Monday, July 23, 2012

1.3 Mark continues

I sent off my draft of the first Jesus book to Wesleyan Publishing House yesterday.  It's probably a little too long which is a potential pain. It's sometimes easier to write from scratch than to edit down something, but we'll see what they say.

So now back to the second book, toward which I've written two posts, the last of which is here.  The first book was about Jesus: The Essentials, the basics or core of Jesus. I'm sure WPH will come up with a better title. The second volume is then about the specific presentations of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. No doubt the outline will develop but here's my basic sense of the second volume:

1. Mark's Basic Story
2. The Hidden Jesus (special themes in Mark)
3. The Virgin Birth (Matthew and Luke)
4. The New Moses (Matthew's 5 sermons)
5. Jesus the Rabbi (special themes in Matthew)
6. God's Movement (Luke's history of God's doings)
7. Jesus the Savior (special themes in Luke)
8. Signs and Glory (John's different approach)
9. Jesus the Way (special themes in John)
10. Jesus the Divine Word (John and beyond)

Now to continue Mark...
Mark 1:1 begins with a simple enough statement: "The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah." The NIV2011 translates the opening verse well for a couple reasons. First, the phrase "good news" is better than "gospel" because it would be easy for us to think that Mark is only saying that this verse was beginning the Gospel of Mark.  But when Mark wrote, the idea of a gospel book hadn't happened yet.

In fact, it may very well be that the idea of a gospel book started right here, with the way Mark worded this verse: "the beginning of the gospel."  Mark meant the beginning of the good news, but it's easy enough to see how some later reader would think of the whole book as a gospel, a new type of literature or genre. If an ancient person had found a scroll of Mark on the street and picked it up, no doubt they would have thought of it as some kind of biography.

Of course there is no birth story.  This might have seemed as odd to an ancient person as it does to us.  How do you have a biography without a birth story?

Then again, we look for different things in the childhood of a famous person than the ancients did. We live in the shadow of Freud, where we want to know the "formative influences" on a child. How did her parents treat her? What kind of a relationship did she have with her mother?

The ancients saw identity in much more fatalistic terms. If the child later became great, there must have been signs of greatness from the very beginning, surely. Were there notable omens at the time of birth? What early indications were there of the later greatness?

Mark simply begins with Jesus' baptism by John.  He hits the ground running with this compact, first gospel. In chapter 4, I'll give some of the reasons why most think Mark was the first of the gospels we now have. Of course we can speculate that some of the traditions about Jesus were written down before Mark, but Mark is the earliest we have for sure.

The good news is about Jesus, the Messiah.  The NIV2011 goes with the Hebrew version of the word "Christ."  Messiah means, "anointed one," and has clear connotations of Jesus' kingship.  Christ is simply the Greek translation of it. Many manuscripts also have "Son of God" here, which is also a royal title that comes from the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 2; 2 Sam. 7:14)...


James E. Snapp, Jr. said...


Just a couple of notes: istm that Mark did not include a birth-narrative because of the limitations of his source-material. Mark's main source was the recollections of Peter; the narrative-content of Mark consists primarily of things that either happened when Peter was on the scene, or when someone Peter knew well was on the scene (and would be likely to have told Peter about the events involved). Given Mark's high level of dependence upon Peter, we should not /expect/ birth-narratives; we should expect instead what we have: after a brief introduction that provides some background about John the Baptist and Jesus' baptism and temptations, Peter is introduced, and from there on, for the most part, the reader tags along with him.

Also, regarding the phrase "Son of God" in 1:1, I enthusiastically recommend the inclusion of the phrase. I also enthusiastically recommend *not* repeating the one-sided and inadequate annotations in NIV2011.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Ken Schenck said...

I haven't looked into the variant enough to have a firm opinion. I noticed that the SBL Greek New Testament omits it. I suppose just off the cuff, it seems more likely to me that someone would add it than take it out. There's no problem of course with it being there--personally I would prefer if it was. I deliberately didn't take a position in my wording.

quadrilateral shapes said...

A quadrilateral is a polygon with four sides (or edges) and four vertices or corners. Sometimes, the term quadrangle is used, by analogy with triangle, and sometimes tetragon for consistency with pentagon (5-sided), hexagon (6-sided) and so on.