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The Gospel of Mark

We do a great disservice to the New Testament when we read the Gospels synoptically, as if they were all one large book with just a few variations between them. If you are not used to reading the NT, may I suggest you read each Gospel on its own merits and begin with Mark. (and whilst Talmage's Jesus the Christ is a monumental work, I am sorry that more Latter-day Saints seem to have read him than the NT itself!)

Mark is considered to be the first Gospel to have been written (c. 65-70 AD), by a Jew in the Diaspora. It is a stark book: no Nativity, no Sermon on the Mount, and it has a fairly bleak ending. In Mark, Jesus appears almost from nowhere. He gathers disciples, but for the most part they have no idea who he is. Sometimes his healing power is restricted. He says uncomfortable things about his family, about divorce, about non-Jews. He keeps his identity secret. His hometown rejects him and God abandons him, his last words full of despair, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"

The earliest manuscripts of Mark ended at 16:8, the following verses being later additions intended to soften the blow of verse 8. But it is this verse that is full of meaning for me: the women found the empty tomb and then "fled from the sepulchre...for they were afraid". This should be a powerful image for Christians--Christ has conquered death and hell, and his resurrection is real, but we are left alone, "afraid". This rings true to me: have I seen the Risen Lord? No. Have I felt the prints in his hands? No. The tomb is empty, the Lord is not here, we are (almost) alone.

This is why Mark is the most realistic of the Gospels. Like the blind man whom the Lord touched but who could not immediately see (8:23-26), so am I. Like Peter, who proclaimed, "Thou art the Christ", but who was still eons away from a perfect knowledge, so am I.

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Blogger Kim Siever said ... (February 14, 2005 10:05 PM) 

And it's short to boot.


Blogger Geoff J said ... (February 14, 2005 10:05 PM) 

Nice post, Ronan. I hadn't heard that 16:8 thing before... where did you learn that?

May I suggest a different reason for their fear? It seems to me the fear might have been from a realization that Jesus really was God and therefore all those difficult things he commanded them to do would be binding.

The reason I suspect this is because they already knew they were going to be alone -- they saw Jesus die with their own eyes. Plus I'm afraid sometimes when I think of my weaknesses...


Blogger john f. said ... (February 15, 2005 12:27 AM) 

For a little more practical take: they were afraid because they didn't know what happened to his body and they thought that the Sanhedrin had interfered.


Anonymous J. Stapley said ... (February 15, 2005 4:04 PM) 

Like the blind man whom the Lord touched but who could not immediately seeVery moving.


Anonymous VeritasLiberat said ... (February 16, 2005 12:48 AM) 

I read somewhere a theory that John chap. 21 was originally the "ending" to Mark. Anyone else heard of this?


Blogger Ronan said ... (February 16, 2005 8:09 AM) 

Mr. Siever: Yes, short is (often) good.

Geoff: I teach a college NT course so I'm full of useless information.

Fowles: Sure, why not? Even Mark is enigmatic in his description of the guy who told them that Jesus was gone--"a young man dressed in white". Well, young men dressed in white were two-a-penny. If he meant "angel", he could have said "angel".

Veritas: never heard that, but I'll look into it.


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