Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
|1: He went away from there and
came to his
own country; and his disciples followed him. 2: And on the sabbath he
to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished,
"Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What
mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3: Is not this the carpenter,
son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas
||and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4: And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." 5: And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6: And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.|
|1: He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.|
|v1: redactional. Although exegetes typically say this takes place in Nazareth, the writer of Mark does not even name what Jesus' home country is. While offering information on towns for which evidence is scanty or nonexistent, such as Nazareth, the author of Mark is silent on places such as Herod's new city of Tiberias or the bustling town of Sepphoris, just a few kilometers from Jesus' reputed home. Yet, the existence of these two Hellenized cities, one of which was offensively built on a cemetery, was a constant religious irritant to the local Jews (Theissen and Merz, 1998, p177-8), while both were important regional centers. Galilee is so small it can be crossed on foot in a couple of days, so their omission is difficult to explain. Exegetes have argued that Gospel silence on these two large cities can be explained by either Jesus' failure to gain adherents there, or by Jesus avoiding these cities because they were major centers of Herodian power. Yet according to the writer of Mark Jesus preached in Jerusalem, a major center of Roman power.|
|2: And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands!|
|v2: the question "what mighty works?" is from the writer's hand, since it refers to miracles that the writer of Mark has created. "Synagogue" may be an anachronism, or it may refer to a house synagogue. No traces of a synagogue from this period have been found in Galilee, let alone Nazareth. This is the last time Jesus enters a synagogue in the gospel.|
|v2: "mighty works" The text here is unstable and there are many variants. "What mighty works are wrought through his hands!" sounds like praise until the reader recalls that Jesus is named -- in the very next verse -- "craftsman" -- one who works with his hands -- and then it can be read as another bit of Markan irony, or perhaps wordplay (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p184).|
|3: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.|
Mary: The writer of Mark has given Jesus' mother the name of
sister. As Meier (1987) observes:
in this context it should be emphasized that Jesus' own name
"Joshua" ("Jesus" being the Greek form of the Hebrew) or "Yeshua." This
was identified with "Yehoshua" which originally meant "YHWH helps" but
later came to be seen as "YHWH saves," the former being post-exilic
Several commentators have noticed that the names of Jesus' family
echo the names of the Maccabean leaders. Joseph Atwill (2005) points
is sometimes viewed as having a historical root. However, since
it leads into v4, the wisdom saying that is the foundation of this
there is no reason to think it has a historical root. The embarrassment
criterion is often deployed to claim that this is historical data, on
grounds that it refers to Jesus being a bastard, but that criterion can
only be used if we know we are dealing with history. There are many
ways this scene can be interpreted as fiction.
"Son of Mary" may not be original to Mark, for
p45 has "Is this not the son of the craftsman [and of Mary]?" (Brown
p537). The parallel texts in Matthew and Luke read "Isn't this fellow
son of the carpenter? Isn't his mother called Mary?" (Matt 13:55) and
this fellow the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22). Jack Elliot
also supports the originality of the "son of the carpenter" reference,
pointing out that it was more natural to describe a male as the son of
father in Jewish literature. Similarly, John 6:42
Luke: "Isn't this fellow the son of Joseph?" John Meier (1987, p225)
that the text has been assimilated to Matthew here, and the original
will not support the apparent charge of illegitimacy ("son of Mary"
being read as a derogatory reference to bastardy). There is an OT
for referring to sons by their mother's name: Zeruiah, whose three sons
were battle leaders under David. Abishai, son of Zeruiah, appears in 2
Sam 16, which the writer of Mark parallels in Mark 14. Josephus also
refers to a man as the son of his mother: "John of Dorcas" (War 4.1), and "Joseph, son of
Iatrine." (Life, 185).
Davies and Johnson (1996) point out that:
Further, as Price (2003, p57-8) observes, v3 makes no sense in
light of v2:
How is it that they were at one moment astonished and the next offended? Perhaps the writer of Mark simply didn't think through the scene, and so has written something that is totally illogical, Price argues. However, if one takes the crowd reaction in v2 as signifying sarcasm, then v3 makes sense (expressions of sarcastic contempt followed by open rejection) and Price's argument fails. An indicator that the passage is intended to be sarcastic is that the locals are unlikely to be praising him for performing "mighty works" if (a) they don't believe he can do them (v3), and (b) he is unable to do them (v5).
|v3: Price adds (2003, p95) that ancient Jewish scholars used "carpenter" as a metaphor for one skilled at interpreting the Torah. "The carpenter from Nazareth may have been a literalizing, historicizing transformation of the Scripture scholar from the Nazorean sect," he concludes.|
|v3: Origen, in Contra Celsus (6:36), notes that in his time "in none of the Gospels current in the Churches is Jesus Himself ever described as being a carpenter."|
|v3: While Jesus is traditionally depicted as a carpenter, the Greek word used is "tekton," which can refer to a number of skilled artisanal professions, such as stoneworking. Socrates was also a "tekton" (a stone mason) who was executed by the authorities of his day.|
Bultman (1958) observes:
Compare Jesus' profession with 1 Cor 1:20:
Another affinity between Mark and 1 Cor is also found in the word
"offense," from the Greek skandalon,
also a key idea of 1 Cor, found in 1 Cor 1:24.
Crossan (1999) argues that the writer of Mark knows that Joseph is
Jesus' father, and has edited the story to make him disappear,
concluding that because Joseph had no place in the Jerusalem community,
the writer of Mark had no interest in him.
|4: And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."|
a wisdom saying that may or may not go back to Jesus. Davies and
Johnson (1996) note that it occurs in two different forms in the Gospel
of Thomas, and observe:
Donahue and Harrington (2002, p185) point to numerous examples both in Hellenistic literature (rejection of philosophers) and in the OT on the theme of rejection of prophets. For example, they note, Dio Chrysostom, in Discourses (47.6), says "it is the opinion of all philosophers that life is difficult in their native land." They also point out that the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:3 (LXX) is without honor (atimos).
|5: And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.|
Markan creation, for the writer of the gospel constantly
the role of faith in the performance of miracles. Although the
between miracles and faith is often seen as unique to Judaism, the
world also made the same link. Theissen and Merz (1998) give the
example from the healing sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus:
disciples are sent out to preach and teach, although Jesus has not
confirmed he is the Messiah, nor has the substance of their teaching
been revealed in the Gospel.
|6: And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.|
|v6: containing the usual motif of teaching, probably redactional.|
the Son of God marveled at their unbelief. Perhaps an apologetic for
the fact that the people of the Galilean region in the writer's time
did not know who Jesus was. According to the 9th century compiler
Photius, Justus of Tiberias, the historian of first century Galilee
whose writings are now lost, had never heard of Jesus.
A short six verses, this pericope is perhaps the most difficult to assess, historically, in the Gospel. A number of exegetes, such as Ludemann (2001) have argued that the phrase "Son of Mary," in Mk 6:3, which implies Jesus is a bastard, is too offensive to have been made up. For many exegetes the idea that Jesus was rejected by his family must stem from deep in the historical tradition. For others, such as Bultmann, the whole pericope has been constructed out of the saying in v4. The pericope thus offers a tension between the manifest existence of someone named a "brother of Jesus," in other documents, James, and a mother, which he naturally must have, and the fact that v4 is another saying for which historicity is dubious at best.
Some exegetes have pointed to the fact that this pericope occurs in all four canonical gospels as evidence in favor of historicity, but the writers themselves treat it as if it were a flexible and unhistorical unit. For example, while in Mark this tale appears well into Jesus' ministry, Luke moves it to the outset of Jesus' ministry and even has the outraged denizens of Nazareth gather to toss the Son of God off a local cliff, from which he miraculously escapes.
Another problem is the allusion to the Maccabees in the names and number of Jesus' family. The writer of Mark not only compares Jesus to Simon Maccabee here, but also at least three other times in this gospel. In other words, though the names and numbers look innocuous, they are part of a larger program in Mark and thus may also be unhistorical.
Let's return to Mark 3:20-30 for a moment. Once again, many exegetes interpret this gospel as a handbook on how to be a disciple. Here again perhaps Jesus acts as the model for Christian discipleship, showing that one is not only likely to be misunderstood, but also rejected. To buttress this the writer of Mark then reaches for one of his usual practices, riffling through the popular philosophy of his time for a supporting idea. Thus it is not necessary to postulate a historical basis for this pericope.
However one interprets it, the fact remains that this pericope is studded with Markan invention. The saying itself cannot be located in the tradition as it was a commonality in antiquity. As observed in the notes to v3, v2 must be sarcastic in intention, which explains the "offense" in the next verse. The writer has simply returned to a common theme: those closest to Jesus fail to understand him. The first verse offers the cryptic phrase "his home country" whose meaning does not become clear until Jesus utters his apothegm in v4. In other words, it looks like v1 exists only to set up v4.
The structure of the pericope itself takes the typical chreia form. First, the setting: Jesus' hometown, which the writer, with his usual indifference to geographical minutiae, does not even name. Then comes the challenge: What! Who does this bum think he is? This is followed by Jesus' utterance of a common saying in riposte: "See? A real prophet doesn't get recognized in his hometown." The author of Mark then returns to two recurrent themes: (1) no faith, no miracles; and (2) Jesus teaching.
In addition to the chreia, Mark 6:1-6 features a typical Markan chiastic structure:
Due to the controlling presence of literary structures, the way the pericope pivots around the saying, the presence of the supernatural in v5, the presence of Markan themes of rejection by those close to him, faith and miracles, and the Markan theme of Jesus teaching in the countryside, nothing in this pericope can be construed as supporting historicity.
| 7: And he called to him the
and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the
unclean spirits. 8: He charged them to take nothing for their journey
a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9: but to wear
and not put on two tunics. 10: And he said to them, "Where you enter a
||there until you leave the place. 11: And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them." 12: So they went out and preached that men should repent. 13: And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.|
|7: And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.|
"Two by two" may be a reference to either Deut. 19:15:
The later rabbinical tradition is full of itinerant rabbis operating in pairs as well, but Mark may be too early for that (Crossan 1991, p335)
|8: He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9: but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10: And he said to them, "Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.|
As numerous exegetes have noted, this list has much in common with the
many descriptions of Cynicism that have come down from antiquity.
Commentators typically focus on the differences between Cynic and
Christian itinerant preachers, and argue that the differences in dress
exist to differentiate Christian itinerants from their Cynic brethren.
"To the degree that there is a relationship to Cynicism (and that is
possible) it is more one of contrast. The disciples of Jesus are to
distinguish themselves emphatically from it and surpass its 'ascetism.'
(Theissen and Merz 1998, p216). Gerald Downing (2001), however, has
pointed out that the "supposed uniformity in Cynic dress is in fact
derived from a small number of caricatures derived from
outsiders."(p199). The reality is, as he notes, there is great variety
in the descriptions. The critics of the Jewish Cynic hypothesis simply
prefer a clearly defined Cynic, essentially a strawman, which they can
contrast Jesus to and then claim that there are no real parallels or
influences, and that Jesus is clearly delineated from. The
reality is that the region of Galilee, with which Jesus is often
linked, was a Cynic hotbed. Gadara, only a few
kilometers south of Nazareth, produced 3 famous Cynics as well as a
famous critic of Cynicism. As Downing Cynically observes, "Well,
coincidences do occur" (p200).
The importance of poverty is also emphasized in Socrate's defense at
his trail. According to Plato, Socrates said:
Painter (1999) observes that the only houses in Mark whose owners are
not identified are those that Jesus enters and uses.
|13: And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.|
Weeden (1971, p27) points out that in this passage, culminating in v13,
the writer of Mark not only has Jesus transfer powers to the
disciples, but that they themselves wield the powers successfully. Yet
later they have no faith in Jesus!
2 Corinthians Paul defines an apostle as one who does signs and wonders:
The structure is simple:
Weeden (1971, p27) points out that in 6:13 the writer of Mark confirms that Jesus successfully transferred his powers to the disciples. So how is it that at later points in the narrative they misunderstand who and what he is, and doubt his powers? They themselves have wielded them! This passage cannot reflect anything historical.
The mission charge parallels the appointing of the disciples in Mark 3. Whatever its source, Q or Mark, it appears to be derived entirely from then-current ideas of how itinerant philosophers should look. Due to the omnipresence of popular Cynicism throughout, nothing in this pericope can be construed to support historicity.
|14: King Herod heard of it; for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him." 5: But others said, "It is Eli'jah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." 16: But when Herod heard of it he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." 17: For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Hero'di-as, his brother Philip's wife; because he had married her. 18: For John said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19: And Hero'di-as had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. 21: But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.||22: For when Hero'di-as' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it." 23: And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." 24: And she went out, and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the baptizer." 25: And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26: And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27: And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28: and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29: When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb|
|14: King Herod heard of it; for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him."|
|v14: Herod, ruler of Galilee, Jesus' own country, has heard of Jesus' name -- although a prophet is without honor in his own country.|
|v14: While some see this as a claim that Jesus was John raised from the dead, Susan Garrett (1989) has observed that this could be seen as a charge of necromancy -- Jesus is thought to have raised John's spirit (p143).|
Robert Price (Was Jesus...?)
has argued that Jesus could be intended to be John raised from the dead.
17: For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Hero'di-as, his brother Philip's wife; because he had married her.
|v17: Herod: Herod the Great's second son Antipas governed Galilee for more than forty years, from 4 BCE to 39 CE, along with the region of Perea across the Jordan River. It was this tetrarch, or "ruler of a quarter," who executed John the Baptist (Matt 14:1; Luke 3:19), and played a role in Jesus' death (Luke 13 & 23). Herod the Great's third son, Philip, was made tetrarch of the more remote northern and eastern parts of Herod's kingdom from 4 CE to 34 CE. It was another son named Herod whose wife, Herodias, Antipas married (Mason 1992, p58), not Philip's. Many times, such as here, the Gospel writers are unclear on which Herod is under discussion. The fact that scholars can suss out which Herod the author of Mark is referring to does not mean that the writer himself actually knew.|
|v17: Herod governed, among other things, the cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias, full of building projects. Jesus is never reported in any gospel to have entered these towns, though Sepphoris was but four miles from Nazareth, and Jesus was a craftsman.|
22: For when Hero'di-as' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it."
|v22: The Codexes Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Bezae all agree that Herodias' daughter is also named Herodias (Meier 1994, p228). This agreement would undoubtedly be accepted as the original reading, as it is the more difficult, but it runs against history. Jack Elliot (1981) argues that on internal evidence of other Markan passages that the Greek here is intended to be parenthetical: "her daughter (Herodias')" should be the correct reading.|
|v22: Herod was not a King but a Tetrarch, a lower-ranking title, a "ruler of a quarter."|
|v22: The connection between the Jewish heroine Esther and the Herodian divorcee Herodias seems to indicate that the writer is doing parody.|
|23: And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom."|
|v23: as Donahue and Harrington (2002, p198) point out, Herod is a client King of Rome and has no power to subdivide his kingdom. The writer of Mark has subordinated reality to the demands of the parallel story in Esther.|
The overall story frame is simple. Mark Goodacre (2002, p39) points out that the writer of Mark has aligned this story with that of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel in 2 Kings 17-22. Just as Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah, so Herodias wants to kill John the Baptist.
According to a number of scholars (see discussion in Gundry
and Meier 1994, p228-9), the intermediate level frame and many of the
are drawn from the story of Esther as it was told both in the Bible and
in stories that circulated among the Jews and were preserved in the
rabbinical texts. I have worked out some of the parallels in the table
below. Parallels that are out of order are indicated with a
parentheses. Be advised: the rabbincal texts all date from later than
Mark, so whether and to what extent the stories they record would have
been known to the writer of Mark is debatable.
Note that in the last two parallels, the author of Mark even
the doublet from Esther in which the King first promises to fulfill any
wish, and then reiterates the promise reinforced with the offer of half
his kingdom. One could add an inverted parallel as well:
Jean Crain (1999) sees parallels to Judges 11, where Jephthah
a similarly rash promise that forces him into killing someone he does
want to kill. However, the parallels to the Esther story are much
more extensive, and more detailed. The writer of Mark's preservation of
the doublet from Esther clearly establishes the origin of the
There is a parallel from Roman history, however, in which a woman requests a potentate to execute someone at a dinner party: Lucius Lucius Quinctius Flaminius, consul in 192 BCE, did just that. The tale may be found in Plutarch, Cicero, and Livy.
Meier (1994) writes:
In other words, in the real world, if Antipas had married Philip's wife, his wife would have been named Salome, not Herodias. The author of Mark has made a "glaring historical error." Herodias married a son named Herod before she married Antipas.
Whatever the real story behind John the Baptist and Jesus,
On page 91-92 of The Jesus the Jews Never Knew Frank Zindler makes an "argument" for the interpolation of the passage in which Herod beheads JBap. This "argument" actually depends on a single thread, Zindler's claim that there is a seam between 6:13 and 6:30. That is too weak a peg to hang an interpolation on.
I was bothered by the JBap passage for a couple of months until one day, in a web debate, the underlying problems with it surfaced. Here are the largely literary and stylistic reasons I've come up with for this passage being interpolated:
Against this, note that when Herod asks who men say Jesus is, he gets the same answer that the disciples give when Jesus asks them the same question in Mark 8:27-33: John, Elijah, or one of the prophets. Further, the intercalation seems necessary to give the disciples time to go out and do their thing, and then report back to Jesus. Some exegetes have made a link between the outer and inner parts of the pericope, as well.
Here is a chiasm for this pericope. I believe that the passage to "For Herod had sent and seized John,..." is Markan. Beyond that, someone has expanded what the original writer wrote. The center of the chiasm is a doublet that is too simpleminded to be Markan. Somewhere around "When his disciples heard of it,..." the hand of the original writer resumes, but the overwriting is too thorough for certainty.
Whatever its origin, other than its reference to the bare fact of the death of John the Baptist, it is entirely dependent on the OT and Jewish traditions for its story. No support for historicity may be found in this pericope.
|30: The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31: And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32: And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33: Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34: As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35: And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; 36: send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat."||37: But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" 38: And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." 39: Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40: So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41: And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42: And they all ate and were satisfied. 43: And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44: And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.|
|30: The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.|
|v30: .."and taught" is not found in either Matt or Luke and appears to be a secondary expansion of the text (Koester 1990, p282). The same appears to be true of Jesus "teaching them many things" in v34.|
|34: As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things|
"shepherd" may allude to Psalm 23:1 (Gundry 1993, p328)
Note the affinities with the account of the appointing of Joshua in
The name "Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Joshua."
This passage may also relate to Ezekiel 34, in which the shepards of
Israel are warned (note the address to the Son of Man):
Zech 10:2 has also been identified as lying behind this passage (Evans,
|37: But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" 38: And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish."|
|v37-38: Although the disciples were just instructed not to carry bread or money on their mission, these sentences reveal that they are carrying both. Once again, Jesus has busted them for having no faith.|
|38: And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish."|
|v38: A number of scholars have seen a connection between 1 Sam 21:17, where David eats the bread of presence, taking 5 of the Twelve loaves, leaving 7. Under many interpretative schemes, the 5 loaves would thus stand for the Jews, and the 7 left uneaten represents the Gentiles.|
|39: Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass.|
|v39: "Green grass" may refer to Psalm 23:2, while Exodus 18:25 may be the source of the division into "companies." The idea that a crowd of thousands could simply be arranged into companies at a command is historically implausible.|
|41: And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42: And they all ate and were satisfied. 43: And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44: And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.|
the verbs used in v41 parallel almost exactly those used in
14:22, the Passover meal (following Senior
|42: And they all ate and were satisfied.|
|v41: E. P. Sanders (1995, p156-7) observes that "the most curious aspect" of the feeding miracle is that lack of reaction from the crowd or the disciples. The crowd eats, and is satisfied, as if wandering preachers fed people by the thousand on a regular basis. Sanders contrasts this with the crowd reaction to the exorcisms, which cause his fame to spread like wildfire.|
Edgar Goodspeed (1937, p125-6) observed
As Donahue and Harrington (2002, p211) note, the writer (or perhaps redactor) of Mark has juxtaposed his story of Jesus' miraculous banquet that gives life with Herod's banquet that brings death.
This pericope is a creation based on 2 Kings and the
Also present are numerous motifs and stories from Jewish
literature that discuss "bread" in the wilderness in the context of
miraculous feedings, such as Exodus 16, Deut 8:3-16, Psalm 78:24-25,
Psalm 105:40, and Wisdom 16:20-21. For example, Psalm 78 describes:
This pericope consists of two chiastic structures. The center
of the major chiastic structure is very unMarkan, and the brackets do
not speak to each other like typical Markan brackets. There is no
reason to think that this is a construction of Mark.
The presence of the supernatural and creation off of the Old
Testament signal that nothing in this pericope can be used to support
|45: Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa'ida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46: And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47: And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48: And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49: but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50: for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear."||51: And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52: for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. 53: And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennes'aret, and moored to the shore. 54: And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized him, 55: and ran about the whole neighborhood and began to bring sick people on their pallets to any place where they heard he was. 56: And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well.|
|45: Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa'ida, while he dismissed the crowd.|
|v45: Here begins, at v45, the famous Bethsaida Section (Mark 6:45-8:26) that begins and ends with visits to Bethsaida. This section is missing in Luke, and contains several unique phrases not found again in Mark. Koester (1990, p285) has argued that this section is from the hand of a later redactor. This may account for the fact that some of the events are doublets of previous events, and the links to the Elijah-Elisha cycle are both scarce and where extant (the feeding of the 4,000), repeated. This may be construed as evidence for Koester's Ur-Markus thesis (1990). For further information, see the Excursus on Mark without Bethsaida below.|
|48: And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,|
"pass by." Mikeal C. Parsons (1999) posted this to the gmark list:
"fourth watch." The Romans divided the night into four watches, the
|51: And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52: for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.|
|v51-52: the disciples have seen this miracle before, but still do not understand.|
W. Henderson (2001, p23-4) asks:
There is nothing historical in this pericope. It is
based on the
usual combination of the supernatural and OT creation. Several scholars
have argued that it is a Resurrection appearance that was moved to this
part of the Gospel from elsewhere.
Psalm 77 has been identified with this pericope
Water walking has also been attributed to Isa 43:16:
and Job 9:8 (Abbot, 1899, p1894)
Further, in Job 9:11, God is said to pass by, and the
onlookers to be unaware of him. The Septuagint Greek of Job 9:8,11
closely follows that of Mark 6:48.
and also Wisdom:
There are also numerous parallels in ancient literature. The Third Discourse on Kingship 30 by Dio Chrysostom (40-120CE), Xerxes, King of Persia, has the power to walk on the water, which Dio presents as a divine power. This power is also attributed to Pythagoras. There are also parallels in the Buddhist corpus.
The pericope contains typical features of Markan redaction,
v52, where the disciples did not understand, and boats.
This pericope is a doublet of Mark 4:35 -51 (table adapted
from Myers 1988, p195):
The chiastic structure is simple and clear, and feels
surprisingly Markan, considering that the pericopes that flank it are
decidedly unMarkan. Perhaps it has been moved in from elsewhere.
The structure of the B' bracket is one of the reasons I
believe that Mark 7:1-23 has been interpolated as a unit into this
spot. Note the phrase "and as many as touched it were made well."
In Mark such phrases, where immediately prior action is summarized and
commented on, typically represent the second half of a center bracket,
not the conclusion of a B' bracket. It seems that a verse has been
removed to make room for the interpolation.
Given its dependence on the OT, the presence of the
supernatural, and the literary structures and Markan themes, nothing in
this pericope supports historicity.
Recovering the Original
Structure of Mark
The narrative portion of Mark, between the episodes of the Gerasene Demoniac and the Cleansing of the Temple, has been thoroughly rearranged, redacted, and interpolated. The redactor(s) probably focused on this section because it is episodic, and on the surface seems easy to manipulate. The Passion, by contrast, is carefully scheduled in three-hour blocks, and is back-integrated to Mark 13 through the Parable of the Watcher, which sets the timing for the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus. A disruption in it would have been very clear. Further, if the various scholars who have claimed that this section of Mark had a liturgical function in early Christianity are right, then it would also have spoiled the liturgy.
The key to understanding how Mark was originally structured lies in analyzing the Bethsaida section (Mark 6:45-8:26), a section scholars have long argued over. In 6:45 Jesus goes to Bethsaida, and again in 8:22 Jesus is reported as going to Bethsaida. After that Jesus makes his sole visit to Caesarea Philippi, and Bethsaida vanishes from Mark. For many scholars signals such as unMarkan language and themes, and the strangeness of the Bethsaida references, indicate that something is amiss with this section. Helmut Koester, an influential New Testament scholar, has spent a career studying the Gospels. One of his most important arguments is that the so-called "Bethsaida Section" of Mark is an interpolation by a later redactor.
For Koester, one strong signal of wrongess lies in the fact
that nothing in this
section is reproduced in Luke, who copied Mark. Koester (1990) argues
that although it
is possible that Luke's copy of Mark was simply missing some pages,
certain features of the Bethsaida Section differentiate it from the
rest of the Gospel of Mark.
In this essay I will use the structural features of Mark to analyze the Bethsaida section. Several important conclusions will emerge. First, the tampering in Mark is far more pervasive than is generally recognized by scholars, extending from 6:14 all the way to the end of Mark 10. Second, this section does not consist of material that is either Markan or not Markan in strictly dichotomous fashion, but in fact is a mix of genuine Mark imported whole from elsewhere, genuine Mark that has been redacted, and non-Markan pericopes inserted as a whole units. After the Bethsaida section has been analyzed, the larger structure of Mark will be explored.
Bethsaida by the Pericope: Analysis
A..Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat
......and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa'ida,
......while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken
......leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
.....B..And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea,
..........and he was alone on the land.
...........C..And he saw that they were making headway
................painfully, for the wind was against them.
.................D..And about the fourth watch of the night
......................he came to them, walking on the sea.
........................E..He meant to pass by them, but when
.............................they saw him walking on the sea they
.............................thought it was a ghost, and cried out;
........................E..for they all saw him, and were terrified.
.................D..But immediately he spoke to them and said,
......................"Take heart, it is I; have no fear."
...........C..And he got into the boat with them
................and the wind ceased.
.....B..And they were utterly astounded,
..........for they did not understand about the loaves,
..........but their hearts were hardened.
A..And when they had crossed over,
.....they came to land at Gennes'aret,
.....and moored to the shore.
This pericope is originally from the hand of the writer of Mark, but it has been tampered with. The center (E/E') is very Markan -- it has the prolix/pithy rhythm of a true Markan center, and the second part is a summary of the first. In Markan centers one bracket typically summarizes and comments on or explains the other, with one bracket often much longer. For example:
D...That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.Note how the second sentence simply repeats the information given in the first, but in a way that stresses it. Such repetition is also common in the Old Testament. Another example:
F...And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.Again, we have the pattern of long-short, with the second bracket not adding information to the first, but simply stressing it. Here's another with the doubled center pattern:
E.....A...And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"Here we have the common long-short pattern, doubled. There are several pericopes with this pattern.
However, in Mark 6:45-56 tampering has occurred in the B' bracket:
.....B..And they were utterly astounded,The opening phrase in blue is certainly Markan. Many of the writer's B' brackets contain similar expressions of awe at the power or wit of Jesus. Compare the B' bracket in Mk 2:1-12 (healing of the paralytic):
B'..so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,
......"We never saw anything like this!"
or Mk 12:13-17 (render unto Caesar)
B'..And they were amazed at him.
However, the verses in red are very unMarkan, spoiling the rhythm of the pericope, and containing the kind of explanation that the writer of Mark rarely engages in. The theme of hearts hardening occurs only in Mark 8:14-21 which is blatantly unMarkan, and is probably an insertion here by the redactor who also inserted that pericope. On the whole this section of Mark 6:45-56 is an original Markan creation.
The summary that follows has the following structure:
A..And when they had crossed over, they came to land at
.....Gennes'aret, and moored to the shore.
.....B..And when they got out of the boat, immediately
..........the people recognized him, and ran about the
..........whole neighborhood and began to bring sick people
..........on their pallets to any place where they heard he was.
.....B..And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country,
..........they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him
..........that they might touch even the fringe of his garment;
...........and as many as touched it were made well.
A..Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him,
.....with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem,
.....they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled,
.....that is, unwashed.
This type of narrative summary has parallels elsewhere in the Gospel and is probably from the writer of Mark as well. However, the bracketing is not easy, because there is a verse that signals that the structure has been disrupted.
.....B..And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country,Typically in Mark text like that in red above, where "And...." begins a concluding summary of the previous action, signals the beginning of a new bracket. The original structure was probably ABCCBA, but Mk 7:1-23 has been interpolated at this point and at least one verse has gone AWOL here.
A..Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes,
....who had come from Jerusalem, they saw ..that some of his disciples ate
....with hands defiled, that is, unwashed.
........B..(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands,
.............observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market
.............place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many
.............other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and
.............vessels of bronze.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do
.............your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders,
.............but eat with hands defiled?"
...............C..A And he said to them,"Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites,
........................as it is written,
........................B.. `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far
...............................from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines
...............................the precepts of men.'
...................................C..You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast
........................................the tradition of men."
...............C..A..And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the
........................commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!
........................B..For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother';
.............................and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him
...................................C..but you say, `If a man tells his father or his
........................................mother, What you would have gained from me is
........................................Corban' (that is, given to God) -- then you no longer
........................................permit him to do anything for his father or mother,
........................................thus making void the word of God through your
........................................tradition which you hand on. And many such things
........B..And he called the people to him again, and said to them, "Hear me,
.............all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by
.............going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man
.............are what defile him."
A..And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples
....asked him about the parable.
The center has a paired triplet structure seen elsewhere in Mark (the Calling of Peter, James and John, for example). If you unpack it, it looks like this
B QUOTE OF SCRIPTURE
C EXPLANATION OF HOW TRADITION IS REJECTED BY PHARISEES
This is the signature of the true writer of Mark, and this entire pericope is from his hand. The pericope is followed by a discussion of the significance of the exchange.
A..And when he had entered the house, and left the people,
......his disciples asked him about the parable.
.....B..And he said to them, "Then are you also without
..........understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes
..........into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it
..........enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes
.........on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
.....B..And he said, "What comes out of a man is what
..........defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of
..........man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder,
..........adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness,
..........envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things
..........come from within, and they defile a man."
A..And from there he arose and went away to the region of
.....Tyre and Sidon.
This too is very Markan, with the explanation given in a separate structure, inside a house. Mk 7:1-23 is unquestionably from the hand of the writer of Mark in its entirety.
A..And from there he arose and went away
......to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
.....B..And he entered a house, and would not have
...........any one know it; yet he could not be hid.
..........C..But immediately a woman, whose little daughter
...............was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him,
...............and came and fell down at his feet.
................D..Now the woman was a Greek,
......................a Syrophoeni'cian by birth.
......................E..And she begged him to cast the
...........................demon out of her daughter.
......................E..And he said to her, "Let the children first
..........................be fed, for it is not right to take the children's
..........................bread and throw it to the dogs."
..............D..But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the
...................dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
.........C..And he said to her, "For this saying you may go
..............your way; the demon has left your daughter."
.....B..And she went home, and found the child lying in bed,
..........and the demon gone.
A..Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through
......Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decap'olis.
The non-Markan nature of this pericope is signaled by several things, but for our purposes the central structure -- or lack thereof -- is the key:
......................E..And he said to her, "Let the children firstThis is a tripartite exchange, and there is nothing else like it in Mark. There is no way to bracket it to yield a proper Markan chiasm with a prolix/pithy center. Nor do ask/answered questions typically occur in Markan centers. The chiasm here is simply a pleasing ordering of the verses, but it is not a real Markan structure. Hence, this pericope is non-Markan. It should be noted that numerous exegetes have drawn attention to the fact that it seems to authorize a mission to the Gentiles, which makes it anachronistic. On the whole, the writer of Mark never wrote this.
A..Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to
the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decap'olis.
.....B..And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment
..........in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him.
..........C..And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his
...............fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue;
................D..and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him,
...................."Eph'phatha," that is, "Be opened."
................D..And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and
.....................he spoke plainly.
..........C..And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged
...............them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
.....B..And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done
..........all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak."
A..In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had
.....nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them,
Note how each bracket consists of verses that are simple statements. The writer of Mark typically varies the length of his brackets, and the centers usually have a nice rhythm. Note also how the A' bracket does not signal a concrete change of location, but simply announces that the scene is over and has shifted. The writer of Mark likes to use concrete locations when he shifts to a new pericope. None of those is definite, but the non-Markan pattern and habits signal that this one is probably not from the writer of Mark either.
This pericope is a literary creation based on the tale of the miraculous feeding in Elijah that was already used in Mark 6. The question here is who bears responsibility for this.
Observe first how the A bracket is long, and contains a wordy explanation of Jesus' plans. In other words, the first verse sets up the action of the pericope in a very wordy way, which is highly unusual in Mark. This verse thus strikes me as having been extensively modified, if original to the writer of Mark. Note how the term "compassion" is used, which occurs also in another pericope I consider tampered with, as well as in Mk 1, where Jesus has compassion on the beggar, and which Bart Ehrman has argued persuasively is an insertion. "Compassion" here may well signal tampering.
A..In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered,
.....and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to
.....him, and said to them, "I have compassion on the crowd,
.....because they have been with me now three days, and
.....have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to
.....their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them
.....have come a long way."
.....B..And his disciples answered him, "How can one feed
...........these men with bread here in the desert?"
..........C..And he asked them, "How many loaves have you?"
...............D..They said, "Seven."
....................E..A..And he commanded the crowd to sit down
..............................on the ground; and he took the seven loaves,
..............................and having given thanks he broke them and
..............................gave them to his disciples to set before the
.........................B..and they set them before the crowd.
....................E..A..And they had a few small fish; and having
..............................blessed them, he commanded that these also
..............................should be set before them.
.........................B..And they ate, and were satisfied;
...............D..and they took up the broken pieces left over,
....................seven baskets full.
..........C..And there were about four thousand people.
.....B..And he sent them away;
A..and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples,
.....and went to the district of Dalmanu'tha.
Here in the A' bracket we have returned to the usual pattern of the writer of Mark, a concrete location change. All in all, I suspect this one is originally from the writer of Mark, with modifications. The "sign" saying that caps it is most probably from the writer of Mark as well, since it appears to draw on Paul (1 Cor 1:22-3).
This hideous pericope was someone else's unclever design. It is possible to form a chiastic structure with my rules here, but it is merely an artistic arrangement of sentences and not a true Markan pericope (I'm not going to bother to block it out properly).
A And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.
B Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
C And he cautioned them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod."
D And they discussed it with one another, saying, "We have no bread."
E And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you
have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?
When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets
full of broken pieces did you take up?"
E They said to him, "Twelve."
D "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?"
C And they said to him, "Seven."
B And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
A And they came to Beth-sa'ida. And some people brought to him a blind man,
and begged him to touch him.
It is obvious that the set of questions in EEDC does not form a true Markan center, since the discourse is unbalanced between first and second half. Numerous exegetes have commented on the enigmatic nature of this discourse, and on Jesus' strange behavior. This pericope was never from the hand of the writer of Mark.
In analyzing the Bethsaida section, three other pericopes need to be explored as well. As discussed earlier in this work, the tale of the death of John the Baptist (6:14-29) has been expanded with material from the Book of Esther in a very unMarkan way. The very next pericope, 6:30-44, also seems to be non-Markan. Here is the structure:
A..And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.
.....B..Now many saw them going, and knew them,
..........and they ran there on foot from all the towns,
..........and got there ahead of them.
..........C..As he went ashore he saw a great throng,
...............and he had compassion on them, because
...............they were like sheep without a shepherd;
...............D..and he began to teach them many things.
....................E..And when it grew late, his disciples came
........................to him and said, "This is a lonely place,
........................and the hour is now late; send them away,
........................to go into the country and villages round
........................about and buy themselves something to eat."
.........................F..But he answered them, "You give them
.............................something to eat."
..............................G..And they said to him, "Shall we go
...................................and buy two hundred denarii worth
...................................of bread, and give it to them to eat?"
...................................H..And he said to them, "How many
........................................loaves have you? Go and see."
...................................H..And when they had found out,
........................................they said, "Five, and two fish."
..............................G..Then he commanded them all to sit
...................................down by companies upon the green
.........................F..So they sat down in groups, by hundreds
..............................and by fifties.
....................E..And taking the five loaves and the two fish
.........................he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and
.........................broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples
.........................to set before the people; and he divided the two
.........................fish among them all.
...............D..And they all ate and were satisfied.
..........C..And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces
...............and of the fish.
.....B..And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
A..Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat
.....and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa'ida, while
.....he dismissed the crowd.
There are several indicators here of a non-Markan hand at work. First, the use of the word compassion, which shows up only in other places where the text appears to have been redacted (1:41 and 8:2). Second, the extensive use of narrative in the second half of the structure -- Jesus rarely goes so long in a pericope without uttering something portentous. Third, the completely unMarkan center, which has a very unMarkan rhythm. Compare, if you will, the very Markan center of the Sanhedrin trial (RSV):
A..And the high priest tore his garments, and said, "Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?"
Note the prolix/pithy balance so common in complex Markan centers. The center of 6:30-44 does not reproduce that nice rhythm in any way. Further, the brackets do not balance each other in true Markan style. The outside brackets, BCDE/EDCB can be construed to relate, but the interior brackets FGH/HGF do not relate to each other at all. Compare again the Sanhedrin Trial, where, when Jesus gives his non-answers, in the opposite brackets, Peter denies Jesus. Similarly, in the opening bracket the High Priest accuses Jesus of being Christ, in the paired closing bracket, the maid accuses Peter of being a follower of Jesus. Mark's brackets are usually very tightly structured, whereas the writer of this passage, 6:30-44, did not take the time to make sure the interior worked correctly.
Hence, 6:30-44 is not from the hand of the writer of the original Gospel of Mark.
In addition to 6:14-29 and 6:30-44, another pericope needs to be explored: Mark 10:46-52. This pericope contains the famous verse, Mark 10:46, which many exegetes believes signals that something has been removed. I have deliberately refrained from showing the chiasm for this pericope to give the reader a feel for its rhythm (text is RSV).
A And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae'us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae'us, was sitting by the roadside.The first thing to notice about this pericope is the A bracket
And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae'us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae'us, was sitting by the roadside.There's absolutely no question that this is unMarkan. The standard Markan A bracket has a location change that is both singular and concrete. Thus, I join with those who say that something has been removed here. In my own view it is most likely to be Mark 7:1-23, in which the scribes come down from Jerusalem. That is easy to see if Jesus is in Jericho on his way to the big city, but difficult to imagine if Jesus is in Galilee.
Another striking thing about this pericope is the center of it. From the C bracket to the B' bracket, this pericope consists entirely of brackets containing a single action, with the exception of the center F' bracket. This kind of rhythm is entirely unMarkan. I do not believe that this pericope is from the hand of the original writer of Mark.
Yet another sign of unMarkan origin is the pericope's allusion to Plato through the name of its central character, Bar-Timaeus. In Plato's dialogue of the same name, Timaeus, it is not difficult to find the parallel between Jesus -- about to be executed -- and Socrates -- eventually to be executed, as well as Peter, James, and John, and Socrates' three friends. Socrates, like Jesus, is a tekton. Bar-Timaeus is blind, and Timaeus has a discussion of optics and the physics of the eye. Like Jesus, Socrates will enlighten his companions as to the truth. The name stinks of literary invention, and this would make it the only pericope in Mark with an origin in Plato or some other Hellenistic literature. All in all, this pericope would not seem to be from the hand of the original writer of Mark.
Let us now summarize our findings about the long interpolated section that starts in Mark 6 and continues to Mark 10 (and probably into Mark 11 as well). This list strikes out everything not original to Mark, according to my analysis. Redacted but original text is in bold.
Mk 6:14-29 Herod executes John the Baptist
Mk 6:45-56 Jesus walks on water
Mk 8:1-13 The second feeding miracle, of 4000
Mk 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man, who sees men like trees walking
Mk 8:27-33 Jesus makes first Passion prediction; "Get thee behind me, Satan!"
Mk 8:34-38 Jesus says you must deny yourself and take up cross to follow him
Mk 9:1-13 Jesus is transfigured on a mountain with Moses and Elijah
Mk 9:14-29 Jesus heals an epileptic that the disciples failed to heal
Mk 9:30-37 Jesus makes his second Passion prediction
Mk 9:38-41 Whoever is not with me is against me....
Mk 9:42-50 If your hand offends you, cut it off; salted with fire
Mk 10:1-12 Teachings on divorce
Mk 10:13-16 Kingdom belongs to children
Mk 10:17-31 The rich getting into heaven is like a camel.....
Mk 10:32-34 Jesus makes his third Passion prediction
Mk 10:35-45 James and John want to be at Jesus' right hand
Mk 7:1-23 Pharisees criticize Jesus for eating with unwashed hands (moved)
Note how this would flank the Temple episode with iterations of Psalm 110 and 118 in Mark 10-11 and Mark 12, and with Pauline material in Mark 10 (divorce and food laws) and in Mark 12 (taxes and love). It is likely that other parts of this narrative have been re-arranged, but the unsettled nature of the narrative section makes it difficult to tell.
Does the Gospel of Mark have a chiastic structure, as many exegetes have posited? It seems almost impossible that it does not, given the writer's obvious interest in recursive structures, but reconstructing it is extraordinarily difficult. Most exegetes tend to place the pivot point of the Gospel in Mark 8, where Jesus is spotted as the Christ by Peter. However, Mark's smaller structures do not pivot on theologically important material, but instead turn on material that is dramatic for narrative purposes. For example, the center of the Sanhedrin Trial and Peter's denial is Jesus getting beaten by the guards. The Crucifixion centers on Jesus being mocked. A glance at other centers will show that theologically important material is generally outside the center. Hence, it is likely that the center of chiasm is not where exegetes put it, in Mark 8, but where the narrative pivots, at the fateful decision to cleanse the Temple, or in Mark 9, where the Transfiguration links the Baptism and the Crucifixion.
It is easy to pick out oppositions on either side of this divide. For example, front and back offer a sequence of 5 conflict stories and a major parable. Each parable structures the forthcoming narrative. Pauline material flanks either side of the Temple Cleansing. One might oppose the Gerasene Demoniac to Jesus' predictions in Mark 13, while John's announcement of Jesus' entry into the world surely parallels the now lost ending where Jesus exits the world and the disciples are sent out into it to preach. However, the element of subjectivity in such speculations is too high to be convincing.
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|