Day 21 (Mark v. Matthew)

Today’s reading from Mark moves the action for the rural northern area of Israel, Galilee, to the big city, Jerusalem. I think of it a evangelist/faith healer who started out in places like Selma, Memphis and Montgomery and then made a march on Washington, D.C.

What I noticed about Mark is that it includes fewer teachings of Jesus than Matthew, and many fewer references to prophecies. E.g., Mark just has Jesus ride in on one animal, while Matthew felt the need to include two. Also, something curious about Mark, there were so many stories of healing in Galilee, but I haven’t read any after he got to Jerusalem.

3 replies on “Day 21 (Mark v. Matthew)”

Me again (Bob Howard).
1) Mark does things with geography, for a narrative purpose. First of all, he doesn't know beans about the layout of Palestine. Has Jesus and crew trekking 50 miles in 10 minutes (or the equivalent). However, for Mark, space has meaning: Galilee is where Jesus does his thing as walking-talking "reign of God." Galilee is the reservation, the hollers of Appalachia — where the po folks live. That's where the God-man Jesus hits ground first. Then he goes to Jerusalem, religious center of the world, where they should know better, and gets strung up.
2) Matthew includes more teaching (in 5 carefully-arranged large sections) because he portrays Jesus as a new Moses giving a new Torah for a new Israel. Mark sees Jesus as the invasion of God's "kingdom" (Greek: "basileia" – rule or reign of God) into this human reality. He "exorcises" bodies, minds, spirits, social attitudes, and finally even the Temple in Jerusalem (the same Greek word used for his tossing out the moneychangers and their ilk is what Mark uses for Jesus exorcising the demons: casting out). Mark sees Jesus pinned to a Cross as the epitome of human arrogant folly trying to enforce institutionalized religion instead of "seeking God's kingdom," and the triumph of said "basileia" reign of God by the very weakness of the "Son of Man" (Daniel's powerful rescuer of Israel, throwing out the oppressors) permitting himself to be crucified, and being raised out of stone, cold death to new life to proclaim that we who follow should not imitate the power-games of those who (think they) run the world. Thus his upbraiding of the two brothers trying to get in good with the head guy.

I asked a pastor who is also a professor of storytelling if he thought folks who heard Biblical stories were more sophisticated in how they processed stories. He agreed that they probably were. At a minimum, they did not have the "just the facts" attitude that is our default posture.

I know that Mark's Greek was pretty rudimentary. Using geography to shape his story sounds more literary. Perhaps the storylistening skills of his primarily illiterate audience is the explanation.

Oh, don't sell Mark short! Mark has gotten a bad rap. He is a consummate literary-theological artist! He has carefully crafted a story operating on two levels, one to bring folks into Christianity, the other to challenge Christians to deeper discipleship. He uses narration, characterization, setting, plotting, and symbolism to accomplish his feat — and thereby created a unique literary genre: the "gospel."
Bob Howard

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