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There are some questions posted in this SE related to Mark 3:21. But I think it's still not clear of whom thought Jesus was crazy and "out of his mind".

And when His own people heard about this, they came out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” (Mark 3:21 - NASB)

And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. (Mark 3:21 - KJV)

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21 - NRSVUE)

The main problem here I think is ponctuation, which Koine greek is famous for not having it for a long time. The verse in original greek would be something like this.

καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξῆλθον κρατῆσαι αὐτὸν ἔλεγον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξέστη.

So here is my question:

Who thought Jesus was crazy? His family or the Pharisees and the Scribes? The context, from my perspective, doesn't make it any clearer.

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  • Search well for existing question, before posting. Since he "came" home, it maybe that those with him were family. Scribes tried to change it to scribes and others.
    – Michael16
    May 9, 2023 at 5:42

4 Answers 4

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The pivotal word in Mark 3:21 is a simple preposition, παρά (para) which, in this instance mean those beside or around Jesus, ie, idiom for those associated with Jesus, that is, His family.

Ellicott states this well when he says:

those from Him—i.e., from His home. As the “mother and the brethren” are mentioned later on in the chapter as coming to check His teaching, we must see in these some whom they had sent with the same object. To them the new course of action on which our Lord had entered seemed a sign of over-excitement, recklessly rushing into danger. We may, perhaps, see in the random word thus uttered that which gave occasion to the more malignant taunt of the scribes in the next verse. They were saying now, as they said afterwards (John 10:20), “He hath a devil, and is mad.”

This might have typical of the time - when a person was judged to insane, a compassionate family (not all were such) would come a collect the family member to keep him at home and out of societal view and thus minimize the family disgrace.

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    I don't think the question is about friends vs. family, but about the antecedent of "they". Does "they" refer to his friends/family, or to the general population (as in the NRSVUE translation as "people") . Apr 3, 2023 at 13:36
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    @RayButterworth - actually, there is no pronoun "those" in Mark 3:21, and thus, no antecedent. The word is "hoi" = "the ones". That is why the focus should be on the word "para" which is idiom for "family".
    – Dottard
    Apr 3, 2023 at 20:42
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The Greek simply means "those alongside him", which is very ambiguous. Perhaps there is a clue in that "went out", which fits the situation of his family leaving the house in order to find him and bring him home. On that interpretation, this verse would anticipate vv31-35 when "his mother and his brothers" came to fetch him. The commentary of H.B. Swete suggests that "the incident of vv22-30 fills the interval between their departure and their arrival".

Though the parallel, being later, is not strictly relevant, this ambiguity does remind me of the usage of the Victorian paper "Punch", which frequently speaks of a person's "friends", when it is clear from the context that it means their family.

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Perhaps these comments might help your understanding:

His friends (hoi par' autou). The phrase means literally “those from the side of him (Jesus).” It could mean another circle of disciples who had just arrived and who knew of the crowds and strain of [Jesus'] ministry ... But the idiom most likely means the kinspeople or family of Jesus as is common in the (LXX). The fact that in Mar[k]3:31 “his mother and his brothers” are expressly mentioned would indicate that they are “the friends” alluded to in Mar[k]3:21. ... Herod Antipas will later consider Jesus as [a recycling of] John the Baptist, the scribes treat him as under demonic possession, even the family and friends fear a disordered mind as a result of overstrain. It was a crucial moment for Jesus. His family or friends came to take him home, to lay hold of him (κρατῆσαι), forcibly if need be. ~Robertson's Word Pictures entry and MK 3:21.

"Lit., they who were from beside him: i.e., by origin or birth. His mother and brethren. ... Not his disciples, since they were in the house with him." ~Vincent's Word Studies entry at MK 3:21.

"when his friends] not the Apostles, but His relatives, including 'His brethren and His mother,' who are noticed here as going forth, and a few verses later on as having arrived at the house where our Lord was (Mar[k] 3:31), or the place where the crowds were thronging Him. "He is beside himself] They deemed the zeal and daily devotion to His labour of love a sort of ecstasy or religious enthusiasm, which made Him no longer master of Himself." ~Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges at MK 3:21.

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It must be his family. Mark uses what is called Markan Sandwiches in the Gospel. He starts with some story and insert another story then finishes the first one. For example this one

  1. Mark 3:20-35

A Jesus’ family try to seize him, vv.20-21

B The religious leaders accuse Jesus of being in league with Beelzeboul, vv.22-30

A Jesus’ family seeks him, vv.31-35

  1. Mark 4:1-20

A Parable of the Sower, vv 1-9

B Purpose of parables, vv 10-13

A Explanation of the Parable of the Sower, vv 14-20

  1. Mark 5:21-43

A Jairus pleads with Jesus to save his daughter, vv 21-24

B Woman with a hemorrhage touches Jesus, vv 25-34

A Jesus raises Jairus’s daughter, vv 35-43

  1. Mark 6:7-30

A Mission of the Twelve, vv 7-13

B Martyrdom of John the Baptist, vv 14-29

A Return of the Twelve, v 30