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PHIL 206 (STOLZE) Notes on the Literary Structure of the Gospel according to Mark (based on Mark Allen Powell, What is Narrative Criticism? [Minneapolis:

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Presentation on theme: "PHIL 206 (STOLZE) Notes on the Literary Structure of the Gospel according to Mark (based on Mark Allen Powell, What is Narrative Criticism? [Minneapolis:"— Presentation transcript:

1 PHIL 206 (STOLZE) Notes on the Literary Structure of the Gospel according to Mark (based on Mark Allen Powell, What is Narrative Criticism? [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1990] and Ched Myers, “Mark: Invitation to Discipleship”)

2 First-Century Galilee

3 Three Kinds of Settings in the Gospel according to Mark Spatial Settings (e.g., movement along the “way” [1:2, 3, 6:8, 10:32]) Temporal Settings (e.g., “the time is fulfilled” [1:14]) Social Settings (e.g., the politics of Roman imperial occupation, status and class divisions, patriarchy)

4 The Imperial Gospel of Caesar Augustus “The most divine [Lord]…we should consider equal to the Beginning of all things. For when everything was falling into disorder, he restored order once more and gave to the whole world a new aura. Caesar, the common Good Fortune of all, …[t]he beginning of life and vitality…[A]ll the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year….Whereas the Providence which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us the emperor Augustus, whom Providence filled with virtue [power] for the welfare of humankind and who, being sent to us and our descendants as our Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and whereas, having become god-manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times…in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…; and whereas the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel concerning him, [therefore let a new era begin from his birth].” (From Orientis graeci inscriptiones selectae, vol. 2, ed. W. Dittenberger [Leibzig, ), no Translated and quoted in Richard Horsley, “The Gospel of the Savior’s Birth,” in Christmas Unwrapped: Consumerism, Christ, and Culture, edited by Richard Horsley and James Tracy [Harrisburg, PA, 2001], p. 116.)

5 An Example of Judean Resistance to Roman Imperial Rule “As procurator of Judaea Tiberius sent Pilate, who during the night, secretly and under cover, conveyed to Jerusalem the images of Caesar known as standards. When day dawned this caused great excitement among the Jews; for those who were near were amazed at the sight, which meant that their laws had been trampled on—they do not permit any graven image to be set up in the City—and the angry City mob was joined by a huge influx of people from the country. They rushed off to Pilate in Caesarea, and begged him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to respect their ancient customs. When Pilate refused, they fell prone all round his house and remained motionless for five days and nights. The next day Pilate took his seat on the tribunal in the great stadium and summoned the mob on the pretext that he was ready to give them an answer. Instead he gave a pre- arranged signal to the soldiers to surround the Jews in full armour, and the troops formed a ring three deep. The Jews were dumbfounded at the unexpected sight, but Pilate, declaring that he would cut them to pieces unless they accepted the images of Caesar, nodded to the soldiers to bare their swords. At this the Jews as though by agreement fell to the ground in a body and bent their necks, shouting that they were ready to be killed rather than transgress the Law. Amazed at the intensity of their religious fervour, Pilate ordered the standards to be removed from Jerusalem forthwith.” (From Josephus, The Jewish War, p Translated by G. A. Williamson, revised by E. Mary Smallwood. NY: Penguin, 1981.)

6 Tendencies within First-Century Judaism (1) Sadducees = elite Judeans who were strong advocates for the Temple cult in Jerusalem; they were largely in charge of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the council that advised the high priest concerning policy and served as a kind of liaison with the Roman authorities, e.g., Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Pharisees = Judeans who were strongly committed to maintaining the purity laws set forth in the Torah and who developed their own carefully nuanced laws to help them do so. For example, Rabbi Hillel was approached by a pagan who promised him that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could recite the entire Torah to him while standing on one leg. Hillel replied as follows: “Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you. That is the whole of the Torah: go and learn it.”

7 Tendencies within First-Century Judaism (2) Essenes = Judeans who had serious disagreements with both Sadducees and Pharisees: they regarded the former as corrupt leaders and the latter as too lax in their interpretation of the Torah. They formed monastic-like communities in which they could preserve their own purity apart from the rest of Judaism and the outside world, were apocalyptic in that they expected God soon to intervene to overthrow the forces of evil (including evil leadership in Jerusalem). This was likely the group that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in in earthenware jars in caves east of Jerusalem in the wilderness area near the Western shore of the Dead Sea--an area today called Qumran. The Fourth Philosophy (among these were the so-called Zealots, as they were known later during the revolt against Rome) = political radicals who were “zealous” for the law and urged armed rebellion against the Romans to take back the land God had promised to his people. They fled from Galilee especially to Jerusalem during the early stages of the CE Jewish revolt against Rome, overthrew the priestly aristocracy in the city, and led armed opposition to the Roman legions that ultimately resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple in 70 CE.

8 The Parable about the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32) [Jesus] also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

9 Components of Literary Structure sentences (the basic building blocks of discourse); episodes (a series of related sentences around a common event or theme); minor sequences (episodes that are linked around a theme or plot development); major sequences (a "sequence of sequences" articulating a continuing plot line of the story); overall architectural pattern (this can sometimes define a genre).

10 The Major and Minor Literary Sequences of the Gospel of Mark 1:1-20 Prologue/call to discipleship 1:21-3:35 First campaign of challenge: around Capernaum 4:1-34 First sermon: parables 4:35-8:10 First campaign of affirmation: around the Sea of Galilee 8:11-21 Symbolic epilogue to first half The second half of the story (8:31-16:8) deals with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and its consequences, and focuses on Jesus’ teaching and the cost of discipleship: 8:22-9:13 Second prologue/call to discipleship (the “confessional crisis”) 9:14-10:52 Second campaign of affirmation: from Bethany to Jerusalem 11:1-12:44 Second campaign of challenge: around the Jerusalem temple 13:1-37 Second sermon: apocalypse and parables 14:1-15:39 Arrest and execution of Jesus (Passion narrative) 15:40-16:8 Symbolic epilogue to second half

11 Symmetry in the Two Halves of the Gospel Narrative Sequence Book I Book II A) Prologue/call to discipleship 1:1-20 8:22- 9:13 B) Campaign of challenge 1:21-3:35 11:1-12:44 C) Extended sermon 4: :1-37 D) Campaign of affirmation 4:35-8:10 9:14-10:52 E) “Passion” tradition 6: :1- 15:39 F) Symbolic epilogue 8: :40- 16:8

12 The Main Plot (and Three Subplots) of the Gospel of Mark Main Plot = Jesus’ messianic mission (properly understood as one of suffering and death not political/military triumph!) First Subplot = Jesus’ attempts to create and consolidate a discipleship community (the Kingdom of God as the construction of an alternative social order) Second Subplot = Jesus’ liberative ministry of healing, exorcism, and proclamation (solidarity with the poor) Third Subplot = Jesus’ confrontation with the dominant social order


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