Michael J. Haren, «The Naked Young Man: a Historians Hypothesis on Mark 14,51-52», Vol. 79 (1998) 525-531
The article starts from the premiss that the young man in question - whatever his subsequent symbolical value - was a historical person. It notes the proximity of his association with Jesus implied by the evangelists usage. It comments on the fact that in the sources for the Passion there is only one figure besides Jesus who was the object of a projected arrest by the authorities and one figure besides Jesus on whom an arrest is known to have been actually attempted. Suggesting that the historian dealing with secular sources would be prompted to consider an identification accordingly, the article examines the implications.
Marks account of the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane concludes with a mysterious passage.
51Kai\ neani/skoj tij sunhkolou/qei au0tw=| peribeblhme/noj sindo/na e0pi\ gumnou=, kai\ kratou=sin au0to/n: 52 o9 de\ katalipw\n th\n sindo/na gumno\j e1fugen.
Citing it in translation is problematical since on crucial points the words chosen must at once proceed from and determine an understanding of it. To illustrate, the Anchor Bible and the New English Bible may be compared.
AB: A certain young man, dressed only in a linen cloth, followed him. They tried to seize him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.
NEB: Among those following was a young man with nothing on but a linen cloth. They tried to seize him; but he slipped out of the linen cloth and ran away naked.
As will be suggested by the difference between these translations, the principal difficulty in rendering is how to present the young mans association with Jesus. How to denote him is also a matter of nuance: the Anchor Bibles "a certain young man" is preferable. To pass from translation to interpretation, while the figures manner of dress and the state in which he escaped are exactly rendered in both translations, the significance of the description is open to argument 1. Further reflection on the problems of understanding the passage may, however, be postponed until the question of the young mans identity is considered.
To pose the question of identification at all is to assume that the episode is historical. This premiss seems secure. Only two Old Testament texts have been adduced Amos 2,16 and Gen 39,12 which might serve as a basis of scriptural fulfilment in and thus dilute the historicity of the Marcan passage. In neither case is the correspondence convincing 2. That is not to say that the episode is without meaning for the evangelist. Vanhoye, suggestively, finds in Marks account of the arrest and resurrection of Jesus a counterpoint between the young man of Gethsemane