Friday, January 23, 2015

NT: Mark 5-8

I may have neglected to mention that I’m using the King James Version of the Bible in my readings / reviews, via Blue Letter Bible for iPad.

The Gospel According to Mark Chapter 5 begins on the other side of the sea, in the country of the Gadarenes. Who the flip are the Gadarenes? you might ask. I had no idea either. Per Wikipedia:

Many New Testament manuscripts refer to the "Country of the Gadarenes" or "Gerasenes" rather than the Gergesenes. Both Gerasa and Gadara were cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee. ... Today they are the modern towns of Jerash and Umm Qais.

Our friend Jesus performs some crowd favorites:
  • An exorcism, wherein Jesus casts the demons into a herd of swine and causes them to plunge into the sea
  • a healing: Jairus (leader of the synagogue) daughter
In Chapter 6, Jesus continues the Marcan mix of teaching and miracles, now “in his own country”:

1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

The action:
  • He teaches in the synagogue and villages
  • He charges the 12 to go out and teach
  • Herod hears of this (which can’t be good), subsequently, Herodias’ daughter requests the head of John the Baptist. Herodias’ daughter is a sicko.
  • in verse 32 - “And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.”, we see what may be the first foreshadowing of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Priscilla, in performance. Not to mention a unquestionably weird use of a seafaring vehicle to traverse the desert.
  • Loaves and fishes and walking on water - oh my!
Chapter 7 finds some friction with the Pharisees:

1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

To get a little better sense of the “washing of the hands” conflict - refer to this commentary Jesus eventually exposes a really dark view of humanity:

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

...then he goes on to perform an exorcism and heals a deaf/mute man

In Chapter 8, Jesus:
  • Feeds the multitudes (~4000) with 7 loaves and a few small fishes. Compare this to Matthew’s versions.
  • performs more minor miracles
You can tell by my yawning appraisal that I find Mark a relative mish-mash compared to the more crisply organized Matthew.Some insight into scholars’ reaction to Mark from Wikipedia:

There is no agreement on the structure of Mark.[20] There is, however, a widely recognised break at Mark 8:26–31: before 8:26 there are numerous miracle stories, the action is in Galilee, and Jesus preaches to the crowds, while after 8:31 there are hardly any miracles, the action shifts from Galilee to gentile areas or hostile Judea, and Jesus teaches the disciples.[21] Peter's confession at Mark 8:27–30 that Jesus is the messiah thus forms the watershed to the whole gospel.

Parallels to other Gospels

I just recently introduced “Gospel Parallels”, and pointed out how

Nothing of Matthew Chapters 1 & 2 is “paralleled” in Mark; passages from Matt 3 and 4 seem to be found in Mark 1 (and to a lesser extent Mark 3); and beginning with Matt 5, the parallels to Mark become even less linear and more disjointed.

Lets look at some Parallels from Mark’s perspective. At the appropriately named Gospel Parallels web site, you can look down the column under “Mark” and see all of the verses that originated in Mark and where they are paralleled in the other gospels. Because Mark is presumed to predate Matthew and Luke, the verse numbers listed for Mark are presumed to be the original text, whether in bold face or in lighter text.

The bold type in the tables indicates the verses in order for each gospel we can see from Mark 1 through Mark 8 how those original verses are distributed throughout the other Gospels, or omitted altogether. Very handy! Mark 1 through 4 are spread out from Matthew 1 through 13, for instance, while Mark 5 through 8 appear throughout Matt 8 through 16. We’ll revisit the parallels every few chapters for each book in the Gospels so that I can familiarize myself with how the stories are distributed.


I’m clearly not a historian nor a Bible scholar, but it’s not hard to see how, on the face of it, a reading of Mark would give the reader an impression of a rough, unpolished work, and lead to the suspicion that the more polished Matthew and Luke could have been derived from this work. That is (after much more research) just what most scholars conclude. Of course, the relative roughness of Mark is probably a less important datum than other contextual data that are observed, but it is prominent to me, because it reads like a laundry list as opposed to Matthew and Luke.

Next, Jerusalem!

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