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Mark 3:21 NLT "When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said."

IN other versions it says "own people" or "friends"

The greek was not very clear to me; it looks like an interpretation question rather than translation. Can anyone elaborate on which group is correct.

It seems to me that there are some strong implication between this verse and verse 33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” assuming that the first reference is to family.

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Read in isolation the text does not tell us clearly whether those who came and said "He is beside himself" were friends or family. However, the context gives a possible answer, because Mark 3:20-21, Mark 3:22-30, Mark 3:31-35 form an intercalation or sandwich (A1-B-A2). This is listed by John Dominic Crossan in The Birth of Christianity, page 106, as among the six Markan intercalations most widely recognised by New Testament scholars.

A Markan intercalation is a literary device the author uses for mutual emphasis of two otherwise unrelated issues. The first issue begins with the claim that Jesus had lost his senses (A1), followed by the scribes saying that Jesus was in league with the devil (B), then Jesus rejecting his family, saying that, for him, his followers were now his mother and brethren (A2). Family ties were strong, so Mark needed a compelling reason to say that Jesus would reject his family, and their prior rejection of him provides that reason.

This sandwich matches the people who came and said "He is beside himself" (Mark 3:20-21, event A1) with his brethren and his mother (Mark 3:31-35, event A2), providing evidence that the people in Mark 3:21 were actually Jesus' family.

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  • Thanks Dick, I'm going to track down a copy of the book. – wlraider70 Dec 2 '15 at 3:49
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The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Lexicon says that, in addition to "someone's envoys", "the Koine also uses this expression to denote others who are intimately connected w. someone, e.g. family, relatives". [p.615]

So it could mean Jesus' family, immediate or extended, or his disciples. The latter is doubtful. I agree with you, that this is a matter of interpretation, not translation. And I think "his own people" is a nearer (more literal) translation than "his family".

I also agree that he responded as he did in v.33 because it was, at that time, his own family who calling on him. Were these the same folks in v.21? very sermon material IMO, since he concludes by testing his relationship with a man by that man's obedience to the will of God.

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The question "In Mark 3 is it Jesus' family or friends who try to take him away" presupposes that the Greek text currently accepted is what Mark actually wrote. But if, as I hope to show below, it is not, it does no one any service to continue to believe that Mark actually wrote this strange material and not the perfect sense he actually wrote. The Greek text currently accepted reads 20 Erchetai eis oikon kai sunerchetai palin o ochlos oste me dunasthai autous mede arton phagein 21 kai akousantes oi par' autou exelthon kratesai auton. Elegon gar oti exeste (20 He went into his house and the crowd came together again so as not to be able to eat 21 and those around him, hearing, went out to seize him. They said he was mad). The sense is peculiar: (1) If he was in his house, how could those around him (natural meaning "those with him in his house") go out of the house where he was in order to find him somewhere else to seize him? (2) It defies belief that Mark could have written that those around him could have believed he was mad when he has given no evidence whatever which could possibly support such a belief. Recovering a plausible original from a divided manuscript tradition involves (1) positing an original which makes sense (2) explaining how manuscript readings differing from this original could have been derived from it. Solutions which fail these tests should be rejected. This does not, of course, mean that a solution that passes them must be right. I offer my suggestion. (1) (positing an original which makes sense) The original survives partly in Latin, partly in Greek: 21 Et cum audissent de eo exierunt detinere eum; dicebant enim quia "Adhaerent ei" ("" is my suggested retranslation from W's exertentai autou) (And when they {Jesus' opponents} heard about him they went out to seize him; they said: "They {the crowd} are attached to him"). (2) (explaining how manuscripts differing from this original could have been derived from it) The Greek translator translated cum audissent de eo exierunt detinere eum as akousantes par'autou exelthon kratesai auton (when they heard from him they went out to seize him). The sense is impossible. Jesus didn't say, in effect: "Come and get me". The translation of the Latin is also impossible. De eo means "about him", not "from him". "They heard from him" would be "audissent ab eo". Someone tried to improve the sense by adding oi, giving the accepted Greek text, but with W's exertentai (they are attached to him) for exeste (he is mad). Someone said: "Those around him can't have objected to Jesus because the crowds were attached to him; they would have welcomed that. Exertentai must be a corruption of something similar. I conjecture exeste (he is mad)".

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