur in the reverse order:

a. Crowd (verse 20)

b. Family says that Jesus is out of his mind (verse 21)

c. Scribes say that Jesus is casting out demons by the ruler of the demons (verse 22)

d. The parables of Satan's end (verses 23-27)

c' Scribes guilty of unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because they have said that Jesus has an unclean spirit (verses 28-30)

b' Family arrives where Jesus is (verse 31)

a' Crowd (verse 32)

This structure is then linked to a parallel structure that is too large to display here because it encompasses the entire gospel, as event J (Jesus rejects his own family: he has a new family, his followers: 3:31-35).

By hermeneutical analysis, we can see that Mark portrayed Mary and Jesus' brothers as having no faith in him in a series of literary structures where their lack of faith helped develop the story line. Perhaps this event really occurred as described, but it seems more likely that the author devised the structure of Mark 3:20-32, including Mary's lack of faith, for literary purposes. On this view, Mary did not really believe Jesus was crazy.

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