Saturday, May 12, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 2

I don't have to say it but it was a long day. This picture seriously depicted what I felt like at the end of it all!

There was a lot to cover, which we did but we barely grazed the overview of the gospel of Mark and then to only reached Mark 1:18 in our study by the end of the day.

I have not done any book study on Mark before. Here are several distinct characteristics of the gospel that I find interesting.
  • Mark uses very limited vocabulary. If you compare Mark with Luke and Matthew, the Greek in Mark is easier to understand. It very often uses words like "and", "again" and "immediately".
  • The grammar in Mark is very interesting. It uses what is referred to as "historical present", a tense that is lost in our translation because it would have been grammatically “corrected” into past tense. Mark uses the present tense in the narrative accounts that happened in the past, and this helps gives a very dramatic effect to the accounts. It is a very effective form of communication, vivid with very powerful descriptions of events.*
  • It contains very interesting descriptive details not found in the other gospels. It may not necessary give the narratives a good flow in reading but it certainly makes it very colourful. For example, in Mark 2, the passage about Jesus healing a paralytic man has many interesting details, and Mark can even border on being verbose about it. Therefore, the narrator could have be an eye witness, i.e. Peter, whom Mark must have obtain the account from, must have been an eye witness. Scriptures in those times were read aloud - you can therefore imagine the impact of such a dramatic account of Jesus' life and ministry among the people.
  • It also has many emotional details in his description. For instance, in Mark 1:40-41, Jesus was moved with pity or even anger, according to certain manuscript.
  • One of the major theme in Mark is discipleship. The authority of Jesus is also very strongly seen in the gospel.
  • Mark is not written chronologically but has a thematic flow in his writing.
  • Mark paints in quite a negative sense the people who followed Jesus.
  • The evangelist uses a sandwich technique in writing. For example, the account of Jairus who approached Jesus to heal his daughter sandwiches another incident in the center, i.e. the healing of the unclean woman who only wanted to touch Jesus to be healed. What is Mark trying to tell us about Jairus by using the woman's account?
  • Even though Mark is a narrative, it is a highly structure piece of work.
  • Vincent Taylor (1900s) through form criticism has segregated from Mark (1) pronouncement stories, (2) miracle stories, (3) stories about Jesus, (4) Markan construction, (5) summay statements, and (6) sayings and parables.
Picture by Gözde Otman

*Note: I don't know but I sometimes write in the "historical present" sense myself, especially when I write about biblical passages, because I see it as living and active. For example, I would write "Paul says that ..." rather than "Paul said that ..." because Paul is still saying whatever he is saying to me right now. I got faulted on that in one of my OT papers not long ago, which I am not very happy about, but I don't think I will want to change the way I write.


  1. Pearlie,
    I always appreciate how Mark sounds so exciting - like he hits the ground running. I'll look for these other attributes next time I read it.

  2. And duh, of course Paul still "says" that. I can't imagine saing he "said" that because the Bible speaks to us now.

  3. like he hits the ground running
    I like this description of him :)