Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
|1: And when he returned to
some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2: And many were
together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the
door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3: And they came, bringing
to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4: And when they could not get
near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and
they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the
lay. 5: And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My
your sins are forgiven." 6: Now some of the scribes were sitting there,
questioning in their hearts, 7: "Why does
||this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8: And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9: Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? 10: But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- 11: "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." 12: And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"|
|1: And when he returned to Caper'na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home.|
Capernaum: sometimes explained as a reference to the house of
but clearly states that Jesus' home was in Capernaum, not Nazareth.
casts further doubt on the "Nazareth" in Mark 1:9. Capernaum is
16 times in the Gospels, but nowhere else in the New Testament. Like
the various individuals writing under the name of "Paul" do not mention
it. The idiom used here, eis oikon,
"to house," means "at home."
Frank Zindler (2000) argues:
|2: And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.|
|v2: Markan redaction. The theme of crowds following Jesus is a recurrent one in Mark.|
|v2: The author of Mark frequently links together episodes by using "hook words" (Myers 1988, p154). Here the hook "the word" (ton logon) links this episode back to 1:45, where the leper proclaims "the word" (ton logon).|
|3: And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.4: And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.|
often seen as an impossibility, as the Greek "uncover/unroof" appears
to imply that the house had a tiled roof, although the Greek also
a participle meaning "dig out" implying the roof was made of mud and
Considering the other absurdities in the story (the men brought ropes
lower the pallet? They could push their way through to the roof, but
to the door? They brought a ladder to get up to the roof?), the actual
nature of the roof is a debatable and minor issue. A thatched
probably could not support five men.
|5: And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."|
|v5-7: As Sanders (1995, p. 213) notes, to say this was not blasphemy. In the Prayer of Nabonius from the Dead Sea Scrolls, it says "I was afflicted with an evil ulcer for seven years...and a gazer [exorcist? healer?] pardoned my sins. He was a Jew." (Vermes 1981, p66-7). The relationship between sin and sickness was well established in ancient Judaism (Fredriksen 1988, p105).|
|v5-10: Exegetes are divided over whether this saying was originally connected to this miracle, or whether the connection is an invention of the author of Mark (Meier 1994, p728n5)|
contains a discussion of Jesus' authority in a classic
of the author of Mark, who was fond of intercalating stories one inside
|6: Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,|
|v6: Scribes: what were the scribes doing at Jesus' home in Capernaum? Their presence is clearly a bit of Markan invention designed to provoke the coming scene and provide another side for the discussion of Jesus' authority. Note that a whole group of them has no trouble getting into proximity with Jesus despite the crowd.|
"..in their hearts." It is a frequent OT theme that God knows
is in men's hearts (for example, 1 Kings 8:39). Psalm 94:11, cited by
Paul in 1 Cor 3:20, says
Similarly, Job 5:13, also cited by Paul, in 1 Cor 3:19, observes that the Lord is the one...
The theme is common to both Paul and Mark.
|v6: This looks like a bit of Markan narrative, but may also be viewed as a Christological claim based on the OT (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p95). If so, then it is patently unhistorical.|
| 9: Which is easier,
to say to
the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your
pallet and walk'?
argument is couched in typical Cynic terms, in which Jesus is
challenged and responds with a witty question that puts the challengers
in their place.
|v9: note that Jesus does not ask which is easier to do, just which is easier to say.|
|10: But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic --|
Son of Man. The first appearance of the phrase in the Gospel,
it is used in three ways: (1) as a general reference for "human being;"
(2) as a solemn title suggesting Jesus is more than just a man; and (3)
as a messianic title. The phrase appears in ancient Jewish literature
long predates Mark. For example, Ezekiel refers to himself that way.
Psalm 8:4 uses it as a term for "human being":
Slater (1995) notes that in every instance of the phrase's occurrence in the canonical and extracanonical literature, the phrase refers to earthly and human beings.
In Dan 7:13 the Son of Man receives the dominion from the "Ancient of Days." A number of scholars have argued that this tradition is based on a larger Middle Eastern tradition of Primal Man (Slater 1995). In 1 Enoch, an apocryphal text popular around the time of Jesus, the Son of Man is a pre-existent heavenly figure with the power to judge both human and divine beings (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p26). Note, however, that all of these are hotly disputed and some scholars see the "Son of Man" in Daniel and 1 Enoch as a figure who stands for a human collective (see Borsch 1991 for a review).
Further, many scholars interpret the phrase "But you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" as an authorial aside to the reader (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p96) since the Greek reads more smoothly that way. Note that in Mark Jesus does not say "I am the Son of Man, therefore I can forgive sins." He just states that the Son of Man can forgive sins and leaves the reader/hearer to draw their own conclusions.
Discussing the fourteen Son of Man sayings, Boring (1999) writes:
Fletcher-Louis (2003) argues persuasively that Mark 1-6 presents Jesus as a High Priest, based on a priestly reading of Dan 7:13, where the Danielic Son of Man is given the authority to behave as a priest. Texts such as Exodus 28:36-38 and Lev 10:17 are straightforward OT precedents for the authority of the priest to remove sins.
Whether Jesus, or anyone else, ever referred to himself as "Son of Man" in some titular, messianic sense is controversial. The phrase never occurs in Paul, nor did it ever become part of the Church's confession about Jesus.
Fowler (1996, p103) argues that the phrase "But
that you may
the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" is a
parenthetical aside to the reader, and not the words of Jesus.
|12: And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"|
|v12: Markan redaction, featuring the characteristic features of the writer, such as the amazed crowd, and the term "immediately."|
Since magical healings of paralytics do not occur, that cannot
Thus this incident cannot reflect a historical exchange between Jesus and his opponents. Instead it is the first of a collection of 5 such stories of conflicts between Jewish authorities and Jesus that culminate in their decision to kill him (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p110). Sanders (1995, p216) writes:
Similarly, Burton Mack (1988) observes:
The story of the healing of the paralytic is dependent on the
of Ahaziah in 2 Kings 1:2-17 (Price 2003, p149). The author of Mark has
inverted the story in illuminating ways, however. In that tale, the
King Ahaziah has fallen through a lattice, and asks the oracle of
whether he will get better. YHWH, miffed at the King's lack of faith in
him, sends Elijah to head off the King's emissaries to the Philistine
Elijah informs that that they can abandon their mission because YHWH
said the King is doomed. In Mark, the man descends through a roof to
and is saved by his friends' faith in Jesus. Ahaziah, by contrast,
descends through a lattice, and is
by his lack of faith. The parallel is inverted.
The saying section in v5-10 is an example of a Cynic chreia,
common in the Gospel of Mark (see below), in which the master shows off
his wit by deflecting a rhetorical challenge from opponents. The saying
establishes the canonical pattern for Mark, in which the challengers
(Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Chief priests) lay down the
challenge, but fade from mention after providing the excuse for the
writer to show off Jesus' wit. Nothing in it supports historicity.
Fletcher-Louis (2003) argues persuasively that Mark 1-6 presents Jesus as a High Priest, based on a priestly reading of Dan 7:13, where the Danielic Son of Man is given the authority to behave as a priest. Texts such as Exodus 28:36-38 and Lev 10:17 are straightforward OT precedents for the authority of the priest to remove sins, so Jesus as a priest would have no trouble doing that. Some scholars argue that the problem here is either that Jesus, a perceived human, has arrogated to himself powers that only God has, while other scholars argue that by forgiving sins, Jesus has challenged the Temple Establishment.The basic structure of this pericope is a simple A-B-A' chiastic structure, one event is sandwiched inside another, very common in Mark. A detailed breakout of the chiastic structure reveals:
A more complete discussion is offered in the Excursus on Literary Structures in Mark. This structure is also followed by a chreia (Mk 2:14-17) like other chiastic structures in Mark.
In a private communication, Neil Godfrey (2005) suggested that this sequence is a doublet of the Tomb Scene in Mk 16:1-8. Just as the Tomb is blocked by a large stone, so the door is blocked by a large crowd. The paralytic resembles a cadaver, while the digging out of the roof resembles the removal of rock to make the Tomb. Scribes sit watching Jesus just as a young man is sitting as the women enter. Jesus knows what is the hearts of the scribes, just as the young man knows what is the hearts of the women. It should be further noted that in both cases the rising is connected to forgiveness of sins.
Such correspondences are loose, and often not direct. But the resemblence is there. The scenes in which the dead are raised in Mark often suggest or echo the Death, Resurrection, or Tomb scene later on.
Given its origin in the OT, its supernatural aspects, its Markan literary structures, and its place in the larger plot of Mark, nothing in this pericope can be used to support historicity.
|13: He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14: And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. 15: And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.||16: And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17: And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."|
|13: He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.|
|v13: Markan redaction, containing typical Markan themes of the sea, crowds, and Jesus teaching.|
|14: And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him.|
|v14: Levi follows Jesus immediately, clearly implausible. v14 is a doublet of 1:16 and in part follows it word for word (Ludemann 2001, Donahue and Harrington 2002, p100). In addition to its inherent implausibility, there is another problem: the name "Levi" is not secure. Levi has traditionally been identified with the evangelist Matthew because in Mt 9:9 it is Matthew rather than Levi of whom this story is told; in Luke (5:7) it is Levi, as here in Mark's gospel. But in Codex Bezae (D05) the name given to this tax collector is James the son of Alphaeus. Apart from the four, Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, the lists of the disciples in the Synoptic gospels differ, not only among each other, but also in manuscripts of the same gospel.|
|v14: "Tax collector." Tax collectors were shunned as representatives of the hated colonial order, and were often held to be dishonest and disreputable.|
|v14: A tax collector named "Levi"? Perhaps a bit of irony, or a polemic against the collaboration of the priestly castes with Roman imperialism. Levites were set off from the other tribes and only Levites could be priests (see full story in Exodus 32).|
|15: And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him|
Ludemann (2001, p16) identifies the appearance of "disciples"
as coming from the hand of a later redactor. Seeing as how Jesus has
called five disciples at this point, perhaps this claim is not
supportable. On the other hand, Jesus does not appoint disciples until Mark
|16: And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"|
with the Sadducees and the Essenes, the Pharisees were one of the
three main religious groups of the time of Jesus. According to
they appear to be a group of at least 6,000, forming a powerful
counterweight to Herodian authority. However, many scholars view
Josephus' account of their history rather skeptically, and a minority
of critical scholars see their prominence as purely a phenomenon of
Judaism. In the majority view, by contrast, they date back to Hasmonean
times and survive the fall of the Temple to form the nucleus of
rabbinical Judaism. Steve Mason (Current),
reviewing current scholarship on the Pharisees, observes:
The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the body and there were numerous debates about how Jews should relate to Gentiles, while many of Jesus' sayings are closely akin to Pharisaic thinking. Because of this, many scholars, including E.P. Sanders and Hyam Maccaby, see the conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees that characterize the Gospel of Mark as strictly fictional (Theissen & Merz 1996, p135-41). Burton Mack (1993) notes;
Mack goes on to point out that the idea many Christians hold that Pharisees were officials in charge of Jewish synagogues is completely wrong.
Is the writer of Mark aware of Galatians? The dispute between Simon
Paul over table fellowship of Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul in
2:11 complained that Peter had eaten with Gentiles (sinner is a common circumlocution
|v16: Scholars often see the debate between Jesus and the Pharisees as one involving common presuppositions on both sides and argue that Jesus was closely connected to the Pharisaic movement (Tuckett 1996, p.445-6, Theissen & Merz 1996, p135-41).|
Mack (1988) writes:
|17: And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."|
Numerous scholars see Cynic affinities in Jesus' teachings. The
Cynics were mendicant philosophers famous for biting wit and clever
which they also turned on themselves. Like many philosophers of their
the Cynics deployed chreiai
("useful"), anecdotes which show the teacher fielding questions that
his abilities and show him "emerging unscathed from a difficult,
situation" (Mack 1995, p54). "Good chreiai could be used to put a
tradition on display" (Mack 1995, p55). Jesus' remark here echoes a
by the Cynic
Antisthenes, who was the teacher of the more famous Diogenes. Mack
(1995, p55) says that when Antisthenes was criticized for keeping bad
he replied "Well, physicians attend their patients without catching the
fever." Downing (1988), observes in Christ and the Cynics: Jesus
other Radical Preachers in First-Century Tradition:
In both Hellenistic and Jewish thought, the philosopher was
as one who healed vice (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p102-3). Seeley
(1993) observes that Dio Chrysostom notes that Diogenes went to the
Isthmian Games so that he could go among the crowd as a "physician" and
heal them of their illness of folly.
righteous/sinners. Camery-Hoggat (1992, p3) points out the irony here.
While many read this verse as Jesus having come to save the sinners
since the righteous are already saved, the writer also seems to imply
that those groups typically seen as "righteous" -- the Scribes,
Pharisees, and Chief Priests, cannot be saved, because they oppose
Commenting on the Jesus Seminar, Thompson (2005) writes of the sayings
Thompson also notes that great figures who carry a tradition are a commonplace in ancient literature, and that stories presenting the admirable men of antiquity as models for the current day were hugely popular during the Hellenistic period.
Mack (1988) points out, if writers were making up Cynic chreia stories
about Jesus long after he was dead, it means that they must understand
Jesus as a person who could be accepted as speaking in the Cynic mode.
Funk et al (1997) also notes that saying was a common saying. It is
also known from Gospel fragment 1224. The Jesus Seminar's argument for
including this saying in the database of probable Jesus sayings was
that it "sounded like Jesus."
This pericope presents a historically implausible call of a
disciple, Levi, who promptly disappears from this gospel and is never
mentioned again. Even granting that the Pharisees existed at this time,
they do not seem to have been active in Galilee, nor does there seem to
have been much basis for conflict between Jesus and them. Recall that
the writer of Mark seems to have some knowledge of Paul's letters. In
Galatians, which the writer may be alluding to above, Paul says that he
persecuted Christians prior to his conversion. If the writer had access
to Philippians, where Paul claims to have been a Pharisee, it would not
have been difficult to put two and two together and conclude that the
Pharisees opposed Jesus.
The structural features of this pericope and the preceding one
show how the traditional pericoping and versification of the Gospel
distort proper understanding of its structure. The chiastic
structure runs from 2:1-13. The traditional pericoping destroys the
moving 2:13 into the next pericope. The structure of this passage is
laid out below.
Note the parallels with the previous disciple call:
Due to the Cynic parallels for the saying and the fact that
the discipleship call is a literary doublet based on an earlier passage
which in turn draws on the OT (as well as being somewhat
implausible), there is no support for historicity in this pericope.
|18: Now John's disciples and the
were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples
and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not
19: And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the
is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they
fast. 20: The days will come, when the
is taken away from
||them, and then they will fast in that day. 21: No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22: And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins."|
|18: Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"|
|v18: This is frequently seen as a later story, because pericope compares Jesus' disciples to John's, and focuses on the actions of disciples rather than Jesus. Other NT writings, such as Acts 19, appear to preserve a tradition of conflict with the disciples of John.|
|v18: There is little, if any, evidence for Pharisees in Galilee prior to 70 CE.|
|v18: There is no rabbinic evidence for a fixed fast practice prior to 70 AD (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p106). Jewish Law required only one fast, on the Day of Atonement. The Pharisees had a more rigorous regimen of fasting, including twice a week normally, and on days commemorating certain historical events.|
|19: And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20: The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.|
|v19-20: The OT contains quite a bit of material that links a bridegroom metaphor to God, such as Isaiah 61:10 or 62:5 (Gundry 1993, p136). "Wedding guests" is literally "sons of the wedding hall" which could mean either guests or the groom's attendants. Arguments exist for either translation (Donahue and Harrington, p106). Perrin (1967) points out that there is a "well-documented" Jewish practice of freeing wedding guests from religious duties, such as fasting, during the seven days of a wedding celebration.|
the chreia structure of this part of the pericope is masked by the
apparent yoking of two sayings together. Burton Mack (1995, p314)
simplifies it thusly: challenge:
Why aren't your disciples fasting? response:
Who fasts at a wedding?
Robert Funk (1997), writing of the Jesus Seminar deliberations, notes:
The problems with this are manifold. It assumes that the writer of Mark or those traditions he drew on had no creativity of his own. It assumes that the information presented in 2:18 is accurate as historical information. Finally, it assumes that "fasting" should be taken literally, when in fact the presence of food-related vocabulary in connection with Jesus and his mission throughout the Gospel of Mark indicates that the meaning is allegorical and cannot be taken literally. To elaborate, the Seminar wants to argue that in that passage the words bridegroom, and wedding are figurative, but that we ought to take fasting literally.
A further problem with this interpretation is the argument that the Seminar develops to support its conclusion that fasting was part of the early Jesus movement is based on data from Luke and John, documents that depend on Mark. The Seminar does recognize that both sayings were sayings common to the culture.
|21: No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22: And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins."|
scholars are divided on the historicity of the wisdom
Gundry argues (1993, p134-8), that the mating of wedding imagery with
and clothing shows that this pericope was constructed as a unity.
their relationship with the Gospel of Thomas, he observes that "It is
to find a better setting for the sayings than the one in which they
(p138) although such a judgment is totally subjective. No better
example of the subjectivity of scholarship on these
can be given than Perrin's (1967) remark: "The 'patch/cloth' simile
has an element of homeliness in the Markan form which stamps it as
There is simply no way "homeliness" can be equated to "authenticity",
writer of Mark is also a human being capable of observing the homely
around him (Perrin argues that "It is this quality of freshness and of
acute and sympathetic observation of Palestinian peasant life which we
may claim is characteristic of Jesus, since we have demonstrated that
is lost in the transmission of the tradition by the Church, and it
these two similes as dominical."). The alleged failure of the early
the homely features does not imply that they originate with Jesus. Such
a criterion assumes what it is trying to prove; namely, that
Against Perrin, Thomas L. Thompson (2005) argues:
there are two parallels in the Mishnah,
32 offers a parallel as well, when Elihu scolds three men for being
unable to refute Job, just as the Pharisees are unable to refute Jesus
|v22: characteristically, the story ends without a rejoinder from the Pharisees, although it is hard to imagine anyone not responding to Jesus' strange comments. Instead, the Pharisees simply disappear without a resolution.|
This pericope has a simple ABBA chiastic structure:
A clear supernatural prophecy of Jesus' own death, and thus, ahistorical. Because the answer of v19 depends on the question of v18, the latter must also be ahistorical. Scholars currently have no clear method of determining whether the sayings here go back to Jesus. Given that they show clear affinities to other Jewish sayings and Cynic chreia, despite the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar, it seems impossible to demonstrate the historicity of any information in this pericope.
|23: One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24: And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" 25: And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:||26: how he entered the house of God, when Abi'athar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 27: And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; 28: so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath."|
|23: One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.|
|v23: The Greek phrase "to make their way" (hodon poiein) is actually idiomatic in Greek (Robie 1998) and may also be taken figuratively rather than literally. As Winberry (1998) pointed out, the phrase could well be instrumental -- the disciples plucked grain because they wanted to clear a path, not because they wanted to eat it.|
|24: And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"|
|v24: The actual nature of Jesus' violation is not specified. According to Donahue and Harrington (2002, p110-1), eating standing grain was permissible, but harvesting (work) was not among some groups. They might also have violated a rule against eating food on the Sabbath that had not been prepared in advance. Note that the writer of Mark does not even specify that any consumption of grain has occurred.|
John Meier (2004) writes:
|25: And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:|
The biblical reference is erroneous. David had no companions
him, David does not enter the
of God (see next verse), the priest is Ahimelech, not Abiathar, and
neither David nor
companions ate the bread of presence (Gundry 1993, p141). However,
the passage cited, 1 Sam 21:3, David demands:
John Meier (2004) observes:
Meier (2004) also observes that there is nothing in either Jewish
tradition or the text itself to indicate that David performed this act
on the Sabbath. The scripture cited here is not only incorrectly
presented, but irrelevant to Jesus' ostensible purpose.
|26: how he entered the house of God, when Abi'athar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?"|
v26: the famous error here, in which Jesus gets the High Priest wrong, is probably not an error at all. As Goodspeed (1937) noted, if "Abiathar" was really a mistake, how come a later redactor -- and we know there probably was one -- didn't correct it? This is most likely a reference to the Gethsemane sequence, which is based on 2 Samuel 15 and 16, in which Abiathar carries the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, just as Jesus, the new covenant, must also go to Jerusalem. (See the discussion of Mk 14:32-42 for further details). In 1 Kings 2, there is even a reference to fields in conjunction with Abiathar, echoing the reference to fields earlier in v23:
In 1 Kings 2 the story is told of David's death and the
his throne will last forever.
|27: And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath;|
|v27: Matt and Luke do not reproduce this verse. It was apparently added by a later editor, according to Koester (1990, p.276). Crossan (1991, p257), however, has argued that Luke and Matt excised the verse because it made everyone, not just Jesus, the lord of the Sabbath. It was a commonplace Jewish saying, with comparable versions in the rabbinical sources.|
Sanders (1995, 213-4) points out that the Sabbath was not a
He observes about the conflict stories.
Some exegetes have seen this pericope as a doublet of Mark 2:13-17. Donahue and Harrington (2002), write:
Later on in the gospel Jesus will transform 5 loaves of bread
of the feeding miracles. Since Jesus
an event which occurs later in the Gospel and which is an invention of
the writer of Mark, both the errors and the foreshadowing indicate
v25-6 is a
construction of Mark. Another signal of invention here is the
Pharisees, who show up merely to drive the plot, then disappear. It is
because the construction of the events in Mark is so clearly artificial
that scholars turned to explore the sayings for signs of historicity,
only to find that they can generally be traced to common Jewish and
Hellenistic philosophical and wisdom traditions.
After reviewing both the scriptural errors and flaws in Jesus'
arguments, Meier (2004) concludes:
Some scholars have argued that a possible clue that this story
is later development is that
it is not
Jesus but his followers who are accused. Later Christians had
over the Law and behavior with Judaism. However, that is hardly
conclusive, and such a stance is ruled out methodologically here.
Meier argues, based on the incompetent argument Jesus presents here,
that this passage must be a polemical creation of later Christians,
since the historical Jesus was an impressive arguer and debater, in
This has a variant structure:
Because of the many literary features of this pericope, the artificiality of the conflict, and the commonality of the concepts in the sayings, nothing in this pericope may be used to support historicity.
14:55, and Mk
16:5. Some of these are of course stronger than others.
Two of the easiest to see are located right here in Mark 2, Mk 2:25, and Mk 2:26. In Mark 2:25 Jesus refers to the time that David ate the bread of the presence, demanding 5 loaves. Later on in the gospel, in the Feeding of the 5,000 in Mk 6:30-44, Jesus' disciples will have five loaves. In the next verse, Mark 2:26, Jesus makes a famous error, incorrectly referring to "Abiathar" as the High Priest when David had his magical snack. Although this is often written off as error, in my own view the writer is referring the reader ahead to the Gethsemane scene, which he will construct using 2 Sam 15-17 as a foundation. In 2 Sam 15-17 David sends Abiathar back to Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant. The back-to-back joining of David and Abiathar represent the writer quietly directing the reader to the passages to be paralleled. Homer may nod, but Mark never sleeps.
Similarly, in Mark 14:55, during the Sanhedrin Trial, the writer cites Daniel 6, right down to the Greek. Daniel 6 is the basis of the trial, death, and resurrection scene in Mark 15-16. Again, in Mark 3:22 the writer mentions Be-el'zebul, which occurs only once in the OT, in 2 Kings 1. That sequence was used to create the story of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12.
Among the weaker ones is a possible reference to Tobit in Mark 12, which may refer to a possible reference to Tobit in Mark 16, and a possible nod to Esther in Mark 15, which may take the reader to Mark 6:14-29, where the Book of Esther is used to create the death of John the Baptist.
Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
|Chapter 1||Chapter 9||Home|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 11||Topical Index|
|Chapter 4||Chapter 12|
|Chapter 5||Chapter 13||References
|Chapter 6||Chapter 14|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 15||Contact Author
|Chapter 8||Chapter 16|