Summary Mark Chapter 10

Note: This will be my 100th post on this site. To date, I’ve had about 1,400 hits. Granted, it’s taken about 15 months, but I have to admit that when I first started, I wasn’t sure what sort of reception I’d get. I have to say, I’m a bit surprised, and very, very, gratified and very, very grateful to all of you who come ’round to read what I have written.


OK, back to the substance.

Perhaps this is more a reflection of me being a dullard, but Chapter 10 seems like, far and away, the most important chapter that we have read so far.

Chapter 10 starts with the discussion of divorce: Jesus in conflict with the established practices of Judaism. Then a child is brought to Jesus, and the disciples (the dullards!) rebuke those bringing the child, but Jesus counter-rebukes them and tells us that we must be this innocent to receive the kingdom of God. After that brief bit, it’s the rich young man who wants to follow Jesus, and then the discussion about camels and eyes of the needle, which leads to Jesus talking about how much the disciples will gain, both ‘in this time’ and ‘in eternity’, ‘life everlasting’. Added to this, we have Jesus talking about himself–or, of the son of man–as being a redemption for all. Then there’s the bit about James and John, and more predictions of suffering to come, and the first being last. And then we finish with bar-Timaios.

One thing I hadn’t noticed until now: both the people bringing the children, and bar-Timaios were rebuked, whether by the disciples or others in the crowd Why throw this in? I think to some extent, especially with bar-Timaios, we’re hearkening back to that them of the inclusive kingdom that we saw way back in Chapters 2-3, when Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors. Then, the Pharisees objected; here, it’s people in the crowd. Like wealth, health was often seen as a mark of God’s favour, so the blind and the halt and the lame–and especially lepers–were considered less than others. As such, this is Jesus challenging social norms to some extent, arguing for inclusiveness, suggesting that those too well-pleased with themselves may not have the inside track into the kingdom that they thought they would. Ergo, this chapter is about who belongs in, or who will gain entrance into the kingdom: not people who divorce, not people who keep children away, not wealthy people, but children and those who have given up everything–and so are poor–and the blind/outcast.

In other words, this chapter is pivotal for describing more fully the promise of the kingdom to come. And not only will those who would be first find themselves, perhaps, outside looking in, but those who are last now may find themselves on the inside and having received the life eternal. And the first/last motif comes up a couple of times in the chapter: before the bit where John and James ask to sit on Jesus’ right and left, but it’s mentioned–stressed again for emphasis?–after the disciples get annoyed at the temerity of the two brothers. Note that we are not told where those who are now last will be first, and vice-versa. Where will this take place? When? I believe it’s safe to infer that this will happen in the kingdom, when/where the newly first will receive eternal life.

To be honest, I certainly did not see how well this all fit together as I was going through it. Now I wonder how much of this I have overlooked to this point. How many other chapters were this ‘pivotal’? At some time, I will go back and take another look, because I have to say that this is masterful, a very subtle piece of writing. Or at least, a masterful piece of editing. Whoever is behind the construction here–one person, or more than one–did a really spectacular job, at least on this chapter. I will keep a closer eye on this going forward, and may add some addenda to stuff I’ve  already commented on.

So this really develops the notion of the kingdom, and tells us about eternal life. So again I have to ask ‘where has this been until now?’ Why have we had to wait until Chapter 10? And, is there some sort of qualitative difference between this chapter and the others?

My answer to the first question is that I really don’t know. But then, nor does anyone else. Why does any author make the choices that s/he does? My answer to the second question is “I think so.”

Look back at Chapter 5, with the tales of the Gerasene demoniac, Jairus, and the bleeding woman. Or Chapter 6 with Jesus not being honoured in his hometown, the death of the Baptist, feeding 5,000, some going to and fro in the boat, and other healings.  Chapters 8 and 9 are similar. Those chapters contain stories. What we have here is doctrine, new information. The coy hints about the kingdom being at hand, or believers in the good news as Jesus’ mother and brother, or faith ‘saving’ someone, are gone, replaced with the discussions about who can enter the kingdom, and eternal life. When did we notice this change? After the story of the Transfiguration.

The idea of form criticism of the bible is a few centuries old by now. This holds that the form of the story–miracle tale, sermon, whatever–can provide clues or insights into the meaning of the story. OK, I’ll buy that. Of course the form influences the content. But what does that really tell us? It doesn’t truly, as far as I can tell, examine the content, which is what I believe needs to be done, and is what I’m trying to do here. And based on content, something has changed in Chapters 9 & 10. What about the rest? And now I will have, I hope, sharper eyes to see the structure of the chapter as perhaps being revealing.

In any case, Chapter 10 truly did expand the horizons of the discussion, and our knowledge of what was being said. Now, we have to decide if this can indeed be traced back to Jesus, or if this stuff was layered on at a later time. That may have to wait until we conclude with Mark altogether and take a closer look at how he stacks up to Paul. I’m looking forward to that.


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 June 2, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel, Summary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Now that you bring up the idea of the story-form, did you know that the story about divorce is a form of the well-story that is common in the OT. Each of the patriarch stories contains a well-story and the variance in the story relays information about those characters. The well is where you went to meet a woman, such as a future bride. For example, Abraham sends a servant to a well to find a bride for Isaac, rather than Isaac going for himself, because Abraham wants to make sure that Isaac doesn’t get a Canaanite wife.

  2. Again, interesting. I do recall that a number of HS (Hebrew Scriptures) stories took place around wells. And Jesus meets they Syro-Phonecian woman at a well. I hadn’t thought of it as, or realize it was a story form. Nor did I know that about the well as an early singles bar. Thanks for the insight.

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