Lectionary Year B
March 12, 2000
Mark 1:9-15

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre: The first 8 verses of the Gospel of Mark allude to the "beginning" and quote , regarding a messenger God is sending, a voice of one crying in the wilderness and making straight the ways prepared for the coming of the Lord.

Post: Following these verses, we read of Jesus' calling disciples and going to Capernaum and teaching in the synagogue there on the Sabbath. Other events follow, in rapid fire as is Mark's style.

(??) Mark 1:14-15 seem to serve as an introduction to vv. 14-21 rather than a conclusion to vv. 9-13.

(DR) Mk. 1:2a is attributed to Isaiah but actually more closely resembles Malachi. I.e., Mark seems to have quoted Isaiah when Isaiah doesn't say that! Does this discredit Mark's reliability?

(JA) Mark is saying "it's happened--prophecy and fulfillment"

(DR) What if Mark didn't know he was misquoting?

(CU) Mark in terms of geographical progression of Jesus' ministry: Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem.

(JA) Etiological sites--epiphanies, appearances--way of anchoring that event with that place.
If Mark is the first gospel, is the writer dealing directly with only oral tradition, perhaps tying together otherwise disconnected vignettes?
If so, what we are most concerned with here are the organizing principles used by Mark.

(DR) What are/were/could be the principles/criteria of organizing "vignettes?"

(JA). Note from comparison to Mk 6 that John's fate ends in a tomb; Mk's gospel ends with Jesus in a tomb also, but the tomb is open, not closed.


I. Ordination (1:1-11)
II. Confirmation (1:12-2:17)
III. Mission statement (2:18-27)
IV. Enacting mission Facing opposition (2:18-27)
V. Turning point (9:1-10:52)
VI. Saying goodbye(11-)

I decided to use very broad strokes in my outline. Other outlines are much more detailed. In the MacArthur Study Bible the outline is extremely detailed. For its major themes it does parallel the outline found in Donald Guthrie's New Testament Introduction. In it the major outlines are based upon location. They both follow the movements of Jesus from the Wilderness, to Galilee, the Gentile areas, the road to Jerusalem and "In" Jerusalem. MacArthur proceeds to place every pericope as a subheading.

The themes of opposition of the scribes and authority of Jesus are repeated in each of the regions Jesus visits. I have chosen to locate it as the confirmation stage of Jesus' ministry because it lays out the protagonist and the hero of the story and begins the process that will carry the reader throughout the text. Jesus confronts the scribes, heals the sick and announces himself the Son of Man all in one pericope. The Gospel of Mark operates as gospel and is not concerned with every fact but in relaying a story of how this life is important. It is for this reason that I chose an outline that represents the life journey in ministry.

Without a nativity narrative, "Mark's objective is to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God", (Schweizer). The Gospel, chapters 1-9 especially, seems to record collected traditions of Jesus' life, preaching, teachings, healings, revelation of and service to God's will. The stories read as if they were compiled rapidly. They can seem almost unrelated or detached from one another. Some commentators see forecasts of Jesus' passion and death in such anecdotes as John's arrest in 1:15, execution in 6:14-29 and the Pharisees' opposition to Jesus at 3:6. They obviously lead to the final chapters (10-15) where almost enough details are given. From the plot to arrest Jesus to His entombment, we get more itemized descriptions. Jesus' passion and death seem to be the goal at which this work aims. Chapter 16 tells of His resurrection. This Gospel, as briefly as it recites Jesus' encounters, does tell of the emotions the people have in reaction to Him and His ministries. Therein, we read of sorrow, pity, fear, amazement, anger and grief.


The style of Mark is simple. To English ears the parataxis is reminiscent of the speaking of a child. My wife works as a teacher and relates the stories of children in her class to me. They might sound something like this. "And one time we went to the park. And we played frisbee. And my brother pushed me. And it was raining. And lightning hit the tree. And it just missed me. And then I thanked my brother for making me fall away from the tree...." Often the story conveys better the emotions and energy of the event better than it captures the exact sequence of action and the location of characters. The book as a whole contains a power in its simplicity. It refuses to forget the rejections of Christ or the triumphal entry and finishes with an enigmatic ending. In fact the reader is left wondering if it was such a simple story after all (often children are more complex than we consider). Like the story of a small child the reader must listen till the end to catch the whole meaning. This writer is an action person. In a comparison with Matthew the difference is clear. Matthew pauses for dialogue and explanations and refers to the Old Testament but Mark wants to get the information on the table and what matters to the author is what happened not geneologies, birth narratives, etc.

In the MacArthur Study Bible I came across the following quote from Papias, the bishop of Hieropolis, written around A.D. 140, "And the presbyter [the apostle John] said this: Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ." According to Lane authorship is attributed to Mark by the Anti-Marcion prologue attached to the Gospels ca. 160 (pg 9). Kummel wholly denounces Papias' claim of Mark being related to Peter in any way and disputes that any of the traditions can be ascertained (95-96). Kummel uses very little information to contradict 1,500 years of church tradition. Short of the words of others, we cannot ascertain the proof of Mark's authorship or identity but such argument can be used with many historical figures. I am not sure that it matters.

Most agree that Mark's Gospel was probably "the first of the Gospels to written." C. E. Mann says in The Anchor Bible that it was written in Rome and the author is unknown. The John Mark in Acts, Philemon, Colossians and II Timothy, might identify the author. The Roman context might be confirmed by Latin expressions, but such were found in much early literature. Other places that might have generated this Gospel include Antioch in Syria, Alexandria or anywhere in Italy, according to James L. Price's Interpreting the New Testament. Mark 7:3f indicates that this Gospel was written for Gentile readers.

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