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In a study of Mark I completed in 1999 entitled Jesus: Servant of God, I wrote the following introduction, emphasizing two major divisions,  a date of 64-72 CE for authorship, Jesus in relation to Jewish background, and the separation of Christianity from Judaism, points I would still consider generally in line with biblical scholarship.


Introduction: Jesus, Servant of God

Mark, as the earliest gospel, should be read carefully as the foundational knowledge for the person of Christ. This gospel begins with the  baptism and the life of Jesus in Galilee (chapters 1-9); following the transfiguration, we follow Jesus and his disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem, concluding with his entry into that holy city (chapter 11); the final section is the story of Jesus' passion (chapters 14 and 15).   Chapter thirteen is apocalyptic and addresses the end of time; the final chapter contains the resurrection.


As the first gospel, Mark is dated about 64-72 CE.  This would be just prior to the decisive Roman destruction of the temple in 70 CE.  The Romans, as we will recall, conquered this Jewish nation in 63 BCE.  The Christian movement began in an era of violence and national upheaval.  From a conquered nation came the person Jesus, usually said to have been born about  8 to 4 BCE; he is said to have died between 27 and 33 CE.  Paul's death in 64 CE puts him as having written before the cataclysmic Roman temple destruction.  Importantly, the other gospels are post-70 CE, as are, arguably, Acts, the books of Timothy, Titus, Peter,  Jude, James and John, and, of course, Revelation.


In social context, Jesus was born a Jew into a Jewish world.  After 70 CE, the survival of the Jews meant survival through scripture simply because the nation, holy city, temple and priesthood had been destroyed.  This is, of course, the time of the writing of the later gospels. Up until 70 CE, Jerusalem could be peopled with those who compromised with the Romans (Sadducees), resisted through a conservative interpretation of their scripture (Pharisees) or  violence (Zealots), while still others simply withdrew (Gnostics).  With the temple destruction, the Jews essentially lost their identity. With Massada in 73 CE, Jewish resistance ended with suicide.  The only possession left for wandering Jews was their Torah.


Christianity, born within Jewish synagogues and interpreting Christ as a new revelation of God, separated itself from its Jewish origin after 70 CE and became more Gentile in nature.  Before 70 CE, Christians and Jews co-existed with a tension between Torah as full revelation of God and Jesus as new revelation.  After 70 CE, Christians clearly began to go their own way, reinterpreting all of the existing scriptures in light of the new revelation. In the 80s, Jews no longer allowed anything other than strict orthodoxy within their synagogues and actually ex-communicated Jewish Christians. This schism between Jew and Gentile lends a peculiarly misguided hard-headedness about the recognition of their common ancestry.


This study will attempt to read Mark as closely related to its Jewish background.


In fact, reading Mark as closely related to its Jewish background remains a challenge for most readers; in her essay, "A Blind Promise: Mark's Retrieval of Esther (1994, Duke University Press, < http://www.jstor.org/stable/1773206 >, Brenda Deen Schildgen describes an intertextuality in Mark sufficiently rich to demand readers to read Mark in the context of the time written and in a desire to establish Jesus' continuity with a Hebraic past:


Despite Mark's reputation for a simple style,2 his literary technique is remarkably rich in its adoption and deployment of sacred texts, which permeated the discourse of the times in the regular liturgi­cal celebrations and daily prayers that were conducted in either the synagogue or the home. These earlier texts both intrude into and har­monize with Mark's rendering of the Gospels' message. Beneath an apparently simple surface lies a rich juxtaposition of present and past that is saturated with Judaic textual tradition and used to mirror the moral, social, and political context in which Mark placed Jesus. His primary sources were the sacred texts of Judaism, but he also em­ployed Greco-Roman phrases, often pointing ironically to the mean­ing of these diverse references in their new setting. Direct and indirect quotations of both oral and written sources come primarily from the Pentateuch, Psalms, and the Prophets, with a few additional references to Kings, Chronicles, Daniel, Esther, and Judith. This breakdown of sources shows the heterogeneity of Mark's appropriations from his textual heritage, which include moral and cultic laws, chronological and apocalyptic history, prophecy, and poetry. His selection spans the earliest Hebraic writings up to 140 B.C.E, a terminus ad quem sug­gested by the affinities among the Books of Esther, Daniel, and Judith by which they are dated to the period between 165 and 140 B.C.E. (see Stiehl 1982 [19561).



Concerning authorship, the NRSV introduction to Mark describes the author as an associate  of Peter based on Papias and goes on to identify Mark with John Mark in the NT.


Although there is no direct internal evidence of authorship, it was the unanimous testimony of the early church that this Gospel was written by John Mark ("John, also called Mark," Ac 12:12,25;15:37). The most important evidence comes from Papias (c. a.d. 140), who quotes an even earlier source as saying: (1) Mark was a close associate of Peter, from whom he received the tradition of the things said and done by the Lord; (2) this tradition did not come to Mark as a finished, sequential account of the life of our Lord, but as the preaching of Peter -- preaching directed to the needs of the early Christian communities; (3) Mark accurately preserved this material. The conclusion drawn from this tradition is that the Gospel of Mark largely consists of the preaching of Peter arranged and shaped by Mark (see note on Ac 10:37).


Matthew Henry's Commentary sees Mark  likely as one of the seventy disciples who accompanied the apostles:


I. Concerning this witness. His name is Mark. Marcus was a Roman name, and a very common one, and yet we have no reason to think, but that he was by birth a Jew; but as Saul, when he went among the nations, took the Roman name of Paul, so he of Mark, his Jewish name perhaps being Mardocai; so Grotius. We read of John whose surname was Mark, sister’s son to Barnabas, whom Paul was displeased with (Acts 15:37, 38), but afterward had a great kindness for, and not only ordered the churches to receive him (Col. 4:10), but sent for him to be his assistant, with this encomium, He is profitable to me for the ministry (2 Tim. 4:11); and he reckons him among his fellow-labourers, Philemon 24. We read of Marcus whom Peter calls his son, he having been an instrument of his conversion (1 Pt. 5:13); whether that was the same with the other, and, if not, which of them was the penman of this gospel, is altogether uncertain. It is a tradition very current among the ancients, that St. Mark wrote this gospel under the direction of St. Peter, and that it was confirmed by his authority; so Hieron. Catal. Script. Eccles. Marcus discipulus et interpres Petri, juxta quod Petrum referentem audierat, legatus Roma à fratribus, breve scripsit evangelium—Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, being sent from Rome by the brethren, wrote a concise gospel; and Tertullian saith (Adv. Marcion. lib. 4, cap. 5), Marcus quod edidit, Petri affirmetur, cujus interpres Marcus—Mark, the interpreter of Peter, delivered in writing the things which had been preached by Peter. But as Dr. Whitby very well suggests, Why should we have recourse to the authority of Peter for the support of this gospel, or say with St. Jerome that Peter approved of it and recommended it by his authority to the church to be read, when, though it is true Mark was no apostle, yet we have all the reason in the world to think that both he and Luke were of the number of the seventy disciples, who companied with the apostles all along (Acts 1:21), who had a commission like that of the apostles (Lu. 10:19, compared with Mk. 16:18), and who, it is highly probable, received the Holy Ghost when they did (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4), so that it is no diminution at all to the validity or value of this gospel, that Mark was not one of the twelve, as Matthew and John were? St. Jerome saith that, after the writing of this gospel, he went into Egypt, and was the first that preached the gospel at Alexandria, where he founded a church, to which he was a great example of holy living. Constituit ecclesiam tantâ doctrinâ et vitae continentiâ ut omnes sectatores Christi ad exemplum sui cogeret—He so adorned, by his doctrine and his life, the church which he founded, that his example influenced all the followers of Christ.

Henry, M. 1996, c1991. Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Mk 1:1). Hendrickson: Peabody


In a review of  The Orphan Gospel: Mark's Perspective on Jesus, by Dean W. Chapman, James W. Aageson outlines several assumptions made about the Gospel:


THE AIM of this book is to test a set of assumptions about the Gospel of Mark. Among these assumptions are the claims that Mark was a conservative Jew, probably from near Jerusalem, who belonged to a persecuted sect that saw itself as chosen by God and that expected the present age to come to an end shortly. The God of Israel, according to this group, was about to intervene and establish his kingly rule. The promise made to David centuries earlier was about to be fulfilled. An anointed one, sent by God, would set up his throne in Jerusalem, break the "iron fist" of Roman oppression, and rule with justice. With Jesus' arrival, however, certain troubling incongruities required Mark and his community to make some adjustments: The one considered to be the Christ was crucified; Jews were not flocking to Jesus' cause in large numbers; the land of Israel was still controlled by foreigners; and John the Baptist continued to be more popular than Jesus. While most of Mark's Gospel can be explained on the basis of these assumptions, one final assumption is required, according to Chapman: Mark wrote his Gospel for a community other than his own.

Chapman argues that Mark's date of authorship is around 50 C.E. and that the Gospel was written for a Western, gentile congregation probably in Rome. Roman Christians requested from the Jerusalem church a "story of Jesus," and the Gospel of Mark was the result. Following the writing of the Gospel, a so-called "guide" in the recipient community added brief marginal notes to the text of Mark. A third stage in the development of the Markan text occurred when a "copyist," in the process of copying the Gospel, made further additions to the text. Hence, various contradictions, inconsistencies, and other peculiarities of the text may be explained, according to Chapman, by stratigraphic analysis. (Aageson 106


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Michael Turton in his work on Mark,  points out that this traditional view has been questioned and suggests anonymity ( http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark_intro.html#interp  ):


This view is adhered to only by conservative exegetes today, as it has been clear for a couple of centuries that the Gospel we know as Mark cannot possibly be the Gospel Papias is referring to, even assuming that the citation itself is genuine and not a later forgery either made or discovered by Eusebius. As you read the Gospel, the complexity of its references, allusions, and constructions off the Old Testament, its attitude toward the disciples, its use of Cynic sayings and constructions, its familiarity with Greek literary conventions, and other factors will make it clear to you why few scholars today accept the traditional view. For a vigorous defense of the traditional view, see Robert Gundry's Mark.


The reality is that today no one can say who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Not even the writer's gender is known, though traditionally it is ascribed to a man. However, John D. Crossan (1991, p416) has pointed out that verse 14:9: And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her" may well be a slyly ironic reference to the author herself. Additionally, a number of exegetes have felt that the mysterious young man of Mark 14:51-52 is actually the author of Mark. Whatever the case, given the low taste for high irony of the writer of Mark, it is perhaps fitting that the writer of one of the great pieces of world literature has gone anonymously into history.


In sorting through scholarship, though, Turton quotes from Crossan yet another possibility:


Crossan (1991, p416) has noted that one could make a much better case for the woman here being the author of Mark, than for the young man in 14:51-2. Her confession of Jesus' identity opens a frame that closes with the centurion's confession in 15:39. Though her memory will last forever, her name is never given. Markan irony again? Wills (1997, p117) points out that she is an ironic counterpart to the disciples, who do not understand (as usual). It should be added that the irony is increased because we know the disciples' names, while hers is not recorded.


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Dom Henry Wansbrough also remarks on reasons  Markian authorship should be questioned:


The traditional link of Mark with Peter and Rome is similarly unfounded. It rests on 1 Peter 5.16, ‘Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings. So does my son, Mark.’ It is acceptable that ‘Babylon’ is a cryptogram for ‘Rome’. But the identification begs two questions:

Is the apostle Peter really author of the letter, or is the letter pseudepigraphic?

‘Mark’ is a very common name in the Roman world. Is this Mark the evangelist?

('How the Bible Came to Us," http://users.ox.ac.uk/~sben0056/booklets.htm)


After an interesting exploration of John Mark as more likely the author of the book of John than Mark, Pierson Parker concludes to the effect that the author of Mark remains open, in degree, to debate ("John and John Mark, 1960, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3264460>):


Indeed the reader must long since have asked, If Mark wrote the Fourth Gospel, who wrote the Second? It seems almost too easy to suggest (though some have done so) that it was another Mark.35 The name Marcus, while rare among Jews, was common enough among gentiles. However, no such Marcus, living at a suitable time and place, is known to us. Ascribing the Second Gospel to such a one merely pushes the problem a step back, while solving nothing.


Some, not afraid of wild suggestions, might even propose John the son of Zebedee. In other words the two authors, both named John, got interchanged in the tradition. The Second Gospel does pay unusual attention to John son of Zebedee, naming him as often as do all the others combined. Its strong apocalyptic flavor would fit his temper. Its eyewitness stories could have come from him. Its depreciation of the Twelve might stem from the rivalries in which John figured so prom­inently. Its pro-gentile tone might reflect his later work in Samaria and Asia Minor. Its relatively poor Greek, its ill acquaintance with the OT, and its hesitant treatment of Jerusalem, might all be due to the "unlearned and ignorant" John of Acts 4 13. One might even propose, by these means, to account for the variant order in some early canons: Matthew-John-Luke-Mark instead of Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. The difference stemmed from a prior uncertainty as to which was which! Yet it is not easy to see how a son of Zebedee could have erred about Galilean geography, as the Second Evangelist sometimes does. It is still harder to see why that John should have needed written sources.


If, however, we find no suitable author for the Second Gospel, this does not entitle us to fall back on Mark of Jerusalem. We have seen too many objections to that, and there are others. It was never attributed to that Mark until the time of Jerome, and then only tentatively.36 Its Greek is too colloquial for one of his education. It contains historical uncertainties, even blunders, regarding Herod Antipas, and regarding the government of Bethsaida, Gerasa, Phoenicia, and Jericho. It greatly exaggerates the ceremonial strictness of the Jews. Its account of the Trial is inadequate and misleading, e.g., as to the time and procedures of the Sanhedrin hearing, and the time of the Crucifixion. It shows little knowledge of Jesus' family, although James the Lord's brother was in Jerusalem for years. John Mark of Jerusalem should have done better than all this.


Readers may wish to note a theology developing out of Deuteronomy  echoed in Acts by both Peter and Paul as part of the consideration of authorship. Deuteronomy 6:16 and 17 addresses the issue of disbelief in the power of God  under the motif of test:


16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you. 


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Deuteronomy further explains the testing as a means of humbling a people, as well as underlining the important point that the purpose ultimately is to do good to the people:


3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.


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16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 


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Before moving on to Acts and Peter and Paul, another point must be made relative to the choice of these people and the issue of  God's showing favoritism or partiality:


 7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.


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A Deuteronomic insistence is that God shows no partiality:


17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 


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The point is that in Deuteronomy, a people have been chosen, they have been asked to obey (chapter 8) and not to rebel (9), and they carry God's presence with them (10); the testing humbles them and prepares them for "end purposes" which are ultimately good.  With this in mind, we can move to Acts and a reinterpretation of this tradition. Peter takes up the issue of partiality, extending acceptability  to God's presence to all nations:


34 Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 


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He follows this with an interpretation of Jesus' mission as that of preaching peace:


36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." 


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Acts 11 then picks up Peter's vision concerning what is clean and unclean, then interprets it relative to the inclusion of Gentiles in God's plan: prevalent, too, is the idea that the people of Jerusalem  and their leaders condemned Jesus and asked Pilate to have him killed:


15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." 


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Readers will note that to Spirit has been added the later developing concept of the "Holy Spirit."  In coming to Paul, Acts gives this rather long account of how God worked among the Israelites, giving them their land, kings, and in their own day, a Savior Jesus, long promised:


16 So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: "You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen.17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance 20 for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21 Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22 When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, "I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.' 23 Of this man's posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; 24 before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his work, he said, "What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.' 26 "My brothers, you descendants of Abraham's family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27 Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28 Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead; 31 and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you.' 34 As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, "I will give you the holy promises made to David.' 35 Therefore he has also said in another psalm, "You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.' 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; 37 but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; 39 by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you: 41 "Look, you scoffers! Be amazed and perish, for in your days I am doing a work, a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.' " 


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Paul ends his account of the life of Jesus with a focus on resurrection and a warning against disbelieving in the power of God to accomplish historically divine plan. Concerning the resurrection, a pivotal point in the discussion of historicity and theology in the life of Jesus and the Christ, the following point should be observed:


"There is no doubt that Mark’s abrupt ending would have sparked serious consideration. For not only do both Matthew and Luke provide resurrection accounts, but Paul argues that the resurrection is the linch pin of the Christian faith (

1 Cor 15:17). " Pasted from < http://bible.org/article/irony-end-textual-and-literary-analysis-mark-168>



In chapter 15 of Acts, when Paul and Barnabas come to Jerusalem, a controversy arises about circumcision, to which Peter answers  with a resounding note of inclusion, with which James agrees (13), linking what God is doing to  Amos 9:17, a prophecy already indicating the inclusion of the Gentiles:


4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, "It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses." 6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers.8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9 and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." 


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This preamble can now focus on its original purpose relative to the authorship of the book of Mark. In Acts12:25, John Mark has been with Barnabas and Paul; by Acts 15, however, a  disagreement breaks out between Barnabas and Paul about John Mark: Paul does not want him on the mission to the Gentiles because he had deserted them previously; Barnabas ends up taking John Mark with him to Cyprus (largely Jewish), while Paul takes Silas to Syria and Cilicia. The point about authorship is that John Mark has opportunity to have been influenced by both Paul and Peter, but that he chooses to leave Paul  at Pamphylia and to return to Jerusalem.


At this point, N.T. Wright's work, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003, 580) provides a useful and succinct summation of Christian praxis, related perhaps indirectly to authorship, suggesting a point of departure between the available Jewish and pagan maps, particularly as pertains to resurrection:


So far as we can tell, the early Christian praxis in relation to resurrection can be categorized as belonging firmly on the Jewish map, rather than the pagan one, but within signs that from within the Jewish worldview a new clarity and sharpness of belief had come to birth.


Wright next notes the transfer of "The Lord's Day" to Sunday, anchored in the resurrection as "the rationale of the new practice" and as suggesting "new creation"; Wright then addresses the difficulty of changing an existing praxis:


It takes a conscious, deliberate and sustained effort to change or adapt one of the most powerful elements of symbolic praxis within  a worldview...


He then says this is exactly what happened with the Sabbath, circumcision, and food laws; with the transfer of the Sabbath comes a new set of symbolic actions in baptism and Eucharist. Wright further understands the grounding of Christianity in Jewish stories about "Israel's and the world's history reaching its divinely ordained climax and new birth, and as stories of the coming of the long-awaited kingdom of Israel's god" (581), all these stories reflecting the exodus, return from exile, with a Christian emphasis upon a new creation already begun. In Jesus, an overlap of two ages includes the "age to come" longed for by Israel and an age begun--the present still continuing--but moving to full and final redemption. Wright now finds the Christian worldview substantially the same as that of the second-Temple Jewish view:


There is one god, who has made the world, and who remains in an active and powerful relationship with the world, and whose primary response to the problem of evil in the world is the call of Israel, which itself generates a second-order set of problems and questions (why has Israel herself apparently failed? what is the solution to Israel's own problems, and hence to the world's problem?). But the resurrection of Jesus [two-stage], and the powerful work of the Spirit...has reshaped this view of the one god and the world, by providing the answer, simultaneously, to the problems of Israel and the world: Jesus is shown to be Israel's representative Messiah, and his death and resurrection is the proleptic achievement of Israel's restoration and hence  of the world's restoration. The first Christians...were committed to living and working within history (582).


Turton makes a case for several possible dating schemes, this also related closely to authorship.  He points to later authorship during a  period between 65 and 75 CE, or perhaps the opening phases of the war, based largely on interpreting Mark 13 as referring to the First Jewish Revolt in 66-70, suggesting  "the Temple in Jerusalem either has been destroyed, or is about to be destroyed."  He explains that Mark 13: 9 refers to beatings and council judgments that happened to later Christians, remarking on Mark 13:13  as containing an anachronism in "my name's sake," that departs from Paul's early use of "the Saints" or "the Elect." Reference to large synagogues would also point to a date after 70 and would explain the upbraiding of Jewish authorities. Additionally, the crucifixion scene "is strongly reminiscent of a similar scene in Josephus' Life, which dates from at least after 95, and more probably 110." He goes on to say that "a handful of exegetes see Mark 13 as referring not to the revolt of 70 but to the later revolt of 135, in which the Jewish nation was not only defeated but eliminated. "  This time involved Hadrian's erection of a statue of Jupiter and a Roman Temple on the site of the Jerusalem Temple. Minimally, Turton cautions readers not to confuse the writer's point of view with the writer, remarking that Jesus' prophecies have been structured to point to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, though this  tells readers" nothing about the time it was written."  The sad reality is that the events outlined in Mark 13 and elsewhere in Mark are compatible with several dating schemes. Turton agrees with others that Mark is the first Gospel written and that Matthew, Luke, and John all knew and used the work.


As literature, Mark generally is viewed as "story," lending itself well to narrative criticism, a direction taken by Rhoads, Dewey, and Micie (Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Contributors: David Rhoads - author, Joanna Dewey -author, Donald Michie - author. Publisher: Fortress Press. Place of Publication: Minneapolis. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: iii.)  As genre, the work bears resemblance to Greco-Roman  literature, ancient biography, Greek tragedy, popular novella, story telling in the mode of rhetoric, Judean "apocalypse," midrashic commentary on the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Bible narrative, and as a mixed genre, a gospel acclaiming good news, and still more broadly, narrative. The plot is about Jesus' struggle to establish "the rule of God in the face of obstacles and opposition" (1,2, and  73).


Werner H. Kelber  (The Oral and the Written Gospel, 1983; Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1997, pp. 117-31 and 136-39) examines some of the scholarly suggestions for genre, reminding readers that genres serve as heuristic tools. He points to Gilbert G. Bilezikian's (1977)as suggesting Greek drama with its complication-crisis-denouement.  The complication is the disciples' blindness; Peter's confession is the critical turning point, the remainder is the hero's downfall. Dan O. Via (1975), Kelber says, sees Mark as tragicomedy, "maintaining the life-through-death pattern of comedy; Via also deconstructs Mark into textemes, including death and resurrection, upset and recovery. Moses Hadas  and Morton Smith (1965) understand Mark as being aretalogy, a form of religious biography. Johann

Weiss (1907, on the other hand, points to authorial absence and lack of birth and childhood stories as reasons not to read Mark as biography. Philip L. Shuler (1975) finds the genre to be more aptly that of encomium,  a laudatory biographical genre. Kelber next turns to parable, citing TheodoreWeeden as noting "cryptically that 'the evangelist intended a parabolic effect,'" with Jesus' life and death, according to Frederich H. Borsch (1975), understood as  the "consummate parable of the new faith." Robert Tannehill (1977) traces the role of the disciples in Mark as parable. John R. Donahue, S.J. (1978)reads the gospel as "narrative parable of the meaning of the life and death of Jesus, with a connection between the mystery of the kingdom and parable, "by shaking conventions and shattering expectations and shattering conventions." John Dominic Crossan (1973) reinterprets Rudolph Bultmann's (1951) Proclaimer becoming Proclaimed as "the parabler becoming  the parable. " Kelber quotes Crossan to the effect that "Jesus announced the kingdom of God in parables, but the primitive church announced Jesus as Christ, the parable of God." Elizabeth Struthers Malbon (1980) understands Mark to be parable-myth, "powered by the reversal of expectations." Amos Wilder long ago, Kelber says,  interpreted the parables as presenting the larger story in microcosm. Kebler himself concludes:


The features that constitute Mark's so-called parable theory--esoteric teaching and corresponding alienation, and the complementary roles of insiders versus outsiders--reflect genuine implications of parabolic discourse.


Kebler then quotes a lengthy passage from Madeleine Boucher:


The charge made in much of the scholarly literature since the nineteenth century that Mark has distorted the parable as a verbal construct is simply unfounded. Mark has not taken clear, straightforward speech, the parable, and transformed it into obscure, esoteric speech, the allegory. He has rather taken what is essential to the parable, the double-meaning effect, and made it the starting point of a theological theme concerning the audience's resistance to hearing the word.


After noting a few critics of parabolic theory, Kebler uses Schneidau to remark that "it is the nature of parable to turn on itself." Kebler then shows that the insider-outsider motif is itself part of the parabolic process. Jesus first creates an apostolic leadership of insiders privy to the announcement of the kingdom of God, with only Judas being the crack in the expectancy. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem scribes and Jesus' own family have been relegated to the outside.  Kebler argues that the disciples' failure to grasp the parables spoken by Jesus serve as the parabolic reversal that puts them back on the outside, this broken only by a final question (8:21): "D0 you not yet understand?" The passion story, Kebler says, shows the disciples as decisively crushed, playing their roles as outsiders to the bitter end. The three women, Kebler understands as vital intermediaries, "commissioned to carry the message of the resurrection to the disciples, they fail to deliver it." Kebler's major point is one about textuality versus the oral tradition: "Mark as a writer, had to maneuver himself into an outside position vis-a-vis oral tradition." Mark estranges himself from the tradition--exclusion of family, rejection of prophets, and the incomprehension of the disciples. Kebler concludes:


Mark, the storywriter, suffers and accomplishes the death of living words for the purpose of inaugurating the life of textuality. Linguistic and narrative perspectives concur in acknowledging death as the key to live. The protagonist's arduous and paradoxical journey from life to death to life again may thus be conceived as a narrative manifestation of the medium experience of drifting away from oral life in the exercise of writing for life…

[A compelling parabolic logic] shapes the narrative, disorienting away from oral authorities and reorienting toward the textually recaptured Jesus, and all along gesturing toward they mystery of God's kingdom. There is a deep sense, therefore, in which the gospel as a novel language project narrates the story of its own story.se


This discussion of genre and parable will be picked up again in chapter four; as here discussed, it lends itself early to alert readers that historical, literary, and hermeneutical theories lead in different directions. Albert Schweizer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1962)remarks on the irony of historical approaches:


It was no small matter, therefore, that in the course of the critical study of the Life of Jesus, after a resistance lasting for two centuries, during which first one expedient was tried and then another, theology was forced by genuine history to doubt the artificial history with which it had thought to to give new life to our Christianity, and to yield to the facts, which as Wrede strikingly said, force the most radical critics of all. History will force it to find a way to transcend history, and to fight for the lordship and rule of Jesus over the world with weapons tempered in a different forge.


What is said of history here may also, perhaps, be said about literary and hermeneutical approaches.


Special characteristics of Mark include Mark's Gospel "a simple, succinct, unadorned, yet vivid account of Jesus' ministry, emphasizing more what Jesus did than what he said," episodic structure and the use of the adverb immediately (NRSV Introduction). NRSV also sees Mark's "beginning of the gospel" as continuing with Acts. Turton cues readers to look beyond the face of Mark "to realize the brilliance and complexity of its composition:


The text of the Gospel of Mark is not impressive on its face. The Greek is often appears awkward and was smoothed out by later writers who used Mark as a source text. Events occur without apparent reason, in fulfillment of a design not clearly expressed in the text. Characters pop into existence for a verse or two, then fade away. Many Markan locations do not appear to have existed at the time the Gospel was written, and the travels of Jesus in Mark sometimes seem to run counter to common sense. All this is enhanced by the numerous emendations made to the text by scribes who tried to alter what they perceived as Markan errors and misunderstandings. The writer of Mark manages to combine ambiguity, plainness, dynamism, inevitability, pathos, and irony in a way that has spawned numerous scholarly interpretations of his Gospel, none of which have managed to attract a very large following.


In a less complimentary fashion, George Aichele points to the peculiarly Markan features which set Mark apart from the other gospels and make the book unpopular with believers:


The questions presented by Mark's ending are, however, not unusual in the Gospel of Mark. Among the features of Mark which distinguish it from other canonical gospels and which leave the entire Gospel quite ambiguous are:


a) the lack of a Christmas story;

b) the theological ambiguities of Jesus' baptism (which Matthew, Luke, and John go far toward resolving);

c) the enduring problem of Jesus' identity (which is not resolved in Mark's version of the dialogue with Peter at Caesarea Philippi, Mark 8:27-33);

d) the mystery or "secret" of the kingdom of God, from which "those who are outside" are excluded (Mark 4:11-12);

e) the "amazement" and "astonishment" (Mark uses these words more than any other Gospel) of the crowds and the disciples at everything which Jesus does and says;

f) the undiminished stupidity and failure of the disciples.

All of these features are consistent with Mark's troublesome ending. Indeed, Mark's story is throughout the most "difficult" of the Gospels, and this is no doubt a cause of Mark's unpopularity with believers.


Pasted from <http://www.crosscurrents.org/mark.htm>




The fact that I come back to Mark for another study indicates that I, too, am attracted to Mark, this time for its intricate structure--and for what it presents to readers in the personages of Jesus and Christ. This approach, decidedly, is literary in an attempt to address the gospel as a whole, but at the same time, appropriate attention is also given to historical and theological issues.


The  challenge of literary criticism confronts a guild of biblical scholars who have  been predisposed to disintegrate the Gospels into supposed component pieces. The  church, too, has often stifled the voice of each evangelist, either by  disintegrating his Gospel into bite-sized lectionary texts, or by harmonizing  the Gospels, melting them together into one variegated lump of Gospel lore. Few  biblical scholars have taken seriously both feeding stories in Mark; similarly,  how many sermons have you heard on both stories, as a pair? Such sermonizing  would feel awkward for most of us, for that is simply not the way expository  preaching is usually done. And yet a literary critical reading of Mark suggests  that this pair of stories belongs together, and if we wish to understand what  Mark had in mind by writing his Gospel, we had best keep them together. Or to  state the challenge of literary criticism yet another way, perhaps we should  note that the Gospel writers produced neither volumes of learned exegesis nor  sermons. Rather, they told stories; and if we wish to understand what the  Gospels say, we should study how stories are told.



Most readers will discover easily certain prevailing themes in Mark, as pointed out by Marion L. Soards in a review of The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity (John T Carroll and Joel B. Green , et al, 1995):

"Mark treats the literary phenomenon of anticipation, the theological themes of Jesus' identity and destiny, and the sociological and ecclesiological matrix of 'discipleship and the cross.'"


Pasted from < http://www.questia.com/read/1P3-25482292/the-death-of-jesus-in-early-christianity >


The ESV Introduction to Mark as a "docudrama" made up of a "collection of discrete units":


Of the four Gospels, Mark is most overtly a “docudrama,” consisting of noteworthy “clips” as well as typical or representative events; snatches of speeches or dialogues; and commentary by the narrator. Mark’s approach to the biographical data is that of a careful recorder. Mark’s Gospel, however, is not a biography in the modern sense, as there is no attempt to describe Jesus physically, treat his family origins, or portray Jesus’ inner life. Rather, like other ancient biographies (which were called a bios or “life”), Mark’s purpose is to speak about the actions and teachings of Jesus that present his ministry and mission. Of course, the book is at the same time an implied proclamation and apologetic work that hints at the redemptive meaning of the events recorded. All of the Gospels are hero stories. Additionally, Mark’s Gospel is made up of the usual array of subgenres found in the NT Gospels, including calling stories, recognition stories, witness/testimony stories, encounter stories, conflict or controversy stories, pronouncement stories, miracle stories, parables, discourses and sermons, proverbs or sayings, passion stories, and resurrection stories.


Even though the overall format of Mark’s Gospel is narrative, it does not possess a continuous story line but is a collection of discrete units. There are crowd scenes, small-group scenes, public scenes, and private scenes. The resulting book is a collage or mosaic of the life of Jesus. The best way to negotiate this format is to regard oneself as Mark’s traveling companion as he assembles his documentary on the life of Christ. The main unifying element in the mosaic is the protagonist, Christ himself.


Pasted from < http://www.esvbible.org/resources/esvsb/introduction-to-mark/>



Structurally, Mark is an amazing work. I have used The New Interpreter's Study Bible and its extensive notes to reveal a cluster of structures, suggesting a richer complexity than the two-fold division into chapters 1-13 and chapters 14-16:


1.       Introduction--including inclusion in verse 14 relative to "good news" and a calling of disciples (1:16) followed by four healings (the last involving controversy), another calling (and another four healings, the last with controversy).

2.      Two extended parables--"The Sower" (chapter 4 and "The Wicked Tenants" (chapter 12)--and shorter parables about "The Lamp" (4:21), "The Growing Seed" (4:26), "The Mustard Seed" (4:30), and an act of "Stilling the Storm" (4:35). Briefly, without moving deeply into theology at this point, the parables say something about insiders and outsiders, and the difficulty of faith for even insiders.

3.      Three extended healing miracles--demoniac who recognizes Jesus, the daughter of Jairus, and the hemorrhaging woman (both of these latter concerned with fertility, or at least the possibility of life and death). Through all of these, Jesus expresses amazement at unbelief; the crowds, on the other hand, are amazed at the miracles and authority of Jesus.

4.       Mission--Death of John--note that John is buried by his disciples while Jesus is taken care of by a stranger; John baptizes by immersion (purity); the Spirit descends on Jesus at baptism. Readers should note that while John baptizes with water, Jesus baptizes with the Spirit (1:8).

5.      Two feedings--Feeding Five Thousand in deserted place( chapter 6, five and two fish, groups of hundreds and fifties, twelve baskets of left over pieces of bread and fish ); Feeding Four Thousand (chapter 8, seven loaves and a few fish, seven baskets full left over. Both feedings involve a following scene with water--walking on water and getting into boat. Note incomprehension and obduracy from disciples.

6.      Peter's Confession , "You are the Messiah" (8:29)  followed by Jesus' foretelling his death and resurrection and Peter's rebuke (32). Note that the writer's treatment of Peter, the rebuke and later denials, suggest to some that the author may not have been a follower of Peter. Some see this recognition as the turning point in the narrative.

7.      Kingdom of God is imminent (:1) and "comes with power" and Transfiguration--the latter associated with Ezekiel and Merkavah (throne chariot: analogy of the way YHWH works in the world). Note the inner circle of Peter, James, and John, who see Jesus talking with Elijah and Moses, two prophets believed not to have died but to have been taken up directly to heaven; according to Malachi (4:5-6) Elijah was to come as precursor to the Messiah. Notes to the NRSV says some have viewed the transfiguration as a "misplaced resurrection." Mark may also be read as an initiation story: the initiates must be prepared for inclusion in the mystery of the coming Kingdom of God, this touching on how one reads--whether literally or metaphorically--as well as defines who is inside or outside the mystery. The throne of God, Merkavah, represented the vortex of creative energy which determines significance of any given historical period; this tradition of thinking dates back to Mesopotamia (twenty-third century BCE) and to Babylonia (Cambridge Companion to the Bible, 520). Readers must remember that the ancient view of the world was that of multiple, hard shells that had to be rended by the divine, thus the descent of the Spirit at the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1: 9-13). The term son of god, often used to describe angels and their relationship to God, expressed, not biological relationship but revelatory relationship (Companion, 521). By this view, Jesus may be viewed as a practitioner of divine presence. In Hebrew use, Son of God was used to express what is human while Son of Man expressed divinity.

8.      Entry into Jerusalem, Fig Tree (11:4m 20-25) and Temple (chapters 11 and 12)--Note that the two scenes of the cursing of the fig tree ("not its time") and the withering (20-25) sandwich the Temple  disruption, which symbolically suggests Jesus' displeasure with the temple and religious leaders of Jerusalem (notes NRSV).  The NRSV notes that "time now begins to be marked much more precisely, a characteristic of the final recognition sequence  of Greco-Roman narratives." The Wicked Tenants allegory (12) parallels the life of Jesus; questions about the resurrection contrast the finite and eternal; the coin story (13-17), an enthymeme, works with the suppressed premise that whatever bears the image on someone belongs to that one; this also occurs in the question about David's Son (12:35-37) with the minor suppressed premise that "fathers do not call their sons lord" (NRSV notes).

9.      Destruction of Temple foretold and lesson of the Fig Tree which has learned its lesson--the time is near, necessitating the need for watchfulness (32-37) and for keeping awake.  Chapter 13 belongs to apocalypse, lending to speculation about the events to which it refers and significant to the dating of the work of Mark. NRSV says the writer "drops the veil of narrative and addresses the audience of the story directly" with the Markan wink of verse 14.

10.   Story of arrest, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus (14:1-16:1-8).


Interestingly, The New Interpreter's Study Bible divides Mark geographically into an introduction, Galilean ministry, and Jerusalem ministry. The Galilean is divided into four sections: first major section (1:14-2:12)--the good news of God and  (2:13-3:6)--call story and four controversy stories, second major section (3:7-6:32)--designation and mission of twelve, (6:33-8:21)--two feedings, boat trip, and growing conflict with scribes and Pharisees, (8:22-10:52)--surrounded by giving of sight stories, organized around three teaching sections following major misunderstanding by the disciples, with each of the teaching sections introduced by a predictions of Jesus' upcoming arrest, trial, death, and resurrection. The last part of the Gospel (11:116:8) is also divided at another point (14:1-16:8). More will be said about this structure in later commentary.


Another traditional direction of structure emphasizes the "servant" theme:


     I.     Prologue: Identity of the Servant Son of God (1:1–13)

     II.     The Servant Son’s initial message and ministry (1:14—8:30)

A.     Fame and popularity (1:14–45)

1.     Preaching and discipling (1:14–20)

2.     Exercising power and authority (1:21–45)

B.     Opposition and conflict (2:1—3:35)

C.     Explanation of opposition (4:1–41)

1.     Jesus’ parables (4:1–34)

2.     Jesus’ power over the elements (4:35–41)

D.     Belief and unbelief (5:1—8:30)

1.     Triumphs over demons, disease, and death (5:1–43)

2.     Unbelief around Nazareth (6:1–6)

3.     Greater ministry with the twelve (6:7–56)

4.     The Pharisees’ defense of tradition (7:1–23)

5.     Jesus’ withdrawal and teaching (7:24—8:26)

6.     Peter’s confession (8:27–30)

     III.     The Servant Son’s approach to the Cross (8:31—10:52)

A.     Jesus’ announcement of His coming death and resurrection (8:31—10:34)

B.     Jesus’ teaching and practice of servanthood (10:35–52)

     IV.     The Servant Son’s ministry and death in Jerusalem (11:1—15:47)

A.     Jesus’ initial ministry in Jerusalem (11:1–33)

B.     Rising opposition to Jesus (12:1–44)

C.     The Olivet Discourse (13:1–37)

D.     Jesus’ preparation for His death (14:1–42)

E.     Jesus’ rejection by disciples, people, and His Father (14:43—15:47)

     V.     Epilogue: The living and victorious Servant Son (16:1–20)

Radmacher, E. D. 1999. Nelson's new illustrated Bible commentary. T. Nelson Publishers: Nashville


The servant theme is also used by Narry F. Santos in a discussion about the use of the rhetorical device of paradox, employed, Santos illustrates, throughout the book of Mark; first he establishes the thrust of his study:


The Gospel of Mark has been described as a paradoxical 

gospel, a riddle that teases its readers' response, and a narrative 

that possesses an enigmatic and puzzling character.


 This para- doxical and puzzling character is seen clearly in the paradox of 

authority and servanthood in Mark's Gospel. The paradox high-

lights the relationship of two important Marcan motifs: the 

Christological motif of authority and the discipleship motif of 

servanthood—motifs that interact intricately in Mark.

This paradox serves as a key Marcan rhetorical device that 

urges readers to show servanthood in their exercise of authority 

within the community of believers and beyond.


He then next provides a structural view of Mark based on this paradox:


                      TO THE MARCAN NARRATIVE

In addition to the prologue (1:1-15) and epilogue (15:42-16:8), the 

Book of Mark may be divided into three major sections. The first 

major section (1:16-8:21) has key dramatic instances of the 

paradox. Though both motifs of authority and servanthood are 

present, this first major section highlights Jesus' authority.


 The second major section (8:22-10:52) features several ver-

bal instances of the paradox within the narrative's three paradox-

ical discipleship discourses (8:27-38; 9:30-50; 10:32-445).


 The third major section (11:1-15:41) highlights the servant-

hood motif (though it also has episodes that show authority), cul-

minating in Jesus' passion and death, His highest expression of 



Not surprisingly, the conclusion simply restates the paradox:  "In summary Mark's use of the authority/servanthood para- dox in the narrative reinforces the truth that the way of authority 

is the way of service. "



At least one author (Michael Turton) has reconstructed the entire work of Mark as a chiasm, structures that are parallel and inverted, a structure that the author admits to be only "reasonably possible"  (http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark01.html  ).


The actual possibilities for structure in Mark have been classified into five approaches: topography/geography; theological themes; Sitz im Leben of the recipients; literary factors. Each model has proponents and critics; what I include below is meant to be suggestive rather than conclusive, all taken from Kevin Larsen's "The Structure of Mark's Gospel" <http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/4799_CBI_sample_copy.pdf  >.


Taylor (1966) has five sections marked off with a geographical designation, excluding the Introduction (1.1-13) and the Passion/

Resurrection (14.1–16.8).

1.14–3.6 Galilean ministry

3.7–6.13 Height of Galilean ministry

6.14–8.26 Ministry beyond Galilee

8.27–10.52 Journey to Jerusalem

11.1–13.37 Ministry in Jerusalem


Concerning this geographical division, Chalmer E. Faw argues for major sections clearly delineated by a pattern of topics--all ending with a well placed saying: popularity, controversy, parable, apocalyptic, ransom (The Heart of the Gospel of Mark, 1956, Journal of Bible and Religion : <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1458876 >

 The other obsta­cle is the concern with geography already illustrated from Grant and Taylor. Enslin', well illustrates the ambivalence of scholars at this point when he first states that geographical interest is "quite subordinate" in the Gospel but goes on to say that the writer has arranged the material into two sharply defined periods; one in Galilee and the other at Jerusalem. What he seems to be saying here is that the author himself was not primarily concerned about geogra­phy but structured his whole book on a geographical pattern. One might observe that a more realistic reading of Mark would indicate that there are geographical notes here and there and a general movement of the ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem but that topical interests such as popular­ity, opposition, teaching in parables, won­der working, the true meaning of messiah-ship and discipleship, the apocalyptic, and others are after all the dominant and deter­mining factors in outline. Neither the existence of multiple sources nor the pres­ence of geographical notes should divert the careful student's attention from the fact that the final work which we know as the Gospel of Mark is made up of a series of rather well defined, although not always artfully composed, sections of material.


David Palmer in his dissertation The Markan Matrix (a literary-structural analysis of the Gospel of Mark (1969)makes a compelling case for Mark's being a structured narrative of seven days framed by both Prologue and Epilog and then reduces Mark thematically to a few words:


 The Prologue: The Gospel appears to be for the Jews

The scheme for each of the four Series:

first sub-Series: Jews and the Old Covenant

turning point: Jews/Gentiles

second sub-Series: the New Covenant and Gentiles

The Epilogue: The Gospel is for the World.



Palmer identifies Mark as a rhetorician of his own age:

Though my analysis of Mark's text has been fundamentally literary-structural from the

beginning, it has been informed increasingly by the rules of ancient rhetoric, as Mark more and

more demonstrated himself to be an exponent of the ancient writing art (302)


He understands Mark to have followed the practice of ancient rhetoric, including invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery (302).


The theme of his book was "Good News". His book would demonstrate how, in the beginning, it was presented to the Jews, but in the end, it was for presenting to the whole World. The Prologue  would cover the former, the Epilogue the latter, and in his narrative between, he would develop a series of presentations which would begin with the Jews and Old Covenant issues; they would develop through a turning point concerned with both Jews and Gentiles; and he would end them with the Gentiles and New Covenant issues. (My reading of the Acts of the Apostles well Demonstrates something very similar: the scheme is 'Jerusalem/Antioch/Rome). T he "bad news" that he would counter would be the Fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, And what appeared to be the end of Judaism. He would re-interpret i t as Good News not only for the Gentiles, but also for the Jews.


His exchange of the word "world" for "Gentiles" in the concluding of his last Series,  and his

use of the word, "world" in his Epilogue, would show that the New Covenant was for all, not

just the Gentiles. He would show how both Jews and Gentiles were complicit in the death of

the story's central character. Through his death, his audience will know that God establishes

the New Covenant. In presenting Jesus, at the point of his dying a s the Son of God, he would

Demonstrate t at for the "world", it was an act of New Creation like that at the time of Noah.

The creation account would have its reference and allusion. He would show how God should

be seen to have dealt with evil in the world, in this new way.


For his presentation of his argument,  he would choose to tell his story in Series of "Days" as

in the creation  account'. The 'twenty-seventh day' in his account would replicate that in the

Account of Noah, as a day of new creation. The book would be expressive o f the "Day of the

Lord"', a day of both judgement and salvation. A telling in Days would be understood not

only by the Jews, but also by the Greeks who had their epic" about their origins, which we know as the Gospel of Mark is made up of a series of rather well defined, although not always artfully composed, sections of material.


Dom Henry Wansbrough (users.ox.ac.uk/~sben0056/newbooklets/ )provides useful notes on Mark that include several approaches to structure:


Mark's gospel is full of wonder, a wonder gradually focussing on the person  of Christ. Like so many of his individual short phrases and expressions, as a  whole it falls into two halves, pivoting on the episode at Caesarea Philippi;  the first half is devoted to the gradual discovery that he is the Christ, the  Messiah, as Peter acknowledges for the first time on that occasion; the second  half is devoted to the gradual and painful discovery of the nature of his  messiahship, that it is the way of suffering and rejection.



The gospel is defined not only in the middle, but at both ends as well. The  first section and the last are particularly significant. Although the gospel is  a gradual process of wondering discovery, this amazement applies primarily to  the actors in the drama, and especially to the disciples. To the reader the  first section gives the game away. The introductory section is as true an  introduction as the Prologue of John or the Infancy Stories of Matthew and Luke,  for it sets the scene and informs the reader of the true nature and import of  the story to come.



1. The prologue of Mark (1.1-13) sets the scene carefully. It falls  into three sections: the testimony of tradition, the baptism and the testing of  Jesus. But before that comes the heading, which is itself highly significant;  'the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, son of God'. These last three  words are missing in some manuscripts, but are supremely apt. With the  declaration of the centurion at the foot of the Cross, 'Truly this was son of  God', they bracket the gospel. In accordance with the ancient literary (and the  modern mathematical) convention, this is a way of showing that everything within  the bracket is defined and characterised by the bracket itself. In this case,  therefore, that means the gospel is characterised as the gospel of the son of  God. This expression arches over the gospel, which consists in showing that and  how Jesus is son of  God.


Wansbrough further remarks that the writer presents Jesus' message about the "kingdom of God" and that this, rather than messianic status, characterizes the work; he then explains that Christian evolution introduces the "incarnate Son of God":


For Christians Jesus is the Word made flesh, the incarnate Son of God. This  understanding of Jesus is, however, the product of centuries of deepening of  understanding. 'Word', 'flesh', 'incarnate' are all terms which have no place in  Mark, and 'Son of God' is an expression which can bear a variety of meanings in  the Old Testament. Mark stands early in the Christian development of  understanding of the Master, and it cannot be assumed that his view of Christ is  in all respects explicitly the same as that of the Council of Nicaea, or even of  the gospel of John. It is an important point of departure to realise that Jesus  never calls himself 'God'. Nowhere in Mark is Jesus called 'God'. Indeed, only  three times in the New Testament is Jesus explicitly so called, and all of these  instances stand at the very end of the process of development and reflection (Jn  1.1; 20.28; Heb 1.8). It is possible, therefore, and necessary, to ask how  Mark's good news sees Jesus, and what it contributes to the deepening  understanding of his role and being.


The Prologue, Wansbrough explains as shaping the direction of the rest of the gospel. First, Jesus is presented in the tradition and climax of the prophets; second, the central baptism scene uses the well-known Jewish convention of a voice from heaven to authenticate Jesus' mission; and third, Jesus successfully resists the temptation of forty days, unlike Israel itself, this evidenced later in his expulsion of evil spirits and his testing by suffering and persecution. Like the Transfiguration, the turning point of the story placed immediately after Peter's confession, the empty tomb in the ending confirms the message of the prologue, the divine sonship of Jesus recognized in the resurrection as the divine bursting upon human history, this attested to by another Jewish convention, that of angelic interpretation. Likewise, the young man in white is a stock figure used to explain supernatural happenings (Ezek  40.3; Zech 1.14; 2.2, 7, etc; Dn 8.16; 9.21-22; 2 Mc 3.33).


Faw provides the following summary of structure:

1.       Jesus begins a sucessful and popular ministry (ch. 1)

2.      Opposition arises, culminating in the fore­shadowing of his death (2 :1-3 :6)

3.      He appoints the disciple band, the true family of Christ (3 :7-35)

4.      He teaches in parables, both to reveal and to conceal (4:1-34)

5.      He engages in vigorous wonder-working, evoking an amazed response (4:35-7:37) (8:1-26?)

6.      He announces the way of the cross and resur­rection for both Master and disciples (8:27-10:45)

7.      In Jerusalem he is again met with popularity and opposition and teaches with a parable (10:46- 12 :44)

8.      He teaches alertness to the signs of the end (ch. 13)

9.      Then is arrested, tried and killed (14 :1-15 :41)

10.   He is carefully buried but startlingly rises again (15 :42-16 :8)

(Source: Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Jan., 1957), pp. 19-23 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1457367 Accessed: 25/02/2012 21:48)



Myers has identified three key moments in the gospel where  the reader’s attention is focused on the identity of Jesus, which then lends support to the thesis statement in 1.1 (Myers 1990: 390-91). Consequently,  these three high revelatory episodes strengthen a biographical interest on the part of Mark. 146 Currents in Biblical Research 3.1 (2004)





Heavens rent

Garments white

 Veil rent

Dove descends

 Cloud descends

 Darkness spreads

Voice from heaven

 Voice from cloud

 Jesus’ great voice

‘You are my Beloved Son’

 ‘This is my Son’

 ‘Truly, this man was the

Son of God’

John the Baptist as Elijah

 Jesus appears with Elijah

 Is he calling Elijah


Other organizational patterns under themes include titles of Jesus, rejection and understanding, Jesus' interactions with his disciples, and the Way.


Stephen S. Short ("Mark" in The International Bible Commentary with the NIV, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986explains the thesis of Mark as being that "Jesus Christ is Son of God" (1157),  pointing to this identification in the prologue (1:1), by the heavenly Father (1:11; 9:7), by demons (3:11; 5:7), and by himself (12:5; 14:61 f), and by the Roman (15:39), seeing this as the climax of the story. He, then, outlines in terms of introductory events (1:1-13), the Galilean Ministry (1:14-7:23), the Northern journey (7:24-8:26), the journey to Jerusalem ((8;27-10:52), the Jerusalem ministry (11:1-13:37), the Passion (14:1-15:47), and the resurrection (16:1-20).


In chapter twelve, I have spent significant time with Herbert W. Bateman's "Defining the Titles 'Christ' and 'Son of God' in Mark's Narrative Presentation of Jesus," where the essential argument is that Mark presents Jesus as the "'the Christ' who was empowered by God via his Spirit to teach and act with authority as God's royal 'Son'" (JETS 50/3, Sept. 2007, 558).  He understands all of the identifying titles used for Jesus as appositional or parallel epithets all referring to "the Christ": the titles include "Son of David," " Son of God," " Son of the Most High God," and "Holy One of God." Bateman makes the point that later creeds and confessional statements should not cloud the earlier and simpler understanding of the "Messiah" presented in Mark, which ultimately does not include the latter developing theology of Jesus as divine Son of God. Nonetheless, Bateman asserts, "Scripture supports the Christian orthodox doctrine that Jesus, the exalted Christ, was and is God" (557). Bateman understands Jesus as exalting himself thus at his trial to this place of "Christological honor" (556). Bateman outlines Mark into three sections after the introduction found in 1:2-13: Galilee and beyond--1:14-8:21; Passion predictions on the way--8:22-10:52; and the Temple and Cross--11:1-16:8.


Sitz im Leben of the Recipients


A third approach to understanding Mark’s structure is to see the alleged needs of the early church in the text, thus having those needs dictate the gospel’s organization.


Literary Factors


A literary approach to the Gospel of Mark will include genres as they evolve broadly from the mythopoetic through legend, history, and science. Before looking more closely at technique and structure, Benjamin W. Bacon explains this evolution:

The mythopceic imagi­nation responds to the innate instinct of curiosity in the face of such phenomena, and creation stories, flood stories, sun myths, shrine stories, and the like, result. In the case of legend the starting point is some historical event, a migra­tion, a battle, a deliverance; or the relations, amicable or otherwise, of tribes, families, and nations, and their bound­aries. Myth and legend is the primitive form of physical and political geography and history. In legend we have a great advance upon mere myth. Roughly we may say, the book of Genesis is in substance mythical, the narrative from the exodus onward is legendary. Legend, I have said, com­memorates great historical events. But even here the motive is not primarily historical. National or tribalamour propre glorifies the great achievements of the past, ancestor-worship and hero-worship contribute their part. The songs of a people come first, their Homers, Pindars, Tyrtceuses, their Deborahs and Davids, because what men want of the bard and minstrel and story-teller at the camp-fire and in the city gate is not primarily a scientific record, but the kindling of the martial spirit, or of the sense of social right, by great ex­amples of the past. The historian comes along afterward to gather up the fragments, to turn the poetry to prose, trans­form the myth and song and legend of the people into the foral chronicles of the scribe.

(The Purpose of Mark's Gospel, journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 29, No. 1,1910, pp. 41-60 Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature, Stable URL:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3260133, Accessed: 22/02/2012 10:11)


He then moves to his obvious point that "The narrative material of the New Testament has practi­cally nothing of myth" and says, " this at least it has in common with Old Testament story, that it is made up of individual anecdotes, more or less popu­lar in character, very loosely strung together, and not origi­nally meant to form part of a continuous history." He goes on to remark that Peter, according to internal evidence and external tradition, is "the source of practically all of a narrative character that is related about Jesus." At the time of the writing of Mark, with Peter dead, Bacon says that the early Church had lost the chronological thread and simply strung together "pearls of evangelic anecdote." He goes on to point out that Luke among the gospels, purporting historical design, depended upon Markan outline, concluding, "There is no more extraordinary fact in the whole domain of gospel criticism than this complete dominance of the Marcan outline. Every subsequent Gospel, canonical or uncanonical, has this for its vertebral column, and outside of it there is practically nothing." Mark stands "at the transition point between anecdote and history," with Matthew retaining Markan order and focusing on how best to present the teachings of Jesus. Luke, too, retains mostly the order and added to it 'Matthwan Precepts and Petrine Anecdotes." Matthew's purpose is didactic and Luke's, historical; that of John is "philosophy of history."


Norman Perrin, likewise, in  "Criticism, Literary Criticism, and Hermeneutics: The Interpretation of the Parables of Jesus and the Gospel of Mark Today"  (The Journal of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 4, Oct., 1972, pp. 361-375, Published by: The University of Chicago Press,, Stable URL:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1201589, Accessed: 15/03/2012 10:59)  discusses three distinct but interrelated aspects involved in interpretation-- "historical criticism," "literary criticism," and "hermeneutic":


To begin with, we have the fact that the text is a historical entity written (or spoken—in the case of the parables of Jesus and the Gospel of Mark, the distinction is immaterial) by one man, in a distinct set of circumstances, and for a definite purpose, intended to have a particular meaning and understood by its addressees in a particular kind of way. As I am using the term, it is the task of "historical criticism" to recover this information, and in the case of the parables of Jesus and the Gospel of Mark this has in fact been done. Then we have the further fact that the text as a text takes on a life and vitality of its own, independent of the historical circumstances of its creation. It is interpreted and reinterpreted in any number of new and different situations, and therefore takes on new and different meanings and is understood in new and different ways. But even here, there are rules to the game. A text has a given form, and this form functions in one way and not another. A text is written in a certain kind of language, and this language has a certain force and not another. A text may be and indeed is open-ended, but it is not inchoate. Its form and language are in no small way determinative of the manner in which it may be understood and interpreted. It is this aspect of the act of interpreting the text which I am designating "literary criticism." Then, finally, we have the fact that a text is read by a given individual and understood in a certain way by that individual; it says something to that individual. It is this dynamic relationship between the text and the individual reader that I am designating "hermeneutics."


Perrin then goes on to explain the significance of these interrelated aspects--author, text, and reader--in the following way:

Any given text then must be considered from these three standpoints. It must be considered from the standpoint of historical criticism, as a text intended to say something and saying something to its first readers or hearers. We must respect the act of authorship and the intent of the author, as we must also respect the understanding of a text reached by its intended readers or hearers. To do anything less than this is to com­mit an act of rape on the text. But at the same time, we must admit that something happens when a text is committed to writing and hence broadcast to the world for anyone to read who can master the language in which it is written. It is now no longer a private communication with its potentiality for meaning limited to the intent of the author and the understanding of its intended reader. It now exists in its own right, essentially independent of the original author and intended reader, and its potentiality for meaning is limited only by the function of its form and its language. In practice, of course, its potentiality for meaning is not even limited in that way, but it is an argument of this paper that it should be so limited. Even with independently existing literary objects, there is a difference between exegesis and eisegesis! Finally, a text is read and something happens, or does not happen, between the text and the reader. This is the most difficult area to explore, and yet we must attempt to explore it (364).



Textually, then, one looks at form and technique, including for Mark, the following significant approaches:



Intercalations-  "In each case Mark begins to tell a story, interrupts it by inserting another, and then returns to the original in order to complete it."

Asking of Questions

Use of Summary Statements

 Perrin breaks down the literary structure of Mark as follows, with the major divisions occurring where summary statements and geographical notices coincide.

 1.1-13 Introduction

 1.14-15 Transitional Markan summary

 1.16–3.6 First major section: The authority of Jesus in word and deed

 3.7-12 Transitional Markan summary

 3.13–6.6a Second major section: Jesus as Son of God and rejection

 6.6b Transitional Markan summary

 6.7–8.22 Third major section: Jesus as Son of God and misunderstood

 8.23-26 Transitional giving-of-sight story

 8.27–10.45 Fourth major section: Christology and Christian discipleship

 10.46-52 Transitional giving-of-sight story

 11.1–12.44 Fifth major section: the days in Jerusalem prior to the passion

 13.1-5a Introduction to the apocalyptic discourse

 13.5b-37 Apocalyptic discourse

 14.1-12 Introduction to the passion narrative

 14.13–16.8 The passion narrative


Joanna Dewey, arguing that Mark survived because it was a good story, observed the following oral characteristics:


The plot as well as the style is typical of oral composition.17 The structure does not build toward a linear climactic plot; the plot to kill Jesus is first introduced in Mark 3:6 but not picked up and developed until Mark 11, and it does not really get under way until Mark 14. Rather than linear plot development, the structure consists of repetitive patterns, series of three parallel episodes, concentric structures, and chiastic structures. Such structures are characteristic of oral literature, helping the performer, the audience, and new performers and audiences remember and transmit the material. From what we know of ora lliterature there is no reason why it could not have been composed and transmitted in oral form.


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Dewey, engaging in text-critical data although confessing no expertise in it, nonetheless provides some useful insights relative to Mark's history; she finds evidence to conclude the following:

If Mark wasmore dependent on oral transmission than the other Gospels were, we would expect  it tohave more variants than the other Gospels, and this indeed is the case.

The rubbish heap at Oxyrhynchus now provides 57 percent of all early manuscripts and represents all existing texttypes. At Oxyrhynchus, thirteen fragments of Matthew, ten of John, two of Luke and none of Mark have been found.41 The finds also include two fragments of the Gospel of Peter, a variety of other apocryphal NT writings, and a portion of Irenaeus's Against Heresies.42 These findings may be the result of random survival; however, the pattern is sufficiently consistent to suggest that there were, overall, fewer copies made of Mark than of the other Gospels.

The third aspect of the early evidence is the incidence of patristic citations. Here we are

dealing with the writings of relatively elite men, and, not surprisingly, they prefer the

more literary Gospels to Mark. But what I find interesting and suggestive here is the sharp

drop-off in the number of citations of Mark from the second century to the thirdcentury.43 In  each case, the most cited Gospel is Matthew, with about 3,900 quotations inthe second century  and 3,600 in the third; the least cited is Mark. The Gospel of Mark is

still prominent in the second-century writings, with about 1,400 citations, whereas in the

third century there are only about 250.44 The status of Mark continued to decline, with

Augustine finally declaring Mark to be merely an abbreviation of Matthew.

By the third century, the fourfold Gospel was well accepted as canonical, and codices

containing all four were becoming the norm. Certainly Mark was included in all the great

majuscules of the fourth and fifth centuries; however, it was increasingly ignored.45 Once

Mark became one more written Gospel included in a collection, it failed to interest the

church, or at least its leaders. But in the second century, it was still alive as oral

performance and was referred to by church leaders.


Dewey then concludes that oral viability explains why Mark survived as part of the fourfold gospel:


I suggest that it is the widespread oral

knowledge of the Gospel of Mark among Christians of all social locations that made it

salient enough to be included in the fourfold Gospel. If it had not been widely known and

loved on its own (not just as incorporated in Matthew), it easily could have been omitted

as just a poorer rendition of Matthew. Harry Gamble writes, "The currency of so many

gospels also shows that the eventual development of a collection of only four Gospels was

the result of a selective process. Nothing dictated that the church should honor precisely

four Gospels, or these four in particular."46 In his attempt to defend a plurality of Gospels

,Ireneaus could have as easily defended a threefold Gospel as upholding the apostolic

tradition or rule of faith. He might have used the triadic formula for the divine or

anthropological analogies such as spirit, soul, and body; but he did not. We have four

Gospels. I suggest that the oral viability and popular support of the story of Mark may bethe  reason-or at least part of the reason-that Mark indeed made it into the fourfold Gospel

,into the canon, and thus we have it today.


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Norman Perrine, after making the important points about historical criticism, literary criticism, and hermeneutics, identifies the Gospel of Mark as apocalypse (later made into foundation myth, this without damage to the text itself). As apocalypse, he says that Mark is realistic narrative in which time is that of Jesus and his hearers (parables) and Mark and his readers (apocalypse). Myth, as Perrine presents it, narrates sacred history (as opposed to actual time):


I want to stress the fact that I am using the term "myth" as Mircea Eliade uses it, to denote the story of how something came into being. "Myth narrates a sacred history: it relates an event that took place in primordial time, the fabled time of the beginnings.' . . . Myth . . . is always an account of a creation ' ; it relates how something was produced, began to be." 6 When I describe the Gospel of Mark as a foundation myth, I intend to call attention to the fact that the story narrated is the story of the time of Jesus now seen as sacred time, the story of the ministry of Jesus now seen as the event in relationship to which Christian reality is constituted, the story of Jesus wherein he is viewed as Lord and as Christ, as the foes et origo of Christian faith. As a foundation myth, the Gospel of Mark separates this sacred time from the time of the reader, and a means now has to be provided whereby the reader can relate to the sacred time. A myth that relates the sacred time of origins has to be accompanied by a ritual by means of which it becomes possible for the hearer or reader to relate to that time. In fact, both Matthew and Luke in interpreting the Gospel of Mark as a foun­dation myth do provide their readers with the equivalent of a ritual, a point I shall develop in my next section...


Moreover, both pro­vide means whereby the reader may relate to the time of Jesus—which is now no longer the reader's time—Matthew by the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) and the authoritative teaching church, and Luke by the concept of aHeilsgeschichte wherein his readers live in an epoch parallel to and related to the time of Jesus, but not the same time as the time of Jesus.5


5 Here we are at a point of very real significance. For Mark, who is in this sense essentially an apocalypticist, the time of Jesus and the time of himself and his readers are one and the same time, whereas for Matthew and Luke the time of Jesus has become different from their time and that of their readers; it has become a sacred time to which they and their readers must relate. The apocalypse has become a foundation myth. (368-369)


As apocalypse, "the evangelist sees himself and his readers caught up in a divine-human drama which began with the mission of John the Baptist and will shortly reach its climax with the return of Jesus on the clouds of heaven as Son of Man" (366). Perrine then understands  the gospel writer's purpose as presenting his view of Christian discipleship as emphasizing suffering moreso than glorified Christ:


 In the Gospel of Mark there is one intensely personal element, the use of Son of Man. I believe that I may claim that I have shown in various publica­tions 7 that the particular use of Son of Man in Mark—present authority, necessary suffering, future glory—is Markan, that it represents the evangelist Mark's own vision of the reality of Christology and of Christian discipleship in the world. (372)


Classical Rhetoric

 Standaert proposes an elementary structure of the Gospel of Mark following the divisions common within classical rhetoric: exordium (1.1-13), narratio (1.14–6.13), probatio (6.14–10.52), refutatio (11.1–15.47),

conclusio (16.1-8) (1978: 42.


Kevin Larsen describes Mark as the result of a long tradition, quoting Johnson:


"Though now made thirty years ago, Johnson offers a fitting insight to conclude this survey: ‘Only further study on the part of many scholars will bring agreement as to which alleged patterns are real and significant, but surely it is clear that the earliest gospel is not a naïve and fortuitous collection of incidents but the result of a long tradition of preaching and teaching’" (Johnson 1972: 23-24).



I should also acknowledge here John M.  Depoe's useful summation of twentieth century scholarship on the historical Jesus and the Christology of Mark; below, I provide just the sketch of this work, beginning with the conclusion: "the gospels can be affirmed as confirming that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah without compromising historical accuracy" <http://www.johndepoe.com/Messianic_secret.pdf >. Depoe sorts through the scholarship reacting to  William Wrede (1901):


Prior Scholarship:

The theological stage upon which Wrede played a leading role had as its backdrop

and scenery the myriad murals of the historical Jesus, as painted by the “liberal

school” of the period. Any serious attempt to speak concerning Jesus to the

intellectual circles of Europe during the nineteenth century had to assume the past

studies of men such as David F. Strauss and Bruno Bauer. < James L. Blevins, The Messianic Secret in Markan Research 1901-1976.



 Eichorn’s “History of Religions”advocated that Pauline theology was shaped by the surrounding pagan religions.

Julius Wellhausen: taught that Jesus’ life was not messianic or eschatological, and

that these faith traditions emerged from the early Christian community after the




Wrede’s thoughts came to fruition in the Messianic Secret, published in 1901. This work attempted to undermine all of the writings of his contemporaries, who tried to construct a historical Jesus given Markan priority. Wrede advocated his thesis using  three lines of support. These lines of support fall under three categories: the gospel of Mark, the other gospels, and historical elucidation


In Mark:

First, Wrede sought to demonstrate that Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus as someone

who rejects messianic claims in an enigmatic method.


In Mark’s gospel, Wrede specifically points to Jesus’ encounters with demons, the disciples inability to comprehend Jesus’ ministry, and the cryptic style of Jesus’ teaching as central support for his messianic secret theory. For Wrede, if the Markan Jesus really upheld the motif of messianic secret, then it is wrought with bizarre puzzles. The problem is not simply that Jesus is portrayed in two different ways, but that he is depicted in one  paradoxical fashion. Why does Jesus command demons not to reveal his identity after they had already blurted it out? Why does Jesus ask for the healing of Jarius’ daughter be kept asecret when everyone already knew she was dead (or in a coma)? If Jesus performs miracles in order to show that he is Messiah, then why does he ask people to stop proclaiming them? These questions do not add up to actual history for Wrede but to theological additions from the church into the gospel tradition.

William Wrede, Uber Aufgabe und Methode der sogennten neutestamentlichen

Theologie, (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1897).


Other Gospels

In Mark the secrecy of the revelations is essential. The whole phenomenon of

Jesus in its higher and true significance must remain hidden. Matthew no longer

had this idea. Only residual traces of it remain.


Wrede understands Luke to have dropped a robust theme of secrecy and replaced it with a

weaker one. Wrede explains that in Luke the people “do not appear in possession of the

knowledge that he is Messiah but they await in hope that he will become this.”

Wrede concludes that Luke is much more in accord with Mark than Matthew is, yet it is not

without traces of further theological development and the redaction of the author.


Most lucidly in accord with Mark, John’s gospel offers a clear demarcation between the faith of the disciples before and after the resurrection. Prior to the resurrection the disciples represent blindness to Jesus’ life and mission, and afterwards they demonstrate total enlightenment.



Foremost was his claim that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah.

He writes:

To my mind this is the origin of the idea which we have shown to be present in

Mark. It is, so to speak, a transitional idea and it can be characterised as the

after-effect of the view that the resurrection is the beginning of the messiahship at

a time when the life of Jesus was already being filled materially with messianic

content. Or else it processes from the impulse to make the earthly life of Jesus

messianic, but one inhibited by the older view, which was still potent.


If my deductions are correct, then they are significant for the assessment of Jesus’

historical life itself. If our view could only arise when nothing is known of an

open messianic claim on Jesus’ part, then we would seem to have in it a positive

historical testimony for the idea that Jesus did not give himself out as messiah.


Wrede's Conclusions

The one is an idea about Jesus and it rests on the fact that Jesus became messiah –

so far as the belief of his followers was concerned – with the Resurrection, and

the other is an idea about the disciples which rests upon the fact that they acquire

a new understanding of Jesus as a result of the Resurrection. But the starting point manifests itself in the end to be one and the same. Both ideas rest upon the

fact that the Resurrection is the decisive event for the messiahship and that Jesus’

earthly life was not to begin with regarded as messianic.


Depoe's Conclusion

Therefore, Wrede’s research not only threatened a historical messianic

Jesus but also any hope of recovering a historical Jesus with any degree of certainty.



Depoe next sorts though scholarly reaction to Wrede:

1902-1910 Historicism


If the early Christians’ Easter faith accounts for the marred historicity of the gospel, then what event birthed this postresurrection faith? Surely such a faith only existed because these people witnessed a historical resurrection. Utilizing a metaphorical analogy, Sanday asks, “The elephant stands upon the tortoise; but what does the tortoise stand upon?”The only plausible solution left, according to Sanday, was to suppose that Jesus revealed to his disciples his identity as Messiah prior to the resurrection.


Albert Schweitzer

And yet they are written from quite different standpoints, one from the point of

view of literary criticism, the other from that of historical recognition of

eschatology. It seems to be the fate of the Marcan hypothesis that at the decisive

periods its problems should always be attacked simultaneously and independently

from the literary and historical sides, and the results declared in two different

forms which corroborate each other.


He goes on to further enumerate the impetus behind these works:

The meaning of that is that the literary and the eschatological view, which have

hitherto been marching parallel, on either flank, to the advance of modern

theology, have now united their forces, brought theology to a halt, surrounded it,

and compelled it to give battle.


Depoe's Conclusion regarding Schweitzer


However, many found Schweitzer’s depiction of Jesus as a frustrated eschatological Messiah to be guilty of reading between the lines of the gospels, which violates his very method.

Nonetheless, his view played an important role in shaping Markan christology and the

messianic secret


1911-1920 Mediating Interpretation


Johannes Weiss

Johannes Weiss developed a Markan theory that confessed the gospel had some

historical and fictitious accounts, but he also contended that the two were capable of

being discerned from one another. In keeping with the Markan criticisms of his day, he

was willing to test the contents of the text. Weiss speculated that Mark relied on an

earlier source, Ur-Markus, which had four definite sources: (1) Petrine Narratives; (2)

Teaching discourses; (3) Words and discourses of Jesus (with or without historical

framework); (4) Folk myths and legends.


Weiss also worked under the assumption that Mark was not written without

theological intent. Rather, Mark was written to show that Jesus was the Son of God.


Yet, this intention does not mar all hope for keeping the historical content of the gospel.

Weiss rejected Wrede’s radical conclusion that Jesus himself never

claimed to be the Messiah.


Adolf Jülicher

Adolf Jülicher represented another attempt at a mediating position. Jülicher did

not believe many of the liberal school’s criticisms of Mark to be a genuine hindrance to

the content of Mark’s gospel. He affirmed that the gospel was the product of a postresurrection community, which must be accounted for in historical evaluation. He



If we call the picture of Jesus which this man [Mark] has drawn – half historical,…we admit, thereby, that we cannot permit his uncontested tradition to become the authentic basis for our investigation.



 1921-1930-The Messianic Secret and Form Criticism


Like Wrede, many scholars began to analyze each individual narrative unit in an attempt to

delineate what could be attributed to the historical Jesus and what was invented by the

community of those who believed a Christ of faith. This attempt to fractionate the gospel

stories and determine their origins is known as form criticism.


Rudolf Bultmann

Perhaps what demonstrated the failure of the moderates from the preceding

decade most clearly was Bultmann’s total acceptance of Wrede’s messianic secret.

Bultmann unequivocally affirmed Wrede’s conclusions and their implications for New

Testament studies. He candidly writes, “Indeed it must remain questionable whether

"Jesus held himself for the Messiah at all and did not rather first become Messiah in the

faith of the community.”


"Following the lead of Dibelius, Bultmann believed Mark’s role in writing the

gospel was mainly as an editor who provided the connecting links between each narrative

unit. "


A. E. J. Rawlinson

1.       The repetitious identification of Jesus' messiahship by demoniacs betrays the

hand of a redactor.

2. The resurrection is the turning point in the lives of the disciples in which they

gain spiritual insight.

3. The teaching of Jesus was introduced in the early church with the

understanding that its origin was in his private instruction of his disciples.

4. Mark viewed Jesus’ miraculous works as signs of his messiahship, while the

Galileans did not.

Rawlinson comes to closest agreement with Wrede on the fourth point regarding

miracles. He confirms this himself when he admits:

It is possible, therefore, that it was actually upon some such grounds as Wrede

suggests that Mk. conceived the Lord as having normally enjoined that the

miracles should be kept secret: though he is at the same time sufficiently in touch

with the facts of history to be well aware that it was largely by the rumor of Jesus’

miraculous deeds that the multitudes were attracted.


However, from these points of agreement with Wrede, it would be hasty to infer

that Rawlinson held the same skepticism as Wrede concerning the historical Jesus. In

order to make sense of the messianic secret Rawlinson believed that Jesus tried to conceal

his miracles in order to avoid being known as a miracle worker to the crowds, however,

he ultimately was unable to do so.


Conservative Modification of the Messianic Secret (1931-1950)


Julius Schniewind

Schniewind’s criticism of Wrede’s messianic secret was supported by his studies

in first century Jewish culture. Even though Schniewind believed Wrede to be

completely wrongheaded in attributing the messianic secret to a completely fictional

account, he concurred that the gospel was typified by the theme of messianic secret.

From his studies of the Jewish background of the New Testament, Schniewind claimed

that Jesus fulfilled, not reinterpreted, the role of Messiah. Hence he claims “The

Messianic expectation of the Old Testament, as it still existed in Judaism of the time, was

both adopted and fulfilled by Jesus.”


F. C. Grant

F. C. Grant exhibited the influence of form critics like Bultmann in his approach

to the messianic secret. By using form criticism, Grant believed the careful scholar could

decipher what was the original event and what had been produced by the early church.

Perhaps the most important distinction he made in form criticism was its purpose. For

Grant, the kerygma was handed down, not for maintaining the historical integrity of

Jesus, but rather in order to meet the needs of the early Christian community.

As might be expected, Grant upheld the messianic secret with very few alterations

from Wrede’s original presentation.


The Messianic Secret and New Critical Approaches (1951-1980)


Willi Marxsen

Willi Marxsen utilized the method of redaktionsgeschichtliche, which emphasized

the role of the evangelist in bringing connecting unity to the form of the gospel. Indeed,

Mark’s creative work is seen in the backdrop in which he arranges the pericope units. In

order to properly understand the context that the redactor is operating under, Marxsen

follows Joachim Jeremias’ lead proposed in his paramount work on miracles where a

two-fold Sitz im Leben is delineated: the historic life of Jesus and the church.



Marxsen obviously deviates from Wrede’s original theory by speculating the

messianic secret originated in the redactor of the gospel, rather than the early Christian

community. However, he is in more agreement than disagreement with Wrede in

claiming that the messianic secret is a theological motif, rather than an historical account

of Jesus’ life.


Vincent Taylor

Taylor recognized several types of forms: pronouncement stories, miracle stories, sayings

and parables, and stories about Jesus.


The pronouncement stories are among the most authentic for Taylor because they express a unique aspect of Jesus’ character rather than the innovation of the early church. Taylor also believed that the miracle stories should be accepted as authentic. After all, if Jesus is divine, then one should have no problem acknowledging Jesus could perform supernatural acts. Taylor also notes that the vivid details in the miracle stories sets their origin on more reliable grounds.


The sayings and parables are also regarded as generally reflecting the bona fide words of Jesus. By comparing the gospels, the teachings of Jesus can confidently be identified. Finally, Taylor also held that the stories of Jesus represent an accurate depiction of the historical Jesus. These stories can be traced to personal accounts either by Peter or other informants in some cases.


Contemporary Approaches to the Messianic Secret (1981-2002)


N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright finds Wrede’s explanation for the messianic secret extremely implausible.

The first difficulty Wright has with Wrede’s thesis is that it supposes a high speed of theological evolution. Furthermore, Wright finds it difficult to believe such a complex concoction is more probable than supposing Jesus claimed to be Messiah.


Burton Mack

On the opposite spectrum of Wright is Jesus Seminar advocate Burton Mack. Mack suggests an interpretation of Mark’s gospel that is in close agreement with Wrede’s original thesis. One of the central tenets that is present throughout all his writings is that the Christian myth is a development which added Jesus’ claims to messiahship. In fact, he argues that much of Jesus’ life as recorded in the gospels has been ascribed to him by the Christian community.


Morna Hooker

Morna Hooker represents a middle position in the contemporary portrait of scholarship on the messianic secret. She finds the responses that attempt to keep the messianic secret as historical lacking.


Depoe's Conclusion

After one hundred years of scrutiny, Wrede’s initial statement of the messianic secret still has no overwhelming judgment from scholarship. Representing conservative scholarship, N. T. Wright rejects Wrede’s hypothesis wholesale. Opposite of Wright is the interpretation of Burton Mack who largely accepts the groundwork and conclusion Wrede explicated. Somewhere between the complete rejection and acceptance of Wrede’s messianic secret is the mediating approach Morna Hooker employs that accepts and rejects aspects of both readings of the messianic secret.


Dom Henry Wansbrough concludes critically of Wrede's theory:


The major Christological contention of Wrede  cannot be upheld. Even if the commands to silence after the miracles of healing  are invented subsequently, the fact of these miracles (unless they too are  invented) must constitute a messianic claim; this is made clear in the Mt  11.2-6//Lk saying, where the meaning of the healing-miracles as the fulfilment  of Isaiah's predictions is explained to the messengers of John the Baptist; but  the whole tone of Jesus' proclamation, from its first opening with 'The kingship  of God has come near' (1.14-15), is messianic. A much larger demolition-job  needs to be done on the historicity of Mark if all public messianic indications  are to be removed from the lifetime of Jesus. The miraculous feedings are a sign  that Jesus is a second Moses, and so a messianic figure. Peter's messianic  confession cannot have been invented subsequently because of its slur on the  chief apostle. The messianic entry into Jerusalem may have been built up, but  the deliberate entry on a donkey must have been intended by Jesus messianically.  Finally the cleansing of the Temple must have messianic overtones, as the  reaction to it by the Jewish authorities shows, both in their demand for Jesus'  authority and in the accusation at the trial.



It is further impossible to explain Jesus' own  claims unless they include messianic overtones. In particular his assembly of  his own little community of the Twelve, his own qahal (= community,  3.13-14), parallel to Israel, implies that he is the representative of the Lord  who originally gathered Israel to be his own special people. The same  (delegated?) divine authority is implied by the claim to forgive sin (2.10) and  to be Lord of the Sabbath (2.28). Particularly related to the end-time  expectation of the messiah is the claim to be the bridegroom  (2.19).



On the second question, of how Mark uses the secrecy motif, Wansbrough concludes the personality of Jesus is revealed in two stages; he also says the function is twofold--to reveal progressively the difficult theme of necessary suffering and to maintain a note of irony:


The answer to this question therefore provides  the answer to the theology behind the secrecy commands. The structure of Mark's  gospel makes clear that the instruction into Jesus' personality comes in two  stages: first, leading up to Caesarea Philippi, the gradual process of learning  that Jesus is messiah. This is prepared by the blindness of the disciples  suddenly being shattered at the symbolic healing of the blind man at Bethsaida.  But the first silence-command to the disciples comes immediately after it  (8.30), showing that this knowledge is not yet sufficient. They have still to  learn what sort of messiah is Jesus. The second command (whose explicit mention  of the resurrection excludes at least verbal historicity) is related explicitly  to the resurrection (9.9); it is only then that they will have received the full  message. At this stage a third element may be introduced, the centurion's  confession (15.39). This public protestation in a public scene must be  significant, the more so because it is made by a gentile and because it uses the  title 'son of God' which is of such significance for Mark. It would seem that  for Mark as for John the moment of the resurrection has already begun in the  death of Jesus.


Theologically, the Spirit descending into Jesus (1:11) and the Transfiguration (9:2-8) speak to the presence of YHWH in the man Jesus. What Christianity makes of this reveals itself in the Resurrection of Jesus (chapter 16) coupled to the Ascension in the longer ending of Mark. The longer ending completes the inclusio begun in chapter 1 of "the good news of Jesus Christ, " the disciples now going out to proclaim "the good news everywhere."  Jesus himself begins his mission in Galilee proclaiming the "good news of God" (1:14). A shorter ending of Mark has the women returning to Peter as commanded and Jesus himself sending out through them "the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation" (NRSV). Readers will want to note that the section "A Preaching Tour in Galilee" has Jesus saying to Simon, Andrew, James, and John, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may do what I came out to do. And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues (these more a late century presence) and casting out demons" (1:38-39). NRSV notes the use of "As it is written" in the first chapter of Mark as usually referring to what precedes it, in this case. "the announcement  of good news of Jesus Christ." NRSV says the extended sequence would then read:


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God, as it has been recorded in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" Here, Jesus becomes the messenger. Perhaps a question to be raised in Mark is whether "messenger" refers to function or nature and to whether the messenger is human or divine. The Old Testament uses malak multiple times to refer to human messengers, with prophets, in particular being designated as messengers of God.  King David had been specifically noted as having a special relationship, God's anointed and God's servant, in the working of God's purpose, roles taken on by Jesus in the first century (Cambridge Companion, 518).. What many see as the original ending of Mark concludes with a prediction that Jesus will again be seen in Galilee, this returning readers to begin reading the Gospel all over again with the "good news" of the messenger.


In the rest of this work, I turn to careful and close reading of each of the chapters and verses in Mark. The object of this scrutiny will be to look at the historical Jesus and the theological Christ as presented in Mark . On another level, I will, at the same time, be exploring the literary features and structure of Mark. Readers may want to keep in mind that verse one in Mark has sometimes been taken to be the title, " The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," with some manuscripts omitting Son of God.   What follows then will be a series of opportunities to recognize who Jesus is prior to crucifixion; the Christ of resurrection belongs to Christian theology. That would mean, of course, that the title's use of Jesus Christ suggests Christian overtones (interpolation) in the way oral tradition becomes authorized document (See cluster 7).  As an example of how this happens, readers need only look at the Jewish apocalypses and Revelation to see how Judaism and Christianity adapted traditional genres to meet new historical challenges. Fourth Ezra, for example, is rewritten from an original context of fifth century BCE (First Temple) to 70 CE Second Temple destruction to move the people from discouragement and lack of confidence to restored faith in God's justice and divine plan for history (Cambridge Companion, 455).


The Jewish context of Mark must also be an important consideration. Robert McFarlane has presented Jesus as non-anti-Jewish and observed largely heated discussions among groups and a sectarian attempt to introduce a new interpretation of Torah; he identifies these groups as the following:

Herodians: 3:6; 8:15; 12:13ff (also by inference 6:14-29)

Pharisees: 2:16; 2:2 4; 3:6; 7:1 ; 8:15

Sadducees: 12 :l 8-27

Scribes: 1:22; 2:6; 2:16; 3:22; 9:14; 12:28-34; 12:38-40

Elders: 8:31

Chief Priests: 10:32; 11 :l 8; 11 :27; 14:1,53-65; 15:31,32a


He notes that Mark is favorable to the people generally at the expense of leadership.


There are two instances in the text where Mark shows a positive link with other Jewish groups. The first may be too obvious to make the observation, but we need to recall that the teaching of the figure who has come to be known as John the Baptist also represents a halakhic way. In both 1:1-14 and 6:14-29 Jesus’ and the Baptist’s renewal movements are closely related. What is even more significant for the purpose of our argument is to notice that at 2:18 the Baptist’s movement is seen to be in accord with Pharisaic practice rather than Jesus’ way. In this we see again that we are not looking at a hard and fast division between Christianity and Judaism, but a diverse debate concerning ways of interpretation. The surprises we have noted include the Baptist being bracketed with the Pharisees concerning fasting, and scribes and Pharisees being bracketed with Jesus over the issue of resurrection.

Pasted from < http://www.jcrelations.com/The_Gospel_of_Mark_and_Judaism.2208.0.html?id=720& L=3&searchText=tHE+gOSPEL+OF+mARK+AND+jUDAISM&searchFilter=%2A>


McFarlane, in addition to recognizing the diversity of groups, also looks at the range of issues under debate:


Having recognized the diversity of groups represented within Mark’s portrayal of Judaism we are now in a position to look briefly at the range of issues under debate between Jesus’ and other forms of halakhah. These include fasting (2:18), patterns of Sabbath observance (2:23-27; 3:1-5), a complex passage regarding ritual washing and offerings (7:1-23), grounds for divorce (10:1-12), Roman taxes (12:13-17), resurrection (12:1827), ‘the greatest commandment’ (12:28-31), the Messiah (12:37), robe length and synagogue seat (12:38-40), the relative value of offerings from rich and poor (12:41-44), and the Temple (11:15-18; 13:2).


McFarlane then remarks on the traditional roles Jesus portrays, that of prophet and teacher, as well as his patterns of "remarkably Jewish observance." He then concludes:


Thus, both in Mark’s conflict narratives and in his portrayal of Jesus’ positive actions, we discern a figure more representative of, than disjunctive with, elements within the rich tapestry of contemporary Judaism.



In reading Mark, readers will want to approach the task hermeneutically--with an eye to both the whole as well as the chapter and verse; NRSV provides a useful overall outline that can guide thinking about the book as a whole, dividing it into the beginning of Jesus' ministry, his work in Galilee and his withdrawal, his ministry in Judea and Perea, and the Passion:



·         The Beginnings of Jesus' Ministry (1:1-13 )

o    His Forerunner (1:1-8 )

o    His Baptism (1:9-11 )

o    His Temptation (1:12-13 )

·         Jesus' Ministry in Galilee (1:14 ;6:29)

o    Early Galilean Ministry (1:14;3:12)

1.       Call of the first disciples (1:14-20 )

2.      Miracles in Capernaum (1:21-34 )

3.      Preaching and healing in Galilee (1:35-45 )

4.      Ministry in Capernaum (2:1-22 )

5.       Sabbath controversy (2:23 ; 3:12)

o    Later Galilean Ministry (3:13;6:29)

1.       Choosing the 12 apostles (3:13-19 )

2.      Teachings in Capernaum (3:20-35 )

3.      Parables of the kingdom (4:1-34 )

4.      Calming the Sea of Galilee (4:35-41 )

5.       Healing a demon-possessed man (5:1-20 )

6.      More Galilean miracles (5:21-43 )

7.       Unbelief in Jesus' hometown (6:1-6 )

8.      Six apostolic teams preach and heal in Galilee (6:7-13 )

9.      King Herod's reaction to Jesus' ministry (6:14-29)

·         Strategic Withdrawals from Galilee (6:30 ;9:29)

o    To the Eastern Shore of the Sea of Galilee (6:30-52)

o    To the Western Shore of the Sea (6:53;7:23)

o    To Syrian Phoenicia (7:24-30)

o    To the Region of the Decapolis (7:31;8:10)

o    To the Vicinity of Caesarea Philippi (8:11-30)

o    To the Mount of Transfiguration (8:31 ; 9:29)

·         Final Ministry in Galilee (9:30-50 )

·         Jesus' Ministry in Judea and Perea (ch. 10)

o    Teaching concerning Divorce (10:1-12 )

o    Teaching concerning Children (10:13-16 )

o    The Rich Young Man (10:17-31 )

o    A Request of Two Brothers (10:32-45 )

o    Restoration of Bartimaeus's Sight (10:46-52 )

·         The Passion of Jesus (chs. 11-15)

o    The Triumphal Entry (11:1-11 )

o    The Clearing of the Temple (11:12-19 )

o    Concluding Controversies with Jewish Leaders (11:20 ; 12:44)

o    Signs of the End of the Age (ch. 13)

o    The Anointing of Jesus (14:1-11 )

o    The Lord's Supper (14:12-26 )

o    The Arrest, Trial and Death of Jesus (14:27 ;15:47)

·         The Resurrection of Jesus (ch. 16)


Pasted from <http://www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/mark/>


An alternative to this outline is one provided by Daniel B. Wallace, this one focusing on the easy two divisions into ministry in Galilee in two cycles and then in Judea as well as emphasizing the activities of the servant and then presenting the suffering servant.

III. Outline46

I. The Beginning of the Servant’s Ministry (1:1-13)

·         A. His Forerunner (1:1-8)
B. His Baptism (1:9-11)
C. His Temptation (1:12-13)

II. The Servant’s Ministry in Galilee (1:14–6:6a)

·         A. Cycle One: Jesus’ Early Galilean Ministry (1:14–3:6)

·         1. Introductory Summary: Jesus’ Message in Galilee (1:14-15)
2. A Call to Four Fishermen (1:16-20)
3. Authority over Demons and Disease (1:21-45)

·         a. An Exorcism in the Synagogue (1:21-28)
b. The Healing of Simon’s Mother-in-Law (1:29-34)
c. A Solitary Prayer (1:35-39)
d. The Cleansing of a Leper (1:40-45)
4. Confrontations with Religious Leaders (2:1–3:5)

·         a. Concerning the Healing and Forgiveness of a Paralyzed Man (2:1-12)
b. Concerning the Calling of a Tax-Collector (2:13-17)
c. Concerning Fasting (2:18-22)
d. Concerning Jesus’ Authority over the Sabbath (2:23–3:5)

·         1) Plucking Grain on the Sabbath (2:23-28)
2) Healing on the Sabbath (3:1-5)
5. Conclusion: Jesus’ Rejection by the Pharisees (3:6)
B. Cycle Two: Jesus’ Later Galilean Ministry (3:7–6:6a)

·         1. Introductory Summary: Jesus’ Activity in Galilee (3:7-12)
2. Appointment of the Twelve Disciples (3:13-19)
3. Accusation regarding Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons (3:20-30)
4. Invitation to Join Jesus’ Family (3:31-35)
5. Invitation to Enter the Kingdom (Parables) (4:1-34)

·         a. The Setting (4:1-2)
b. The Responsibility of the Hearers (4:3-25)

·         1) The Parable of the Sower (4:3-9)
2) The Purpose of the Parables (4:10-12)
3) The Parable of the Sower Explained (4:13-20)
4) The Parable of the Lamp (4:21-25)
c. The Parables of the Character of the Kingdom (4:26-32)

·         1) The Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29)
2) The Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:30-32)
d. Conclusion (4:33-34)
6. Miraculous Demonstration of Jesus’ Authority (4:35–5:43)

·         a. The Calming of a Storm (4:35-41)
b. The Healing of a Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20)
c. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and the Healing of a Hemorrhaging Woman (5:21-43)
7. Conclusion: Jesus’ Rejection in his Hometown (6:1-6a)

III. The Servant’s Withdrawals from Galilee (6:6b–8:21)

·         A. The Catalyst: The News about Jesus Spreading (6:6b-29)

·         1. By Jesus’ Activities (6:6b)
2. By Jesus’ Disciples (6:7-13)
3. As far as Herod (6:14-29)

·         a. The Report to Herod (6:14-16)
b. The Beheading of John (6:17-29)
B. The Withdrawals (6:30–8:21)

·         1. To a Deserted place (6:30–7:23)

·         a. Miracles Performed (6:30-56)

·         1) Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:30-44)
2) Walking on the Water (6:45-56)
b. Pharisees Confronted: Clean Vs. Unclean (7:1-23)

·         1) Confrontation with the Pharisees (7:1-13)
2) Declaration to the Crowd (7:14-15)
3) Instruction of the Disciples (7:17-23)
2. To the Vicinity of Tyre: The Healing of the Syrophoenician Woman’s Daughter (7:24-30)
3. To the Region of Decapolis: The Healing of a Deaf-Mute (7:31-37)
4. To the Sea of Galilee: The Feeding of the Four Thousand (8:1-9)
5. To Dalmanutha (= Magadan) (8:10-21)

·         a. The Withdrawal to Dalmanutha (8:10)
b. The Pharisees’ Demand for a Sign (8:11-13)
c. The Pharisees’ Teaching Warned Against (8:14-21)

IV. Revelation of the Servant’s Suffering at Caesarea Philippi (8:22-38)

·         A. Introductory Object Lesson: The Two-Stage Healing of a Blind Man at Bethsaida (8:22-26)
B. Peter’s Confession: Jesus is the Christ (8:27-30)
C. Jesus’ Disclosure: Death and Resurrection (8:31-38)

·         1. The Statement by Jesus (8:31)
2. Resistance by Peter (8:32-33)
3. The Principle: Suffering before Glory (8:34-38)

V. The Suffering Servant’s Journey to Jerusalem (9:1–10:52)

·         A. Lessons in Galilee (9:1-50)

·         1. The Transfiguration (9:1-13)
2. The Healing of a Demon-Possessed Boy (9:14-30)
3. Prediction of Death and Resurrection: Second Mention (9:31-32)
4. The Greatest Disciple (9:33-37)
5. Doing Good in Jesus’ Name (9:38-41)
6. Stumbling Blocks (9:42-48)
7. Worthless Salt (9:49-50)
B. Lessons in Perea and Judea (10:1-52)

·         1. In Perea (10:1-31)

·         a. Divorce (10:1-12)
b. Childlikeness (10:13-16)
c. Riches (10:17-31)

·         1) The Rich Young Man: Security in Riches (10:17-22)
2) The Disciples: Security in Christ (10:23-31)
2. In Judea (10:32-52)

·         a. Prediction Death and Resurrection: Third Mention (10:32-34)
b. True Leadership (10:35-52)

·         1) John’s and James’ Request (10:35-37)
2) Jesus’ Response (10:38-45)
3) Jesus’ Example: Healing of Blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52)

VI. The Suffering Servant’s Ministry in Jerusalem (11:1–13:37)

·         A. The Presentation of the Suffering Servant: Entrance into Jerusalem (11:1-11)

·         1. Preparation: The Unbroken Colt (11:1-6)
2. Coronation: The Recognition of Jesus’ Messiahship (11:7-10)
3. Prolepsis: Investigation of the Temple (11:11)
B. The Judgment of the Nation in Symbols (11:12-26)

·         1. The Entrance into the Temple (11:12-19)

·         a. Proleptic Rejection of the Nation: Cursing of the Fig Tree (11:12-14)
b. The Cleansing of the Temple (11:15-17)
c. Proleptic Rejection of the Messiah: The Plot to Kill Jesus (11:18-19)
2. The Withered Fig Tree (11:20-26)
C. Confrontations with Religious Leaders (11:27–12:44)

·         1. The Authority of Jesus Questioned (11:27-33)
2. The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12)
3. Paying Taxes to Caesar (12:13-17)
4. Marriage at the Resurrection (12:18-27)
5. The Greatest Commandment (12:28-34)
6. Whose Son is the Christ? (12:35-37a)
7. The Hypocrisy of the Religious Leaders (12:37b-44)

·         a. Condemnation of Hypocrisy (12:37b-40)
b. Commendation of the Widow’s Sincerity (12:41-44)
D. The Judgment of the Nation in Prophecy (13:1-37)

·         1. The Setting in the Temple (13:1-2)
2. The Discourse on the Mount of Olives (13:3-37)

·         a. Signs of the End of the Age (13:3-31)
b. The Day and Hour Unknown (13:32-37)

VII. The Culmination of the Suffering Servant’s Ministry: Death and Resurrection (14:1–16:8)

·         A. The Preparation for Death (14:1-52)

·         1. The Anointing at Bethany (14:1-11)

·         a. Anointing of Jesus by a Woman (14:1-5)
b. Prediction of her Memorial by Jesus (14:6-9)
c. Agreement to Betrayal by Judas (14:10-11)
2. The Last Passover (14:12-26)
3. The Prediction of Peter’s Denials (14:27-31)
4. Gethsemane (14:32-42)
5. The Arrest of Jesus (14:43-52)
B. The Death of Jesus (14:53–15:47)

·         1. The Trials of Jesus (14:53–15:15)

·         a. The Trial Before the Sanhedrin (14:53-65)
b. Peter Denies Jesus (14:66-72)
c. The Trial Before Pilate (15:1-15)
2. The Crucifixion of Jesus (15:16-41)

·         a. The Mocking of the Soldiers (15:16-20)
b. The Actual Crucifixion of Jesus (15:21-32)
c. The Death of Jesus (15:33-41)
3. The Burial of Jesus (15:42-47)
C. The Resurrection of Jesus (16:1-8)

·         1. The Empty Tomb (16:1-5)
2. The Angel's Announcement (16:6-7)
3. The Open Ending (16:8)


Pasted from < http://bible.org/seriespage/mark-introduction-argument-and-outline>




Other approaches, of course, may be taken.  The above, clearly, takes both geography and chronology into consideration, an approach criticized by Chalmer E. Faw (Source: Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 25, No. 1, Jan., 1957< http://www.jstor.org/stable/1457367> in his "Outline of Mark":


Geography is minor, applying to the over-all Galilee-to-Jerusalem movement and to minor shifts of locale here and there, sometimes within sections and characteris­tically between sections. Chronology likewise is subordinate, again pertaining only to the over-all movement from Jesus' baptism to his death and cropping out here and there in minor connections between stories. What is major is the topically oriented development of forces leading to the death and resurrec­tion of Christ.


Chalmers then provides a topical outline for which his article provides a fuller discussion that the sections are based on  a pronounced emphasis or motif, later ones accumulative but adding a new distinctive note underscored by a well-chosen saying or an editorial epitome:

1.       Jesus begins a successful and popular ministry (ch. 1)

2.      Opposition arises, culminating in the fore­shadowing of his death (2 :1-3 :6)

3.      He appoints the disciple band, the true family of Christ (3 :7-35)

4.      He teaches in parables, both to reveal and to conceal (4:1-34)

5.      He engages in vigorous wonder-working, evoking an amazed response (4:35-7:37) (8:1-26?)

6.      He announces the way of the cross and resur­rection for both Master and disciples (8:27-10:45)

7.      In Jerusalem he is again met with popularity and opposition and teaches with a parable (10:46- 12 :44)

8.      He teaches alertness to the signs of the end (ch. 13)

9.      Then is arrested, tried and killed (14 :1-15 :41)

10.   He is carefully buried but startlingly rises again (15 :42-16 :8)


Another theological ordering of Mark has been provided by N.T. Wright; he understands the genre of Mark to be that of apocalypse, this designed to unveil the truth about Jesus in revelatory moments, with the parables functioning as stories about how God is fulfilling "his strange purposes"; the predictions function to explain that the son of man must suffer, be rejected and killed, and rise again.  Wright understands Mark as presenting Jesus as Israel's, and the world's, Messiah, and describes the book as having "a stark and simple structure" (620):


Build up the recognition of Jesus' Messiahship.

Chs. 9-15

Build up to his death, always looking ahead to the resurrection, with chapters 14 and 15 detailing fulfillment of the predictions.

Ch. 16

Even if the chapter ends with verse 8, Mark believed Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead.


 Wright sees the climax of the book in Peter's confession (8:29), a challenge to the predicted suffering, death, and vindication--a confession confirmed by the transfiguration (9:2-8). The final account includes the empty tomb, the frightened women, Caiphas' statement (14:6), and the centurion's declaration (15:39). Wright sees Jesus as a true prophet in predicting his own death. He finds the shorter ending of Mark, the women running from the tomb, as part of the fear motif but remarks that Mark, as a whole, makes the point that fear should be overcome by faith. Further, the instruction on several occasions to remain quiet, Wright says, is rescinded when the son of man is raised from the dead, as alluded to earlier (9:9) in instructions to the disciples.

Yet another lengthy outline for Mark has been provided by Ernest De Witt Burton following his conclusion that the book largely presents the events of the historical person:


Is such a book intended to convince unbelievers or to instruct those who already believe ? Certainly it could be used for either purpose. But the absence of anything like a contro­versial tone, the simple straightforwardness of the story, without comment, or even arrangement for argumentative purposes, leads us to think of it as a book written for Christians rather than for unbelievers, and chiefly for instruction rather than for conviction. That it was intended, as we believe Matthew was, to play a part in the controversies of the apostolic age, of which we learn from Acts and the epistles, there is no evidence. The writer is certainly not a Judaistic Christian, but neither does he show any distinctly anti-Judaistic interest. He writes in an atmosphere, or from a point of view, unaffected by these con­troversies. Its aim is undoubtedly edification, but it seeks this, not so much by convincing its readers of something they did not believe, or even by setting itself to confirm a conviction already held, as by informing them of facts which are useful to them to know. The book has argumentative value for believers and unbelievers, but it must be doubted whether its author thought of it as argumentative in any sense.

The Purpose and Plan of the Gospel of Mark. II

Ernest De Witt Burton

The Biblical World , Vol. 15, No. 5 (May, 1900), pp. 331-340

Published by: The University of Chicago Press

Article Stable URL:  http://ezproxy.missouriwestern.edu:2138/stable/3136933


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I.  Preaching of  John

the  Baptist.  I  : I-8

2.  Baptism of Jesus.  I : 9-11

3.  Temptation in  the  wilderness.  I :12,  13



I.  The  work begun and favorably  received.  I  : 14-45

a.  Jesus  begins  preaching in  Galilee.  I  : 14,  15

b.  Call  of  the  four  fishermen.  I : 16-20

c.  A  sabbath  in  Capernaum.  I  :21-34

d.  A preaching tour  in  Galilee.  I : 35-45

2.  The opposition of  the  scribes  and  Pharisees  excited  and rapidly  developed.  2:  I-3  : 6

a.  A paralytic  healed  and  his  sins forgiven.  2 :  1-12

b.  Call  of  Levi,  and  the  feast  in his  house.  2:  13-17

c.  Jesus'  answer  to  a  question  concerning  fasting. 2  : I8-22

d.  Plucking  grain  on  the  sabbath.  2: 23-28

e.  A  withered  hand  healed  on  the  sabbath. 3:  I-6

s'5 At one point only in the gospel is there any considerable indication of arrange- ment  upon  a topical  plan  involving  a  departure from chronological  order, viz., in 2 : 1-3:  6.  This group of five  short  narratives certainly  does  exhibit the growth of the  hostility of  the  scribes  and  Pharisees  to  Jesus, and  this seems to be clearly the link of connection joining them.  That they should  have occurred thus in rapid suc- cession  seems somewhat improbable, and  the  plot to  put  him to  death

(3 :6) strikes one  as strange so early in the ministry. It  is  altogether  possible that  the grouping here  was  that  of  one  of  Peter's  discourses,  and  that  3:1-6,  or  at  least  vs.  6, is anachronistically  narrated.  Even  this, however, must  remain  only  a conjecture, and the  general  order of  events  in Mark  remains, if  not chronological,  yet  apparently the nearest

approximation to such an arrangement that we  possess.  Cf. SWETE,  St. Mark, pp.  liii  ff.;  BRUCE, in  the  Expositor's  Greek  Testament,  Vol.  I,  pp.  27-32. 338  THE  BIBLICAL  WORLD 3. 

The beginnings of the separation between the followers of Christ and  the rest of  the community; the organiza- tion  of  the  band  of  twelve  personal  attendants  and helpers. 3; 7-35

a.  The widespread fame of Jesus.  3:7-12

b.  The choosing of  the  Twelve.  3 : 13-19

c.  Concerning eternal  sin.  3 : 20-30

d.  Natural and spiritual kinsmen.  3:31-35

4.  The parables of the  kingdom's  growth, in which is also illustrated its separating power.  4 : 1-34

5.  Sundry  manifestations  of  his power,  which  meet  with varied reception, some  believing, some  unbelieving, some slow to believe.  4: 35-6:6

a.  Stilling of the tempest.  4 : 35-4 I

b.  The  Gerasene  demoniac.  5 : 1-20

c.  Jairus' daughter raised to life.  5:21-43

d.  The  rejection at  Nazareth.  6:  1-6

6.  The sending  out of  the  Twelve  to engage in work like his  own.  6:7-29

7.  The  continuance of  his work in Galilee,  with  the  reap- pearance of  the  same  features:  he heals  and feeds the multitudes;  his  disciples  are  slow  of  understanding; the multitudes follow him ; the Pharisees oppose him.  6 : 30-7 : 23

a.  The feeding  of the five thousand.  6: 30-46

b.  Jesus walking on the sea.  6:47-52

c.  Many healed  in Galilee.  6:53-56

d.  On eating with unwashen hands.  7 :1-23

8.  A withdrawal from  Galilee  into  Gentile territory, and the ready faith which Jesus finds there.  7  24-37

a.  The  Syrophcenician woman's daughter.  7:24-30

b.  The deaf and dumb man healed.  7 : 31-37

9.  Further experiences in Galilee  in which  the  same  features as  before appear.

8:  1-26

a.  The feeding of  the  four  thousand.  8: I-Io

b.  Pharisees  demanding a sign from  heaven. 8:I[1-2I

c.  A  blind  man  healed  near  Bethsaida.  8 : 22-26

Io.  A  second  withdrawal  from  Galilee:  tour  to  Casarea Philippi and  return  to the  sea.  He  draws  out from  Peter

the confession of him as the Christ, and begins to teach his disciples  concerning his own sufferings, and the con-

ditions  of  discipleship to  him.  8 :27-9:  50

a.  Peter's confession of Jesus' Messiahship.  8 :27-30 PURPOSE  AND  PLAN  OF  THE  GOSPEL  OF  MARK  339

b.  Jesus'  prediction

of his  own  death  and  resurrection.  8 : 31-9: I

c.  The transfiguration.  9 : 2-13

d.  The  demoniac  boy  healed.  9:14-29

e.  Jesus  again foretells  his  death  and  resurrection.  9:  30-32

f.  The  ambition  and jealousy of  the  disciples  reproved.  9:  33-50

III.  THE  JOURNEY  FROiM GALILEE  TO JUDEA,  and  instructions on  the  way; on  nearing  Jerusalem  he  is  publicly

saluted as  Son  of  David.  chap.  Io

I.  Departure from  Galilee  into  Perea.  Io: I

2.  Concerning  divorce. o10 : 2-I2

3.  Blessing little  children. Io:  13-16

4.  The  rich young ruler. o : 17-3


5.  Announcement  of  his  crucifixion. Io:  32-34

6.  Ambition  of  James  and  John  reproved.  Jo:  35-45

7.  The  blind  man  near  Jericho  healed. Io:  46-52

IV.  THE  MINISTRY  IN JERUSALEM :  Jesus causes  himself  to  be announced  as  Messiah;  comes  into  conflict  with the  leaders of  the  people;  predicts the  downfall  of  the  Jewish  temple and capital.  chaps.  11-13

I.  The triumphal  entry  ;  he  is saluted  as  Messiah.  I I : I-1  I

2.  The cursing  of the fig tree.  I 1: I2-I  4

3.  The cleansing of  the temple.  II :  15-19

4.  Comment  on  the  withered fig tree.  II :20-25

5.  Conflict  with  the  Jewish leaders.  I 1: 27--I2 : 40

a.  Christ's  authority  challenged.  II  : 27-33

b.  The  parable of  the  vineyard. 12:  -12

c.  Three  questions  by the  Jewish rulers.  12:  13-34

(d. Jesus'  question  concerning  David's  son.  12:  35-37

e.  Warning  against the  scribes.  I2 :38-40

6.  The  widow's  two  mites.  I2 : 41-44

7.  The  prophetic  discourse concerning the  downfall  of  the temple and city.  chap.  13

V.  THE  PASSION  HISTORY. chaps. I4, 15

I.  The  plot of  the  Jews.  14 : I, 2

2.  The  anointing in  the  house  of  Simon  the leper.  14  :3-9

3.  The  bargain  with  Judas.  14: Io, I I

4.  The  last  Passover  of  Jesus and  his  disciples.  14 : 12-26

5.  Prediction  of  Peter's  denial.  14  : 27-31

6.  The  agony in  Gethsemane.  14:32-42

7.  The  betrayal and  arrest.  14 : 43-52

8.  The  trial  before  the  Jewish  authorities. 14:53-65

9.  The  denials  of  Peter.  14 :66-72



Perhaps readers should be reminded that canonization did not occur over night as well as be reminded that the earliest Gospel of Mark came after the period of Paul's taking his Christ forward:


THE historical origins of Christianity are hidden in impenetrable obscurity. Of the actual history of The Canon.the first half of the first century we have no knowledge. Of the history of the next hundred years also we have for the most part to rely on conjecture. The now universally received canonical account was a selection from a mass of tradition and legend; it is only in the second half of the second century that the idea of a Canon of the New Testament makes its appearance, and is gradually developed by the Church of Rome and the Western Fathers. The early Alexandrian theologians, such as Clement, are still ignorant of a precise Canon. Following on the lines of the earliest apologists of a special view of Christianity, such. as Justin, and using this evolving Canon as the sole test of orthodoxy, Irenæus, Tertullian and Hippolytus, supported by the Roman Church, lay the foundations of "catholicity,"

p. 122

and begin to raise the first courses of that enormous edifice of dogma which is to-day regarded as the only authentic view of the Church of Christ.


The first two centuries, however, instead of confirming the boast of the later orthodox, "one church, one faith, always and everywhere," on the contrary present us with the picture of many lines of evolution of belief, practice, and organisation. The struggle for life was being fiercely waged, and though the "survival of the fittest" resulted as usual, there were frequent crises in which the final "fittest" is hardly discernible and at times disappears from view.


The Gospels.The view of the Christian origins which eventually became the orthodox tradition based itself mainly upon Gospel-documents composed, in all probability, some time in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). The skeleton of three of these Gospels was presumably a collection of Sayings and a narrative of Doings in the form of an ideal life, a sketch composed by one of the "Apostles" of the inner communities and designed for public circulation. Round this nucleus the compilers of the three documents wove other matter selected from a vast mass of myth, legend, and tradition; they were evidently men of great piety, and their selection of material produced narratives of great dignity, and cast aside much in circulation that was foolish and fantastic, the remains of which we have still preserved in some of the apocryphal Gospels. The writer of the fourth document was a natural mystic who adorned his account with a beauty of conception

p. 123

and a charm of feeling that reflect the highest inspiration.

At the same time the canonical selection most fortunately preserved for us documents of far greater historic value.


In the Letters of Paul, the majority of which are in the main, I believe, authentic, we have the earliest The Letters of Paul.historic records of Christianity which we possess. The Pauline Letters date back to the middle of the first century, and are the true point of departure for any really historic research into the origins. On reading these Letters it is almost impossible to persuade ourselves that Paul was acquainted with the statements of the later historicized account of the four canonical Gospels; all his conceptions breathe a totally different atmosphere.

Instead of preaching the Jesus of the historicized Gospels, he preaches the doctrine of the mystic Christ <Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, by G.R.S. Mead, [1900], at sacred-texts.com>



I will not resist the temptation to conclude this section with the words of Schweitzer, a pioneer in historical Jesus studies:


It [study of the life of Jesus] set out in quest of the historical Jesus, believing that when it had found Him it could bring Him straight into our time as a Teacher and Saviour. It loosed the bands by which He had been riveted for centuries to the stony rocks of ecclesiastical doctrine, and rejoiced to see life and movement coming into the figure once more, and the historical Jesus advancing, as it seemed, to meet it. But He does not stay; He passes by our time and returns to His own. What surprised and dismayed the theology of the last forty years was that, despite all forced and arbitrary interpretations, it could not keep Him in our time, but had to let Him go. He returned to His own time, not owing to the application of any historical ingenuity, but by the same inevitable necessity by which the liberated pendulum returns to its original position.


He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.



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