Image of page from the 7th century Book of Durrow, from The Gospel of Mark. Trinity College Dublin
|Book||Gospel of Mark|
|Bible part||New Testament|
|Order in the Bible part||2|
|Gospel of Mark|
Jesus begins his trip to Jerusalem. Mark says that Jesus traveled into Judea across the Jordan river. After condemning sin just before in Mark 9 Jesus condemns divorce. He is teaching a crowd and they ask him if divorce is lawful; the comment that this is done to test (perhaps trick) Jesus may imply the presence of e.g. Pharisees in he crowd. Deuteronomy 24 allows a man to divorce his wife if he finds her "indecent" with simply a written writ of divorce. This is seen as a trap where Jesus either agrees with Moses and is seen as submitting to him or disagrees and shows himself in opposition to Moses. Also, Jesus has just moved into the region of Judea, across the Jordan. Both the Pharisees and Jesus would be aware that this was John the Baptist's old ground, and that John had recently been imprisoned, and then put to death as a result of his pronouncements on the topic of Herod Antipas's illegitimate marriage to his brother's wife. It is possible that the Pharisees are trying to entrap Jesus into making similar statements.
Jesus does not deal specifically with Herod's situation, but says that Moses only gave legislation concerning divorce because men's hearts were hard. Moses recognised that marital breakup was going to happen, and would rather have regulated divorce than unregulated abandonment.
- But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. (6-9)
Biblical Minimalism would tend to doubt the historicity of this story, and all times Jesus quotes passages from the Old Testament, suggesting rather that Mark is answering questions posed to him about Jesus' teachings and their accordance with Mosaic Law. It is however also found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, showing that Paul believed it was Jesus' own teaching, but see also the Pauline privilege. It was also the belief of some of the authors of the Dead Sea scrolls (Brown 141). The prohibitions are extended to a woman divorcing her husband, which shows the Gentile audience, as women divorcing men was very rare in the Jewish community.
Many Christians, especially in modern times, have not obeyed this teaching, but a general prohibition of divorce is still the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox Church except for adultery based on the similar yet slightly different passage in Matthew 5:31-32. Protestant Churches vary on their policies regarding divorce, with most more tolerant of divorce but still holding divorce as bad and unwanted.
John 8:1-11, a passage of the book whose validity is questioned, relates the story of Jesus saving the woman caught in adultery from stoning. He saves her but then tells her to stop sinning, equating adultery with sin.
Little children blessed
Immediately after discussing marriage Jesus praises children. People bring their children for Jesus to touch and bless but the disciples tell them to go away. Jesus gets angry with his disciples, as he often does in Mark when the disciples misunderstand his intentions, and says "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (15) He then touches and blesses the children. Jesus is probably using the children as a metaphor for humanities' relationship to God, innocence and childlike dependence and acceptance of God. Other surviving works from this period in history present children as unreasonable and in need of training whereas here their nature is shown as the path to God (Brown et al. 618).
The rich man and the eye of the needle
The theme of total acceptance of God is continued. Jesus continues on his journey and a rich man comes up to him and calls him a "Good teacher." (17) to which Jesus seems to disagree. "No one is good—except God alone." (18), a statement that trinitarians and non-trinitarians have used over the ages, as Jesus seems to say that he is different from God, see also Kenosis. Jesus tells him that the man already knows the commandments (could be the Ten Commandments or the Didache#The Two Ways or the 613 mitzvot), and the man tells him that he has always kept them. Jesus then ups the stakes and tells him that he should give up everything, give it to the poor, and follow him, see also Evangelical counsels. The man can not comply and goes away sad. Jesus tells everyone that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (25) This is a radical teaching, then and now, as most people naturally believe riches, especially their own, are a sign of God's favor.
Some argue that this does not mean that no rich person can enter heaven, but that the rich must humble themselves in order to achieve salvation. There is, however, debate about this among Christians.
The disciples (students) then wonder aloud if any person can fully keep Jesus' commandments. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (27) Peter says that they have given up everything to follow Jesus. Jesus says they will be rewarded with "...a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." (30) and then repeats that the first will be last and the last first. See also the Beatitudes and Discourse on ostentation#Materialism.
The reference to persecution has been interpreted by some scholars as Mark trying to bolster the faith of his audience, perhaps victims of a persecution themselves. Persecution of Christians was rare during the probable writing of the gospel however, except perhaps Nero's in Rome (64-68).
Journey to Jerusalem
They continue on to Jerusalem and Jesus makes the third prediction of the Passion:
- Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. (33-34 KJV)
This prediction contains all the elements of the Passion except for the means, crucifixion.
James and John ask Jesus to grant them a favor and he asks what it is and they ask to be his left and right hand men. Jesus says they can't handle the cup he has to drink from and the baptism he has to undergo. They reply that they can and Jesus says that to sit by Jesus in his glory has already been reserved for someone else. The apostles seem to think that great earthly glory awaits them but Jesus foreshadows his crucifixion and the two criminals that will be on each side of him. He says in verse 40 that such things, sitting at his side for instance, is not for him to grant, a verse the Arians used in their debates on the nature of Jesus (Brown et al. 618). He tells them that their goal is not power but service:
- You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (42-45)
Service to others is far more important than using power for yourself. Mark uses the Greek word lytron for ransom, a word implying buying the freedom of a criminal or slave (Brown et al. 619), with "many" being freed by Jesus' payment, his death.
They then travel to Jericho. Mark relates nothing of what went on there and they leave. This section, verse 46, is where Morton Smith claimed a copy of a letter from Clement of Alexandria, found at the Mar Saba monastery, showed a secret extension of the book called the Secret Gospel of Mark, as well as between verses 34-35. Smith said he took a photograph of the letter, but on returning to the monastery was not able to produce the actual letter, which has never been found.
As they leave the city they come upon Bartimaeus, whose name Mark then says means the son of Timaeus, translating from the Aramaic. Timaeus is the Ancient Greek of the Hebrew name Timai (Kilgallen 200). Bartimeaus is a blind beggar and calls Jesus the Son of David, recognizing him as the Messiah, the first non-possessed person besides Peter to proclaim this. In the New American Standard Bible translation he calls Jesus "the Nazarene" (10:47). In verse 51 he calls Jesus Rabboni, Aramaic for Rabbi, see also Strong's G4462. Jesus heals him and for the first time in Mark someone who Jesus has healed is allowed to follow him. This entire passage could be seen as a metaphor for Mark trying to convince his Hellenistic audience, about the nature of Christianity. They have seen the disciples, perhaps mirror's of the reader, think Jesus' kingdom will be earthly riches and power, but Mark has shown Jesus predict his death three times and shown that to follow him will entail hardship and full devotion to God. Bartimaeus regaining his sight and following Jesus is also meant to be the situation of the audience. This healing of a blind man rounds off the sequence that started in Mark 8, with a similar healing of another blind man, which contained Jesus' hardest teachings before he reaches Jerusalem in Mark 11.
Matthew has all this in 19-20 including a caveat on fornication and a praise of voluntary celibacy. He adds the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, James and John's mother asks Jesus to favor them, not the brothers themselves, and Jesus heals two unnamed blind men in Jericho.
Luke 18 has the story about the children, the story of the rich man, Jesus' Passion prediction and healing of the blind man, again unnamed, at Jericho. Luke has a small passage in Luke 16:18 with Jesus' prohibition of remarriage.
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- The Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller ed., notes for Mark 10:17-22, page 36: "To the traditional biblical commandments Jesus adds the mandates of personal sacrifice and becoming his follower."
- Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament Doubleday 1997 ISBN 0-385-24767-2
- Brown, Raymond E. et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary Pentice Hall 1990 ISBN 0-13-614934-0
- Kilgallen, John J. A Brief Commentary on the Gospel of Mark Paulist Press 1989 ISBN 0-8091-3059-9
- Mark 10 NIV & KJV Accessed 23 January 2006
- Miller, Robert J. Editor The Complete Gospels Polebridge Press 1994 ISBN 0-06-065587-9
|Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of Mark