Lectionary Year B
June 29, 2003
Mark 5:21-43

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - Mark 5:1-20 tell, first, of a strong and disorderly demoniac from the graveyard(s) in the area of the Gerasenes where Jesus goes to preach. The man approached Jesus, calling to Him who had ordered an evil spirit out of one other such man, evidently known to this man. Jesus asked his name and he said, "My name is Legion, for we are many". The man requested Jesus rid him of the evil spirit(s) and to let them invade a herd of swine which ran over a cliff and fell into the sea to their death. When the people heard the report of the cleansing and the pigs' deaths, they came and observed the renewed former demoniac who wanted to go with Jesus as He began to travel on. However, Jesus told him to go home and tell family and friends how Jesus had helped/healed him. He did so and much beyond there, as well.

Post - Mark 6 begins reporting that Jesus and His disciples went to Nazareth where, when He began to teach on the Sabbath in the synagogue, the on-lookers were astounded. They questioned His identity/family background and took offense at His expertise. Jesus then said, "Prophets are not without honor except in their hometowns . . ." Their unbelief surprised Jesus and He could then heal only a few before leaving there.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole

(JFC) As noted repeatedly in these pages, "Mark's objective is to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God", (Schweizer). This Gospel, chapters 1-9, especially, seems to record collected traditions of Jesus' life, preaching, teachings and healings. 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 and execution 6:14-29 and the Pharisees' opposition to Jesus at 3:6. Vincent Taylor's The Gospel According to Saint Mark seems to have the most detailed "Plan and Arrangement of the Gospel". It identifies the Introduction as in 1:1-13, the Galilean Ministry from 1:14 to 6:13, the Ministry Beyond Galilee from 6:14 to 8:26, Caesarea Philippi: the Journey to Jerusalem from 8:27 to 10:52, the Ministry in Jerusalem from 11:1 to 13:37 and the Passion and Resurrection Narrative concludes the outline. From the plot to arrest Jesus to His entombment, we get more detailed descriptions. Jesus' passion and death seem to be the goal toward which this work aims. Mark's 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. Furthermore, Lamar Williamson, Jr., in the Interpretation commentary series, says, "The Gospel of Mark is . . . a combination of traditions about Jesus presented in story form, a narrative constituting good news about God and his kingdom, and a writing which occupies a place of fundamental importance in the scriptures of the church."

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) As previously reported here in Bi 216 on line, the Gospel of Mark was probably "the first of the Gospels committed to writing", as C. E. Mann says in The Anchor Bible. Although Taylor has no doubt that "Mark, the attendant of Peter . . . the John Mark of the Acts and the companion of Paul" wrote this Gospel, the author is really unknown. The John Mark in Acts, Philemon, Colossians & II Timothy, might be the author. It was possibly written in Rome. The Roman context seems to be supported by Latin expressions, although such extractions were found in much literature of that era. 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. 7:3f indicate that this Gospel was written for Gentile readers. And, recall that we have seen in these pages, "In the MacArthur Study Bible, the following quote from Papias, the bishop of Hieropolis, written around 140 CE, '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'." Some date in the 60's is likely since there is no very direct mention of Jerusalem's destruction in 70.

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