For Mark 7.1–5 I have written:
“Then the Pharisees gathered to him, and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, seeing that some of the disciples were eating their bread with profane, that is, unwashed, hands: for the Pharisees, and all the Jews, will not eat unless they have washed hand against first, thus keeping the tradition of their elders; and when they come from the marketplace they will not eat unless they have purified themselves, and there are many other observances that are traditional with them, the washing of cups and vessels both wooden and bronze: the Pharisees and the scribes asked him: Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of our elders, but eat their bread with profane hands?”
Let me try to put this into what is more like a contemporary idiom:
“The Pharisees, with some of the scribes, went out from Jerusalem to visit him. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands, which made their hands profane. The Pharisees and the Jews in general observe a tradition handed down from their ancestors not to eat without first washing their hands thoroughly. When they come in from the marketplace they will not eat until they have purified themselves. They have many other traditions, like washing their cups, whether these are made of wood or bronze. Because of all this the Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus: Why do your disciples disobey our ancestral tradition by eating with profane hands?”
Now, other modern translators have modernized this passage much more successfully than I have. My heart is not in this kind of rearrangement of the syntax. Still, all the essential meaning is there. But to me it reads much less like Mark than the version which stands in my translation.
—Richmond Lattimore, The Four Gospels and The Revelation
I’m with Dr. Lattimore. And the Pharisees. Wash your hands or you may be forced to commit the idolatry of worshipping the porcelain goddess!