The Greek Word Peran
The Greekj word peran can be translated “other side” and “crossing over.” The word only appears five times in the Gospel of Mark, appearing first in chapter 4:35 after Jesus has a teaching session from a boat to protect himself and keep the crowd on the shore.
The word peran, an adverb, is an orientation metaphor signifying a change, and most of the time the word comes as an invitation from Jesus. Included is a storm on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus becomes directly involved in calming the storm, causing the disciples to ask, “Who can this be?” (Mark 4:41).
Historically the word has a history in Greek poetry involving water. The word origin relates to piercing, a break through. Here the water connection is with the sea. Homer uses the word in his poetry. And for emphasis the word sea is repeated three times in the first verse of chapter 4, New King James Version, to get us ready for what is about to happen. Water has a change connection in both our mythological and Faith history. (unfortunately some translations lose this repetition emphasis.)
The 2nd chapter of the book of Jonah would be a parallel in the Hebrew Scripture. Jonah’s change of direction involves the sea and a drowning scene.””
Following the word and the crossing over a number of transition and transformation stories appear until the whole Gospel is transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. The place of illness and healing are not an unusual event for transformation. I have experienced the same myself as a hospital chaplain relating to patients, families, staff, and directing a grief recovery group for 17 years.
Preparation for this journey is in the first verse, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.” (Mark 1:1, KJV) The Good News story is about to be told in the 16 chapters of Mark. Then in chapter 4:3 we have a powerful orientation verb in the present imperative tense, the word "Listen." The verb tense not found in English means continuous in the now. Listen continuously for the rest of the story, be attentive, and keep your ears open.
In fact your ears may need to be opened. In chapter 7 we have the healing of a deaf mute. We have all been there at one time or another. The Greek word for understanding is sunesis and here it used in to describe the disciples grasp of what Jesus is doing and teaching. There response is one of not understanding. Their hearts are hardened. They are stuck in their prior container as the religious authorities are stuck in theirs. We have the contrast between the healing of the deaf mute at this point with those who remain deaf mutes, the disciples and the authorities.
I would not be able to say what I am saying about peran five years ago. I was mute on the subject. I was stuck. The repetition in reading and listening, or as a prayer says, "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest," in the continuous now I have come to the point of being able to talk about the significance of peran in Mark and the other Gospels in a new and different way.
Deaf mute can be our container keeping us from moving to a new place of insight, meaning, purpose, service, add your string of metronomes: different words that have a similar meaning.
The healing of our deaf mute condition can move us from the physical to the emotional and a multitude of ways that describe our new condition.
I was a deaf mute about metaphors for many years. In 1976 I tape recorded a conversation with a patient. As I listened to the tape I began to hear how the patient was moving different words to a new place to tell his story, Here is an example. He was from the farm area where I grew up. He knew my father as a fiddle player for barn dances I said I have the violin but strings in the bow are worn out. He took the words worn out and move them to, "Yes, we all wear out." And then to talk about his surgery.
Somehow I remembered a philosophy book I read my senior year in college majoring in philosophy. Philosophy in a New Key by Susan Langer. She had a chapter on language and there I had underlines a number of places where she talked about metaphor. I was about the hear in a new way and discovery the art of story metaphor listening. I am no longer mute about metaphors and how they function in language and healing. You change the metaphor and you change the story.
I am asking all of us to reflect back over our lives to those events where you found your voice after being deaf to what was happening. You will have experienced peran at the same time when you moved to a new place of understanding. The break through can lead to a number of Ahas! in our emerging future.
To be continued,
Marlin Whimter, BCC
Founder of the Befrienders at Genesis Hospital and the art of story metaphor listening