Was Jesus In A Lonely, Deserted, or Uninhabited Region? (Mark 1:45)

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Mounce wrote:

ἔρημος is technically an adjective meaning, “pert. to being in a state of isolation, isolated, desolate, deserted” (BDAG). When used substantivally, ἔρημος means “an uninhabited region or locality, desert, grassland, wilderness.” ἔρημος indicates Jesus stayed in those areas outside the city, but what did that look like in first century Palestine?

The trouble seems to be that the word is not meant to describe the terrain or country (e.g. desert), but the population within this country. The thrust of the text seems to be that Jesus went away to where they crowds were not. Using a handy thesaurus, how about the word ""rural?" It doesn't bring images of a barren wasteland ("deserted"). It doesn't necessarily evoke memories of lush, green farmland ("country"). It explains that this is a relatively sparsely populated area, but not uninhabited.

Honesrly, part of the trouble here for American translators is that America is just such a huge place. When I think of "country," I think of the flat wasteland of corn and asphalt that is I-55 Southbound between Joliet and Springfield, IL. So, for me, it's basically synonymous with "rural." I don't think of rolling green hills. For me, green hills and mountains make me think of Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina.

But, I think "rural" is a worthy attempt here. Wonder what Mounce would think?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

I'd always assumed "deserted" was the right one, especially after reading various translations--the one objection I have to "rural" is that historically, areas that are simply "rural" do have a population and are not "deserted".   Maybe more of a "pastoral" area where the sheep need a lot of space to graze would be a good word picture?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Why not just stick with "wilderness"? Mark's gospel speaks to Jesus being among the wild animals in the "wilderness" (same word as Mark 1:45) in Mark 1:13. Given that, I picture Jesus hanging out in an environment like Yellowstone instead of staying in Cody.