Summary Mark Chapter 3

Chapter 3 has some interesting points.

We start with the man with the withered hand. Jesus backs the Pharisees into a corner, forcing them that it’s acceptable to do good on the Sabbath. So he heals the man’s hand, and the Pharisees leave muttering (most likely) and plotting to kill Jesus. One point about this is that Jesus gets angry at them. This is the first, but won’t be the last, time Jesus gets angry in Mark’s gospel.

This anger may be one of the more interesting aspects of this gospel. Jesus portrayed as often being on the edge of losing his cool with people, both his followers and others. It’s a very human quality, and one that does not make the transition to later gospels. This tells me it has a ring of truth to it: face it, by the time we get to John, Jesus is a pretty detached figure, understanding and accepting the horrible fate in store for him. IOW, the anger, and the humanity was a bit embarrassing, so it was eased out of the tradition. This is the opposite of what happened with John the Baptist. Jesus’ relationship with the Baptist was, supposedly, embarrassing to the early church and so it got downplayed. But that’s not true: John has a bigger role for the Baptist than Mark, which is not the way it should work. Jesus’ humanity, OTOH, does get eased out of the tradition.

Then we have more travels along the Sea of Galilee.  Again, we have more expulsion of demons, and, again, Jesus insists that they not proclaim that he is the Son of God. Now, this is the first time Jesus is called this in Mark’s gospel. In fact, this is the only time Jesus is called this in Mark’s gospel, aside from the opening line, and it’s entirely plausible that was tacked on later. The similarity of this passage to the earlier one, with the change to Son of God from “holy one of God”, makes this seem suspiciously like a later addition.

But one point remains: we are told, again, of the size of crowds that Jesus attracted, and on a consistent basis.

Next we get the whole issue of The Twelve. Did they really exist? Or was this a later invention? Or was it just the names that were invented? That the twelve were to represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel is beyond doubt; whether Jesus actually instituted a group of twelve is entirely a different matter.

Finally, at the end, we get the whole scene that includes “those beside him”, who may or may not be his relatives, but his relatives–mother, unnamed, brothers and (interpolated?) sisters–definitely show up later. This passage feels jumbled, like some parts of it are out of order. Maybe this is scribal error, but the ms traditions don’t support this, unless it happened very early on. Anyway, we are told that someone–those beside him–thought that Jesus had lost his senses.

Now, the implications of all this are a little more straightforward: the whole notion of virgin birth had not been invented yet. Paul appears to have been unfamiliar with it; Mark seems to be as well. It does not show up until Matthew. Thus, I think we can say with certainty that the virgin birth does not trace back to the very beginnings, but was added on later. The same cannot be said of Jesus’ death and Resurrection; those are clearly part of the story from a very early time, showing up repeatedly in the two letters of Paul we’ve discussed.

But the true point of this passage is the end: the human, biological family is not what matters any more. So, just as in Chapter 2 we had Jesus apparently separating himself from mainstream Judaism (MSJ), here we have Jesus separating himself from something like mainstream life. This is, IMO, at least potentially the most radical notion, and the most original concept we have seen so far.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on January 26, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel, Summary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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