A Hug from Jesus

A Hug from Jesus January 15, 2019

You know the experience. You are reading something that should be familiar, and yet something new and unexpected jumps out at you.

“Adoration” by David Bowman

That’s what happened to me not long ago, while reading the Greek New Testament in church on my phone.

One word literally jumped out at me. Well, it literally jumped out at me in the sense that a pop-up window jumps out at you.

The word ἐναγκαλισάμενος occurs twice in the New Testament, both times in Mark 9-10. And so I presume that I can be forgiven for having to click on the word in the Logos app to have it display the definition.

The root word ἀγκάλη has as its primary meaning bending, especially (indeed, almost exclusively) of the arms. The same root occurs in Luke 2:28, when Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms.

The definition/explanation the Logos app gave of the word in Mark 9:36 was that it means to embrace or to hug.

I had never previously read the text as indicating Jesus was hugging the child.

Many translations render the phrase by saying that Jesus took a child or children in his arms. Which is what hugging is. But hugging conjures up a different picture in the mind, and other translations simply hadn’t provoked the same mental image as this one did.

How have those of you who have studied the Gospel of Mark, and/or more specifically this passage, found this term to be translated? Did you always picture Jesus hugging the child, or did you imagine something else? I think in my own case, I initially imagined Jesus being passed a relatively small baby to hold. It isn’t the most natural way of conjuring up a visual image of what the text describes, I now realize. But “hold in his arms” fits that scenario better, while “hug” fits it being an older child better. Why do you think translators have rendered the passage as they have?

Of related interest:

Become Like a Child – Matthew 18:1-4

In Pursuit of Real Wisdom

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  • Mark

    Of the translations I typically use, CEB is the only one to translate to “embraced.”

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e0960f3417cb9792b5b47df7903f5aef609046a835bb0f81fd0dddd3e6555231.jpg

    Possibly hug, I suppose – I don’t do much Greek and have no tools to seek the cultural usage of this from 2k years ago. Does Logos give links to such research. This 19th century (Donnegan 1840) seems to indicate that bundle, arms bent. May have an affectionate component.

  • Curiously enough, a Hebrew NT uses the stem חבק which I have everywhere glossed as clasp. It is the stem for the name of Habakkuk. Let your free association go where it will. וַיִּקַּח יֶלֶד וַיַּעֲמִידֵהוּ בְתוֹכָם וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ And he took the child and had it stand in their midst and he clasped it. (Embrace is maybe related, חיק which I rendered as embrace, bosom, chest, lap etc). There is little doubt that there is a bias toward tenderness in God in the Scripture – most of us miss it. (Add Song 2:6 and 8:3 to the Hebrew antecedents for this stem : His left hand is under my head, and his right hand clasps me.)