The Book of Mark -- One Student's View
An Essay for Humanities Courses That Treat The Bible As A
MARK'S THEOLOGY REFLECTED IN WRITING
Mark and the other evangelists used basically five ways to
change, edit or enhance Jesus' sayings to reflect their own
views of Christianity. According to the Five Gospels Book,
plagiarism and changing of writing was not a crime, but
actually very common Mark's time. Besides, Mark never knew
Jesus first-hand, he somehow had to make a 'story' from
Mark groups different parables and sayings of Jesus by
topic; making a false impression that these things happened
in order. This may have little effect on changing the
meaning of the lesson, however it illustrates the fact that
Mark was trying to author a "readable" story for people,
rather than a book of facts. The best example would be in
Mark 10:17-31 (Jesus Counsel to the Rich) & (Parable of The
Camel and the Eye of a Needle). It is doubtful that these
things happened at the same time; however, they are GREY in
The Five Gospels anyway ... and probably didn't happen as
Mark describes. This brings us to Mark's writing style.
Mark seems to "tack-on" sentences to Jesus' teachings to
make them more "Christian." This really changes the meaning
more than any other tactic! Who knows what Mark may have
edited-out to accomplish what he wanted to impress upon his
readers? In this, he tries to interpret the meaning of
Jesus' actions ... and does this in a misleading way! For
example: Mark 2:19, Jesus regarding Fasting. Jesus makes a
strong statement against importance to fasting, but Mark
(in 2:20) tags on:
"But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken
away from them, and they will fast in those days."
This blatantly shows that Mark held higher regard for the
Old Traditions of Fasting rather than Jesus' new teachings!
This is also an example of "Christianizing Jesus" according
to traditions that have already earned respect from Jews in
their tradition. (Wow, this is starting to sound like a
fight between Today's Political Parties, isn't it?! [Jesus
= Liberal Politics / Judaism = Conservative Politics]).
Finally, Mark likes to "soften the blow" of Jesus' Hard
sayings. He does this for probably the same reason Paul
preached that Circumcision was not required for Christians.
A good example is The Unforgivable Sin (Mark 3:28-). Jesus
clearly states that words against the Holy Spirit are
unforgivable. However, Mark adds that "all things are
possible with God," which softens this harsh rule!
MARK & THE PAROUSIA
Mark lived during the Jewish War of 66-70 ADE. Unlike the
later evangelists, Matthew and Luke, Mark believed the
Parousia was upon us, about to happen at any time! And, for
obvious reason: he lived in an extremely troubled time for
the Jews, and he had not been worried yet by the Parousia's
delay as were later evangelists.
Mark 13:4 - 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what
will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?'
According to Mark's writing, Jesus first predicts the
destruction of the Temple. However, Mark had written after
the destruction of the Temple in 70 ADE! This tactic agrees
with The Five Gospels: writing apocalyptic sayings of Jesus
after they have already been "fulfilled." I would suppose
he did this to give credit to his writing of the second
coming of God.
An example is the parable of The Fig Tree in Mark 13:28-37.
This addition, obviously written by Mark and not said by
Jesus, shows the urgency in which Mark expected the
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means
pass away till all these things take place."
You can easily see why the other evangelists, Matthew, Luke
& John, re-wrote Mark's apocalyptic writing to be more of a
"Sacred Time," and less definite.
Mark used a common tactic of quoting scripture (especially
Dan, Isa, Mic & some Psalms) for his apocalyptic writing.
We also saw this in Paul's letters years before. People
regarded scripture as fact, therefore a perfect tool to
give credit to Mark's & Paul's new writing!
Our own culture today is wrapped-up in tradition and Bible
quotes as undisputable fact, even though people twist these
things to promote their own interests! My own family
justifies their hatred for gays by quoting the Bible; they
justify a "Woman's Place" by using the Bible; they justify
their racism through the Bible (saying that "Love your
Brother" could only possibly refer to people of your own
color, because your brother could not possibly be of
another color); they justify violent punishment for
criminals by using the Bible; they choose their political
party according to their actions being as conservative as
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish that my
own community was not still living in the dark-ages.
THE PARABLE: THE UNFORGIVING SLAVE
This parable reflects a part of our American Lifestyle that
is very Un-Jesus! Our culture, our government and our
judiciary system thrives on punishment; at least we don't
still have debtors' prison!
Contrary to Mark's interpretation of this parable, I belive
it represents a type of perfect love for one's neighbor
that is reflected in Jesus' Kingdom of God. Rather than
forcing a rule upon the reader, as Mark does, Jesus meant
it to be a story where the listener may choose an
appropriate mode of behavior; for forgiveness cannot be
compromised without undesirable consequences.
Instead, Mark adds a Threat to the end of the parable
(which is obviously NOT the words of Jesus)!
"That's what your heavenly Father will do to you, unless
you find it in your heart to forgive ..."
I find in many examples that Jesus wanted to have his
followers think for themselves, and make choices according
to their own conscious; He only made sayings and parables
to aid followers in finding the truth for themselves (much
like Socrate's tactic for the finding of Truth or Justice).
Mark, for his own reasons, felt that it was his duty to
attach every saying of Jesus with a command or threat ...
therefore making God seem vindictive! CONCLUSION:
COMPARISON TO MY FIRST PAPER
I remember that when I wrote my first paper, I made a point
to discuss quotes from Jesus that seemed foreign to my
traditional feeling for Jesus. I wanted to see something in
Jesus that I never knew before! Well, I was surprised to
find that these same quotes turned- up to be mostly Pink in
the Five Gospels (some grey, but no black)!
My first quote of Jesus was from Matthew 12:49-50; Jesus
refers to the multitudes as his mother and brothers. This
turned-up pink in the Five Gospels. I thought that this
quote represented Jesus as a God on a equal level with his
followers, creating a sense of community (I think that if
Jesus were around today (and wasn't in an asylum), he would
be a Communist). To me, this contradicts today's church of
authority, having Bishops, Deacons, etc. Next, I quoted a
few of Jesus' words to live by in chapters 6 and 7 of
Matthew. Most of these quotes turned up pink, however a few
were mixed with grey, showing the additions of Matthew's
redaction. I noted in my paper that I felt these rules were
simple & logical ways to lead a happy and loving lifestyle,
rather than hard rules that we are used to.
The next two quotes I used (Matthew 12:13 - Jesus Breaking
the Sabbath) (Mark 15:1-15 - Jesus' dealing with P. Pilate)
were grey and black in the Five Gospels. The interesting
point to this is that these are the two quotes in which I
criticized Jesus' actions. I made points that I thought
Jesus was a hypocrite in preaching to keep Jewish Law, and
at the same time, break the Sabbath! I also seriously
questioned Matthew's interpretation that P. Pilate tried to
save Jesus, knowing that Pilate was not a friend to the
Jews! It is refreshing to me to find these quotes in grey &
black, because they were very confusing to me in forming an
opinion about Jesus.
I have enjoyed this assignment because I really feel like I
am getting to understand the Historical New Testament! I
tested my knowledge of Jesus by reading his quotes from my
New King James Version Bible, and tried to spot additions
that were not Jesus', and by guessing the color of some of
his quotes. In checking back with The Five Gospels, I found
myself to be pretty darn accurate! Amazing!