Friday, July 18, 2008

Echoes of Mark 5 in Acts 9

I was reading Acts 9, the story where Peter raises Dorcas from the dead, and it reminded me of the story where Jesus resurrects Jairus's daughter in Mark 5. I wondered if Luke was intentionally trying to invoke a parallel or if it was coincidental. The circumstances are somewhat similar but what caught my attention was that Mark uses an Aramaic phrase.

Mark 5:41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise."

The word for "little girl" talitha sounds very close to the Aramaic word for "gazelle" tabitha which was Dorcas's real name (dorcas being a Greek word for a kind of deer).

Acts 9:40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

Unfortunately, the Greek verb for "arise" in the Acts verse is not the same verb as used at the end of Mark 5:41 when Mark translates the Aramaic phrase. However, I wonder if Luke had used an Aramaic phrase there in Acts 9 if he would have used the same word as in Mark 5. This logically raises another question - would Peter have been speaking to Dorcas in Greek or Aramaic? I think Aramaic is likely and the words were simply rendered into Greek for the report in Luke.

Or the similarity between the two passages might be coincidental. Or Mark may have intentionally used the Aramaic phrase to invoke a parallel with the Acts story. Whichever direction the echo may go, I think it's an interesting connection.

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