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 t hat 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 (Saduccees), 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.
I would be glad to hear from anyone reading this study. I particularly welcome your comments upon my interpretation of the Gospel of Mark.
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