Mark’s Mysterious Gospel

The Evangelist does not psychoanalyze his characters. His focus remains on Jesus and on the mysterious, threatening, and threatened figure that he cuts. Jesus submits no credentials for his deeds and words; he simply speaks and acts, then allows his witnesses to draw their own conclusions (2:4-5, 10-12, 13-14, 27-28; 3:1-6). His claims for himself are circumlocutory: a physician (2:17), a bridegroom (2:19-20), the Son of Man (2:10, 28). His power (exousia) is undeniable (2:10-12; 3:5), but its source and interpretation are obscure almost to the point of inscrutability (2:9, 17b, 19-22, 25-26, 28: 3:4). Clearly, he is no hooligan: at his command withered limbs become whole (2:11-12; 3:5); by his actions the Sabbath is renewed (2:27-28) and society’s outcasts enjoy a place at the table (2:15). Feasting, not fasting, is the order of his day (2:19); it is time to glorify God (2:12). Why, then, is Jesus so troubling? What is it about the new that rips it from the old (2:21)? Why must the bridegroom be taken away (2:20)?

Clifton Black, Mark, p. 102.


5 responses to “Mark’s Mysterious Gospel

  • Andrew

    Interesting description of Mark’s witness, and more so – the character of Christ in Mark’s witness.

    Do you know if it’s been proposed the author of Mark may have been a disciple of John (the Baptist) before coming over to Jesus? Just the way Mark’s witness is portrayed here, makes it seem like he is answering the question John poses ‘are you the one’?

    Incidentally, some look at John’s question as evidence he had doubts, but a better argument would be that he was directing his followers attention over towards Christ (knowing that his time was short).

  • Tim Cole

    Herr Professor: Have you run across a Commentary on Mark’s Gospel that thoroughly understands the role of Genesis 1-3 in its composition and is able thus to interpret Mark canonically? Thanks for any feedback.

    • timgombis

      Tim, I’m using Marcus, C. Black, and F. Moloney, and am thoroughly enjoying them. They each draw on Israel’s Scriptures quite a bit, but I haven’t seen anyone who uses Gen. 1-3. That’d be pretty fascinating, though! I’d love to see someone treat the Gospel from the perspective of Elijah and his place in Israel’s story.

  • Andrew

    Unfortunately about Mark, of the Gospel’s he cites OT scripture the least, though he does show some evidence of understanding Isa/Jer. Also interestingly, he seems as likely to show understanding of Joel/Malachi proportionally, so his understanding of minor prophets equals his understanding of major prophets (i.e. Mark 1:2 -> Mal 3:1 (here, Mark claims to cite Isa, but it’s actually Malachi), also [Mark 9:11->Mal 4:5]).

    With respect to Marks’ use of [Gen 1-3] that’s a hard case to make. He echoes Gen 23-23 more than Gen 1-3 (i.e. [Mark 1:11->Gen 22:2], [Mark 9:7->Gen 22:2]). The only place I see [Gen 1-2] coming up is [Mark 10:6-> Gen 1:27], [Mark 10:7->Gen 2;24/Psa 2:7].

    The book mostly likely found to be referenced or cited in Mark is Psalms. Psalms appears all over the place. Mark’s knowledge of the OT is general and common, unlike Paul who shows deep and specific knowledge.

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