Posts Tagged ‘Mark’

Mark 1:1 ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ’
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

“εὐαγγέλιον in the imperial cult. This is the most important usage for our purpose. Note must be taken of what is said concerning the θεῖος ἄνθρωπος (→ 712), τύχη and σωτηρία. The emperor unites all these in his own person. This is what gives εὐαγγέλιον its significance and power. The ruler is divine by nature.30 His power extends to men, to animals, to the earth and to the sea. Nature belongs to him; wind and waves are subject to him.31 He works miracles and heals men.32 He is the saviour of the world who also redeems individuals from their difficulties (→ σωτήρ). τύχη is linked up with his person; he is himself τύχη.33 He has appeared on earth as a deity in human form. He is the protective god of the state. His appearance is the cause of good fortune to the whole kingdom. Extraordinary signs accompany the course of his life. They proclaim the birth of the ruler of the world. A comet appears at his accession, and at his death signs in heaven declare his assumption into the ranks of the gods.34 Because the emperor is more than a common man, his ordinances are glad messages and his commands are sacred writings. What he says is a divine act and implies good and salvation for men. He proclaims εὐαγγέλια through his appearance, and these εὐαγγέλια treat of him (→ 713). The first evangelium is the news of his birth: ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κόσμωι τῶν διʼ αὐτὸν εὐανγελι[ων ἡ γενέθλιος] τοῦ θεοῦ.35 “The birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of the joyful messages which have gone forth because of him.” TDNT 2:724″

Ched Myers ‘ He [Mark] is serving notice that he is challenging the apparatus of imperial propagation……Mark is taking dead aim at Caesar and his legitimating myths. From the very first line, Mark’s literary strategy is revealed as subversive. Gospel is not an inappropriate title for this story, for Mark will indeed narrate a battle. But the ‘good news’ of Mark does not herald another victory by Rome’s armies; it is a declaration of war upon the political culture of empire.’ (Binding the Strong Man, 124)


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If you head over to the following page you will find details of how to receive a Cornerstone commentary on Matthew and Mark for freeon the Logos libronix platform. The logos package is an excellent tool for studying and research. This may be a good opportunity for you to get to know this wonderful piece of software. The libronix platform can be downloaded for free here.

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Is Mark’s gospel based on eyewitness testimony. Richard Bauckham revisits, in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses the case for Peter as the main eye witness source.


I want to give you two of his reasons.


  1. Inclusio of Eyewitness Testimony: The most authoritative eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus are those who were present from the beginning of his ministry (John the Baptist) until the resurrection. The gospels use a literary device called the inclusio of eyewitnesses, also used in two Greek biographies, by which the a character in the story is placed into the beginning and the end of the story, to show that he is one of the main sources of information. In Mark’s gospel Peter is mentioned in the early stages (Mark 1:16-18) and at the end (Mark 16:7).

  2. Plural to Single Narrative Devise is predominantly found in Mark’s gospel. This device is illustrated in the following verses.


        Mk 5:1-2 (NRSV) 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him.

    2. Mark 8 22 They [Plural]came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him[Singular] and begged him to touch him.

Mark 11:12 (NRSV) 12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.

Mark 14:32 (NRSV)32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”


This occurs 21 times in Mark. However this seems to be unnatural in Greek as textual variants abound which put these verses back into singular/singular, also Matthew and Luke change a good number of these verse back into singular/singular. This seems to indicate that the account is based on eyewitness testiomony in which they would say, for Mark 8:22, we came to Bethsaida. .


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Jesus continues his ministry with the gentiles  going deep into gentile territory. He is not simpply making a quick excursion over the border but is offering a sustained and willful inclusion of Gnetiels into his mission. (v31)

The description of man is in the present tense suggesting an eyewitnees. (8:22). The greek word  μογιλάλον  (mogilalos) which is translated as ‘speech imprediment’ only occurs in one other place in the bible and that is in Is 34

5 τότε ἀνοιχθήσονται ὀφθαλμοὶ τυφλῶν, καὶ ὦτα κωφῶν ἀκούσονται. 6 τότε ἁλεῖται ὡς ἔλαφος ὁ χωλός, καὶ τρανὴ ἔσται γλῶσσα μογιλάλων, ὅτι ἐρράγη ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ὕδωρ καὶ φάραγξ ἐν γῇ διψώσῃ,  LXX

  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Ww have already seen, in previous posts, how Jesus’ ministry fits into eschatological message of Isaiah. This passage adds support to that hypothesis. James Edwards comments to this eschatological message which is being fulfilled in the restoration of Israel and the ministry to the gentiles. When Jesus heals this man a signpost of the kingdom is being created. A sign which says that the kingdom is breaking in, the future has in some sense arrived in the present. This kingdom does not involve the destruction of the gentiles, but the restoration of Israel and mercy on the gentiles.

The presence of mogilalos in v. 32 links our story unmistakably to the Isaiah quotation. Since Mark is writing for Roman Gentiles, he only infrequently appeals to OT proof texts. On the few occasions when he fortifies his literary architecture with OT reinforcements, however, they are load-bearing beams. The reference to Isaiah 35 is no exception. Isaiah 35 is essentially the final chapter of the first part of Isaiah. It follows a series of chapters declaring God’s judgment of Edom, Egypt, Tyre, Israel, and Jerusalem. In chap. 35, however, the theme shifts from judgment to eschatology, and to the joy not only of the redeemed but of all creation at the revelation of the Lord. The allusion to Isaiah 35 is of supreme significance for Mark’s presentation of Jesus, not only because the restoration of speech to a mogilalos signals the eschatological arrival of the Day of the Lord but also because the desert wastelands of Lebanon (Isa 35:2) will receive the joy of God. The regions of Tyre and Sidon are, of course, precisely the Lebanon of Isaiah 35. Jesus’ healing of this particular mogilalos in the Decapolis becomes the firstfruit of the fulfillment of Isa 35:10, that Gentile Lebanon will join “the ransomed of the Lord [and] enter Zion with singing”! Salvation thus comes to the Gentile world in Jesus, who is God’s eschatological redeemer from Zion. As we have noted before, the only categories adequate for Mark to describe the person and work of Jesus are ultimately the categories of God.

Edwards, James R.: The Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England : Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002 (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), S. 224Mark 7:31-37


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Mark 7:24-30


In  the Beginning….

God created a beautiful, wonderful universe, majestic in its galaxies, all of this out of nothing. He created a place called earth which teamed with life. God saw this world and said ‘Its good, very good’, he delighted in it. In this world he placed humanity, who although made from dust was also made with the breath of God. This ‘animal’ was also an image bearer.


However, humanity messed it up. The world in its beauty became marred. Evil, ugliness and pain replacing goodness, beauty and delight.


Rescue Plan


God doesn’t just destroy the world, but he embarks on a major rescue plan. A plan by which he would call a people to himself, who would be in his image bearers. A people who would build a community who would be a light to the nations, a people who would bring healing to this broken world. They were, to steal a Tom Wright phrase, called to be a doctor to the world. These people were the covenant family, Israel.


Rescue Plan Gone Wrong


God’s covenant people, who he showered with his grace, the people he called as his servant to be a blessing, abused their position of privilege. They forsook there allegiance to YHWH and their vocation to be a blessing. Instead of being a light to the nations, they put up the walls and pronolunced judgeemnt on the outsider. God punishes Israel and sends them into exile.


Rescue Plan Redeemed


God does not give up on his rescue plan for the world.  He calls Jesus, who was filled with the Spirit of God, to reconstitute Israel around himself. The exile is over, the covenant promises are being fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. Sin is being removed, the enemy being defeated, and the Spirit of YHWH is at work to build the kingdom, restore the covenanat. Jesus followers are called, in line with the ministry of Jesus, to be a blessign to the nations.


Mark 7:24-30 we see Jesus reaches out to the outsider, to those who are classed as irrelevant or enemies of the Kingdom of God.

1) She is a gentile (note the double emphasis on this in v26)

2) She is a woman (In the cultural context women were often despised)

3) Her daughter has a demon (She is unclean)


Gentiles were often seen as being ‘dogs’. v27

To refer to a human being as a ‘dog’ is deliberately offensive or dismissive (cf. 2 Sa. 16:9; Ps. 22:16; Phil. 3:2); Jews typically referred to Gentiles as dogs. The diminutive form (used in biblical literature only in this pericope), perhaps indicates the status of the dogs in Jesus’ image as dogs of the house rather than of the yard, but it does not remove the harshness of picturing Gentiles en masse as ‘dogs’ as opposed to ‘children’. It is the sort of language a Gentile might expect from a Jew, but to find it in a saying of Jesus is shocking.

 France, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 298

Although Jesus appears to buy into the ethnocentric racism of the day- he doesn’t. He gives priority to the mission for Israel (Is 49:6) but offers healing and restoration of this gentile outsider. In Mark Jesus’ parables are often misunderstood but she understands it, even responding in way which carries on  the parable.

This woman’s contending with Jesus is a fulfillment of Israel’s vocation; she, a Gentile, is a true Israelite. Martin Luther, who himself contended much with God, found in the story of the Syrophoenician woman a great wonder and comfort. She, said Luther, asked for no more than her due. “She took Christ at his own words. He then treated her not as a dog but as a child of Israel.”

Edwards, James R.: The Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England : Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002 (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), S. 222

As a church we are united to Christ, and share with him the vocation to be a light to the nations. Like Jesus though, the story of the gospel, is tied in the the story of Israel. To lose the story of ‘Israel’ in our presentation of the gospel is to distort it.



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Mark 7:14-23 (ESV)
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”


(Random notes on the Passage)

IF you keep the law then your in, your part of the community. If you don’t keep the law then you are an outsider. This is the issue Paul faced in Galatia and it is an issue which Jesus spoke about in this passage.

  The enemy, as with modern western imperialism, is located outside of oneself- whether the enemy be the communists of the cold war or Islamists of the 21st century.  Jews located the enemy as being Rome. Rome was the political, military and economic superpower.  Some Jews wanted to see the arrival of the kingdom of God in the destruction of Rome (and Gentiles). If you are are a loyal Jew then you had to keep up the covenant boundary markers so that it was clear who was loyal, who was in, and who was outside and apostate. The enemy and uncleaness come from without.


Jesus turns this upside down. Uncleanness, and the enemy, are found with the covenant people, within the individual.  Jesus responds by saying that all the ‘evils’ of the gentiles are found in the hearts of these extreme law keepers.  Israel were always called to be a light to the nations, yet the law which was supposed to be a blessing is now being used to define who are the enemy. Jesus challenges the religious assumptions of the day, showing that sin is found within each person.


Application: As a church, a covenant community, we must remember that evil is found within each person. We simply can’t just point the finger at those outside (liberals, secularists) without recognising that we, along with them, are broken messed up people. The church can also be confident that the ‘Lord will have mercy upon us because of his unfailing love’.


It may be appropriate to end with a puritan prayer. Taken from


Confession and Petition

Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find Thy mind in Thy Word, of neglect to seek Thee in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless Thee that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do Thou rule over me in liberty and power.

I thank Thee that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have, I have prayed from lusts and been rejected, I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on with Thy patient work, answering ‘no’ to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to Thy rule. I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction. Deliver me from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of Thy grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in Thee. Then I shall bless Thee, , for helping me to be upright.


1 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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Mark 7:1-13 (ESV)
1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Christians are different to kangaroos. Kangaroos don’t seem to spend hours preparing a piece of music for other kangaroos to enjoy. Neither do kangaroos plant bombs on kangaroos who have different ideological commitments. Humans have potential to do beautiful creative acts and the ability to instil terror into others.
Human beings are able to ‘exclude’ others and ’embrace’ others. This is true in our religious practises, we can exclude people or we can embrace them.

Now as a Christian should we exclude or embrace?

We may straight away want to answer and say ’embrace’ but matters are more complicated for exclusion and embrace often go hand in hand. To embrace those of a different ethnic grouping may involve the exclusion of the racist. To embrace ‘environmental issues’ brings with it an exclusion of those who don’t agree. Exclusion is not merely to be understood as putting someone out of the community but a recognition that part of their behaviour, attitude or lifestyle is inappropriate.

God had called his people Israel to be blessing to the world, alight to the nations. The law was intended to aid in this task. Yet the Pharisees took the law of embrace and instead used it to correct a wall around themselves. Jesus (v13) says that although they keep traditions they violate the word of God. The Pharisees did not embrace the ‘honouring of their parents’ but embraced the traditions of man.

As a church in a post-Christian society we must hold lightly to all church traditions. Our allegiance is to the word of God, and this is intended to be a missional calling. If our traditions get in the way of our missional calling then we should reject them.

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