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Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? (Mark 2:9 ESV)

I've always read this as a rhetorical question which insists that it is easier to say 'Your sins are forgiven' than ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’. But is this correct?

After he asks this question he continues with

"But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...” (Mark 2:10 ESV)

Then Jesus tells the man to rise up and the man is healed.

It seems to me, especially from Mark 2:10, that it is equally difficult to forgive sins as it is to heal a paralytic, since only God can forgive sins. Jesus establishes his authority to forgive sins by healing the man. So the only way he could heal the man is if he were also able to forgive sins, thus making himself equal with God. Therefore it is equally difficult to say 'your sins are forgiven.'

So what is the implication of this question that Jesus poses to the scribes and to the crowd? Is there an implication that one of these is easier than another? Perhaps Jesus is implying that it is easier for a person to simply say (without any integrity) 'your sins are forgiven' since it would be quite difficult to find out if the sins were forgiven.

An analysis of the Greek would be highly appreciated.

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The focus of Jesus' question is on which is easier to say: "Your sins are forgiven" or "Rise, pick up your mat, and walk." The first statement is easier to say since no one could possibly validate such a claim. There is no empirical test that a man's sins are indeed forgiven. But to say to a paralytic, "Get up and walk" - this sets up an easy test of the speaker's authority to say such things. Does the man get up and walk?

Here, too, we have an a fortiori argument, but this time it operates positively: if the more ‘difficult’ can be achieved, this guarantees the validity of the claim to do the ‘easier’. The answer to Jesus’ rhetorical question must therefore be that it is εὐκοπώτερον to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’, since that is the point to be proved (v. 10), and it will be proved by the successful utterance of the ‘more difficult’ command to the paralytic to get up and go.

France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (p. 127). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

After having posed the question, Jesus then goes on to actually say the second thing; he tells the man to rise, pick up his bed, and walk. He does this, as you note, "that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." In doing so, Jesus is inviting the skeptics to consider the hard evidence of the man's healing as evidence of Jesus' authority to forgive sins.

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  • +1. I like your last paragraph in particular. Don – rhetorician Oct 23 '18 at 0:56
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    As Jesus said: "But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" - John 3:12 NLT – Ruminator Oct 24 '18 at 17:22
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Jesus is chalanging the false religious leaders (scribs) that were there; see vss. 6-7, so to prove that he can forgive sins; he asks the question you mention; a question they cannot answer; his answer will would prove that he is The Messiah.

Using his God given power to shows them the answer, because of what he said in vs. 5 "your sins are forgiven." Being able to cure the man proves that he has God's blessing thus also able to forgive sins. This pasage is part of an on going dispute Jesus is having with the false religiour leader during his erthly sojurn about who he is.

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This is an amazing question and I don't think the religious leaders saw it as a logic problem, though to protect their world from crumbling they may have considered it as, in slang, εξυπνάκιας, being a "wise guy", like what kind of question is that?" Their only alternative was to consider it dead serious and possible reworded to ask: "What do your words do?" They knew their history, starting with Genesis, the first book of the Torah. In the beginning, God spoke everything into existence. God's word meant it happened. God said it, and it occurred. Now, what happens when you say something? What real power does your word carry? The point was they could say either with equal ease, and nothing would happen. So just to answer the question, saying either was equally easy and, in terms of anything happening, equally effective: zero.

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  • Welcome to the site, Ron! Unfortunately, your response needs a lot of revision to get to the meat of the matter. Your last two sentences answer the post, but the writer is asking for Greek understanding of the passage as well. Can you edit your answer down, and can you provide any Greek assistance? – Steve May 10 '19 at 15:28

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