A Study of the BOOK of MARK annon An Essay for Humanities Courses That Treat The Bible As A Historical Document MARK’S THEOLOGY REFLECTED IN WRITING Mark and the other evangelists used basically five ways to change, edit or enhance Jesus’ sayings to reflect their own views of Christianity. According to the Five Gospels Book, plagiarism and changing of writing was not a crime, but actually very common Mark’s time. Besides, Mark never knew Jesus first-hand, he somehow had to make a ‘story’ from basically Hearsay! Mark groups different parables and sayings of Jesus by topic; making a false impression that these things happened in order. This may have little effect on changing the meaning of the lesson, however it illustrates the fact that Mark was trying to author a ‘readable’ story for people, rather than a book of facts. The best example would be in Mark 10:17-31 (Jesus Counsel to the Rich) & (Parable of The Camel and the Eye of a Needle). It is doubtful that these things happened at the same time; however, they are GREY in The Five Gospels anyway .. and probably didn’t happen as Mark describes.
This brings us to Mark’s writing style. Mark seems to ‘tack-on’ sentences to Jesus’ teachings to make them more ‘Christian.’ This really changes the meaning more than any other tactic! Who knows what Mark may have edited-out to accomplish what he wanted to impress upon his readers? In this, he tries to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ actions .. and does this in a misleading way! For example: Mark 2:19, Jesus regarding Fasting. Jesus makes a strong statement against importance to fasting, but Mark (in 2:20) tags on: ‘But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and they will fast in those days.’ This blatantly shows that Mark held higher regard for the Old Traditions of Fasting rather than Jesus’ new teachings! This is also an example of ‘Christianizing Jesus’ according to traditions that have already earned respect from Jews in their tradition. (Wow, this is starting to sound like a fight between Today’s Political Parties, isn’t it?! [Jesus = Liberal Politics / Judaism = Conservative Politics]).
Finally, Mark likes to ‘soften the blow’ of Jesus’ Hard sayings. He does this for probably the same reason Paul preached that Circumcision was not required for Christians. A good example is The Unforgivable Sin (Mark 3:28-). Jesus clearly states that words against the Holy Spirit are unforgivable. However, Mark adds that ‘all things are possible with God,’ which softens this harsh rule! MARK & THE PAROUSIA Mark lived during the Jewish War of 66-70 ADE. Unlike the later evangelists, Matthew and Luke, Mark believed the Parousia was upon us, about to happen at any time! And, for obvious reason: he lived in an extremely troubled time for the Jews, and he had not been worried yet by the Parousia’s delay as were later evangelists.
Mark 13:4 – ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?’ According to Mark’s writing, Jesus first predicts the destruction of the Temple. However, Mark had written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 ADE! This tactic agrees with The Five Gospels: writing apocalyptic sayings of Jesus after they have already been ‘fulfilled.’ I would suppose he did this to give credit to his writing of the second coming of God. An example is the parable of The Fig Tree in Mark 13:28-37. This addition, obviously written by Mark and not said by Jesus, shows the urgency in which Mark expected the parousia: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.’ You can easily see why the other evangelists, Matthew, Luke & John, re-wrote Mark’s apocalyptic writing to be more of a ‘Sacred Time,’ and less definite. Mark used a common tactic of quoting scripture (especially Dan, Isa, Mic & some Psalms) for his apocalyptic writing. We also saw this in Paul’s letters years before.
People regarded scripture as fact, therefore a perfect tool to give credit to Mark’s & Paul’s new writing! Our own culture today is wrapped-up in tradition and Bible quotes as undisputable fact, even though people twist these things to promote their own interests! My own family justifies their hatred for gays by quoting the Bible; they justify a ‘Woman’s Place’ by using the Bible; they justify their racism through the Bible (saying that ‘Love your Brother’ could only possibly refer to people of your own color, because your brother could not possibly be of another color); they justify violent punishment for criminals by using the Bible; they choose their political party according to their actions being as conservative as the Bible. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that my own community was not still living in the dark-ages. PART B THE PARABLE: THE UNFORGIVING SLAVE This parable reflects a part of our American Lifestyle that is very Un-Jesus! Our culture, our government and our judiciary system thrives on punishment; at least we don’t still have debtors’ prison! Contrary to Mark’s interpretation of this parable, I belive it represents a type of perfect love for one’s neighbor that is reflected in Jesus’ Kingdom of God. Rather than forcing a rule upon the reader, as Mark does, Jesus meant it to be a story where the listener may choose an appropriate mode of behavior; for forgiveness cannot be compromised without undesirable consequences. Instead, Mark adds a Threat to the end of the parable (which is obviously NOT the words of Jesus)! ‘That’s what your heavenly Father will do to you, unless you find it in your heart to forgive ..’ I find in many examples that Jesus wanted to have his followers think for themselves, and make choices according to their own conscious; He only made sayings and parables to aid followers in finding the truth for themselves (much like Socrate’s tactic for the finding of Truth or Justice). Mark, for his own reasons, felt that it was his duty to attach every saying of Jesus with a command or threat ..
therefore making God seem vindictive! CONCLUSION: COMPARISON TO MY FIRST PAPER I remember that when I wrote my first paper, I made a point to discuss quotes from Jesus that seemed foreign to my traditional feeling for Jesus. I wanted to see something in Jesus that I never knew before! Well, I was surprised to find that these same quotes turned- up to be mostly Pink in the Five Gospels (some grey, but no black)! My first quote of Jesus was from Matthew 12:49-50; Jesus refers to the multitudes as his mother and brothers. This turned-up pink in the Five Gospels. I thought that this quote represented Jesus as a God on a equal level with his followers, creating a sense of community (I think that if Jesus were around today (and wasn’t in an asylum), he would be a Communist). To me, this contradicts today’s church of authority, having Bishops, Deacons, etc. Next, I quoted a few of Jesus’ words to live by in chapters 6 and 7 of Matthew. Most of these quotes turned up pink, however a few were mixed with grey, showing the additions of Matthew’s redaction.
I noted in my paper that I felt these rules were simple & logical ways to lead a happy and loving lifestyle, rather than hard rules that we are used to. The next two quotes I used (Matthew 12:13 – Jesus Breaking the Sabbath) (Mark 15:1-15 – Jesus’ dealing with P. Pilate) were grey and black in the Five Gospels. The interesting point to this is that these are the two quotes in which I criticized Jesus’ actions. I made points that I thought Jesus was a hypocrite in preaching to keep Jewish Law, and at the same time, break the Sabbath! I also seriously questioned Matthew’s interpretation that P.
Pilate tried to save Jesus, knowing that Pilate was not a friend to the Jews! It is refreshing to me to find these quotes in grey & black, because they were very confusing to me in forming an opinion about Jesus. I have enjoyed this assignment because I really feel like I am getting to understand the Historical New Testament! I tested my knowledge of Jesus by reading his quotes from my New King James Version Bible, and tried to spot additions that were not Jesus’, and by guessing the color of some of his quotes. In checking back with The Five Gospels, I found myself to be pretty darn accurate! Amazing!.