Tradition: of the elders

gospel-of-markTradition of the elders. 1 Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles (and beds).)

One is quickly reminded that Mark is writing for a non-Jewish audience as he explains a detail about ritual purification that would be unneeded for a Jewish audience. It also seems clear that Mark has an outsider’s almost disdainful view of the practices (vv.3-4) but in any case there is no interest in Jewish debates on the matter. While the Pharisees with some scribes represent perhaps differing takes on the customs of purification, there is no immediate retort to the customs themselves. Instead, Jesus quickly takes up the tradition of the elders (v.3). Continue reading