Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 March 2010
A discussion of the anti-Jewish polemic of the Gospel of Mark might profitably begin with Mark 12:9: ‘What will the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others.’ This verse is an important key to Mark's intention, since it may very well be his own addition to the Parable of the Vineyard. There is no parallel to it in the Gospel of Thomas logion 65. It coheres with the Markan emphasis on Jesus’ concern for Gentiles or their positive reaction to him, and with the theme of destruction which pervades this section of Mark (11:18; 12:12; 13:1–2). The combination of the verbs δίδωμι and ἀπόλλυμι, moreover, recalls the redactional verse 3:6.
The redactional verse 12:9, and the parable of which it is now a part (12:1–9), use Old Testament imagery drawn from Isaiah 5:1–7, where Israel is spoken of as the Lord's vineyard and threatened with devastation by a foreign power as a punishment for its injustice and violence. Besides the similarity in overall theme between the two passages, the language of Mark 12:1–2 closely echoes that of Isaiah 5:1–2 LXX, where eight of the same Greek words are used to describe the planting and protection of the vineyard.7 The rhetorical question in Mark 12:9, moreover (‘What will the lord of the vineyard do?’), is similar in form to the rhetorical questions in Isaiah 5:4 and in vocabulary and force to the statement in Isaiah 5:5: ‘Now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.’