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[Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark

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  • Shawn Kelley
    I know I promised a response to Brian s response to my response, but Jeff Peterson and Mark Matson already gave very nice defenses of the literary position-
    Message 1 of 18 , Jul 7, 1999
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      I know I promised a response to Brian's response to my response, but
      Jeff Peterson and Mark Matson already gave very nice defenses of the
      literary
      position- probably better than anything I could have come up with on my
      own. For now let me put out a few ideas on Mark's narrative structure.

      Let me begin by saying that I fully agree with Mark Matson's suggestion
      that we
      turn from unproductive terms like authorial (implied/flesh and blood)
      intention to the more productive terms like the rhetorical thrust of
      Mark's text. I think that Mark's text does provide several clues on how
      it wants to be read. Some of these clues deal directly with the
      question
      of structure.

      Most of what follows is stolen from Mary Ann Tolbert's "Sowing the
      Gospel"
      (Appendix A: The Rhetorical Structure of Mark).

      i) Mark has a general prologue (1:1-13) and can be divided into two
      large sections (1:14-10:52; 11:1-16:8). That is, there is a rather
      sudden and dramatic shift in tone, themes, style of writing, once
      Jesus enters Jerusalem. The story rather naturally divides itself in
      half.

      ii) Mark is fond of the technique of "framing" (I think people on the
      list call it something else: sandwiching?). Here are some examples:
      a) Section one is framed by the call of disciples (1:16-20;
      10:46-52)
      b) The second subdivision of section 2 is framed by women anointing
      Jesus for burial (14:1-11; 16:1-8)
      c) The final subdivision of section 1 is framed by the healing of a
      blind man (8:22-26; 10:46-52).
      In each instance (and there are many more) this technique helps
      group large amounts of material together and helps establish the theme
      for that section of the Gospel: the calling of disciples, the death of
      Jesus, the blindness of the disciples.

      iii) The first part of the Gospel is rather loosely structured, but
      there are geographical markers designed to indicate forward movement of
      the story and designed to group material together. The most important
      one is the Sea of Galilee. Note that each time Jesus either approaches
      or crosses the Sea (1:16; 2:13; 3:7; 4:1; 4:35) new kinds of material
      are introduced (healings, controversies, new kinship, parables).

      iv) Mark has a number of metaphors that are woven throughout the story.
      The most important ones are: seeing/blindness, fear, journeying (towards
      abandonment for Jesus and towards failure for the disciples). These
      metaphors help evaluate the behavior of the characters as they respond
      to Jesus. This too is essential to the movement of the plot, in that
      the failure of certain characters is essential to the overall story.

      v) There are a number of scenes that are grouped in threes: the boat
      trips, the passion predictions, the sleeping in the Garden of
      Gethsemene, Peter's denial. These scenes are designed to comment on
      each other. As a whole they highlight the consistent failure of the
      disciples to listen to Jesus or to understand him.

      vi) There are a number of times that Jesus calls aside Peter, James and
      John for some private moment. The raising of Jairus' daughter
      (6:35ff), the transfiguration (9:2ff), the three Passion Predictions
      {one involving Peter (8:31ff) and one James and John (10:35ff)}, the
      apocalyptic discourse (13:3ff, which also includes Andrew), and the
      Garden of Gethsemene (14: 32).
      We should also recall that they were the first ones called. This has
      the effect of identifying them as leaders and of highlighting their
      increasing inability to understand the themes of death and resurrection
      (which are implicit in almost all of the above scenes). It also helps
      to
      underline the role that their failure plays in increasing the suffering
      of Jesus.

      vii) Some parts of Mark are not tightly plotted (which is not the same
      thing as unplotted), while others are tightly plotted. I would suggest
      in particular that 8:22-10:46 and 14:1-16:8 are especially well
      plotted.
      That is, both sections of the Gospel culminate in a rather dramatic
      sections of narrative that are rather obviously forward moving.

      viii) Most of the important themes are identified in the parable
      chapter, especially in the parable of the Sower and its interpretation.
      Notice how the language and imagery of 4:6, 16-17 reappears in the
      Passion story (see 14:27). The disciples (led by Peter, the rock)
      reflect the behavior of the rocky soil of the parable- the very parable
      that Jesus identifies as the most important off all the parables (4:13).
      The plot and the teaching material are closely intertwined.

      There is enough here to suggest to me that Mark is indeed structured,
      that it does have a plot and themes, and that it is trying to guide the
      way that we receive and read the story. The Gospel hopes to produce
      certain effects upon those who read it. Is that so surprising?

      Shawn Kelley
      Daemen College
    • Mark Matson
      ... I would agree that Mark s gospel falls into a simple two part construction, though I tend to see the break a bit differently. It has always struck me that
      Message 2 of 18 , Jul 8, 1999
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        Shawn Kelley <skelley@...> wrote:

        > i) Mark has a general prologue (1:1-13) and can be divided into two
        > large sections (1:14-10:52; 11:1-16:8). That is, there is a rather
        > sudden and dramatic shift in tone, themes, style of writing, once
        > Jesus enters Jerusalem. The story rather naturally divides itself in
        > half.
        >
        I would agree that Mark's gospel falls into a simple two part
        construction, though I tend to see the break a bit differently. It
        has always struck me that the first part of the gospel focuses on
        whether people, especially the disciples, will understand who Jesus
        was. This section, marked especially by the secrecy motif, ends at
        8:30, following Peter's (finally) confession that Jesus was the
        Christ.

        The second half then deals with the passion, and begins in 8:31 with
        the first prediction of the passion.

        As Tolbert noted, these two halves are interpreted by two
        meta-parables: the parable of the sower for the first movement (that
        of believing/following), and the parable of the vineyard for the
        second. It is significant, I think, that these are the only large
        well developed allegory type parables in the gospel.

        Of course the themes of the first half continue in the second -- the
        obtuseness or obduracy of the disciples continues, notwithstanding
        Peter's confession and notwithstanding God's announcement at the
        mount of transfiguration -- and will reemerge as the dominant issue
        following Jesus' death (will the disciples believe that Jesus is
        risen from the dead?).

        At any rate, I agree with Shawn's basic dileneation of the structure,
        only seeing a shift to the second half more clearly at 8:30.

        > viii) Most of the important themes are identified in the parable
        > chapter, especially in the parable of the Sower and its interpretation.
        > Notice how the language and imagery of 4:6, 16-17 reappears in the
        > Passion story (see 14:27). The disciples (led by Peter, the rock)
        > reflect the behavior of the rocky soil of the parable- the very parable
        > that Jesus identifies as the most important off all the parables (4:13).
        > The plot and the teaching material are closely intertwined.
        >
        > There is enough here to suggest to me that Mark is indeed structured,
        > that it does have a plot and themes, and that it is trying to guide the
        > way that we receive and read the story. The Gospel hopes to produce
        > certain effects upon those who read it. Is that so surprising?

        Yes. Indeed this seems to me to be the overriding theme. Put
        simply, the gospel is as much about the disciples' response to Jesus
        as it is about Jesus himself. How will the disciples respond to
        Jesus? as rocky soil, or as good soil?? The ending of the gospel,
        of course, suggests the former response (rocky soil / lack of faith),
        but the abrupt ending leaves the question open, so there is the
        possibility (implied by the very fact that the gospel is told!) that
        some at least became "good soil". And in this overriding question
        about the disciples' response to Jesus, it is existential in that it
        asks the same question indirectly of the reader. In this regard, it
        is very rhetorical and very deftly constructed.

        Mark Matson


        Mark A. Matson, Ph.D.
        Asst. Director, Sanford Institute of Public Policy
        Adjunct Professor of New Testament
        Duke University
        Durham, NC 27713
        (919) 613-7310
      • Mark Goodacre
        Thanks for the interesting contributions on this thread. One more thought on narrative structure. An element that is not often seen is that there is a clear
        Message 3 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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          Thanks for the interesting contributions on this thread. One more
          thought on narrative structure. An element that is not often seen is that
          there is a clear correspondence between the Caesarea Philippi
          episode in 8 and the Anointing in 14.3-9, as follows:
          
          - Peter confesses Jesus as Anointed
          - Woman enacts Jesus as Anointed

          - Peter fails to connect Anointing with Suffering / Death
          - Woman connects Anointing with Suffering / Death (i.e. anoints him
          for his burial).

          - Peter is rebuked in the harshest possible terms for failing to connect
          Anointing with Suffering
          - Woman is commended in the strongest possible terms for
          connecting Anointing with Suffering.

          The impression one gets from 14.3-9 is "bingo!" or "By George, she's
          got it!", strikingly contrasted with Chapter 8. Each section occurs at a
          key moment in the narrative, 8.27-33 as the mid-point, the moment
          when one turns from the miracle-working ministry of Chapters 1-8
          and begins to look towards the Way leading to Suffering, Death,
          Jerusalem; 14.3-9 is the first incident in the Passion Narrative proper
          and an overture to that section of the Gospel as well as an epitome of
          the whole Gospel's Christology.

          About two years ago I was going to write this up and half-way
          through my research on it found much the same thing in Schuessler
          Fiorenza, _In Memory of Her_ so abandoned the plan. What she
          had also seen was the other element I had hoped to work out, the
          fascinating contrast between the disciples called at the beginning of the
          Gospel and the women following at the end. Named male disciples at
          the beginning are called to follow and later to serve and then fail to do
          both. Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
          in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.

          Mark
          --------------------------------------
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
          University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
          Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

          http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
          New Testament Web Resources
          Mark Without Q
          Aseneth Home Page
        • Mike Parsons
          Reply to: Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark Mark wrote: Named male disciples at the beginning are called to follow and later to serve and then
          Message 4 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                     Reply to:   Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark
            
            
            Mark wrote:
            Named male disciples at
            >the beginning are called to follow and later to serve and then fail to do
            >both. Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
            >in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.
            >
            . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers," that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.

            Mikeal Parsons
          • Stevan Davies
            ... Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But you can t have both. If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J must be
            Message 5 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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              > From: "Mark Goodacre"
              >

              > - Woman is commended in the strongest possible terms for
              > connecting Anointing with Suffering.
              >
              > Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
              > in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.

              Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But
              you can't have both.

              If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J
              must be anointed beforehand, good for her. But then the
              women coming to anoint Jesus after he's dead don't get it
              and hence haven't "followed" or whatever in the right way.

              If they, on the other hand, have done the right thing in
              coming to the tomb in blissful ignorance of the problems
              that resurrections cause for anointers, the Anointing woman
              hasn't really done anything special.

              Steve
            • Mark Goodacre
              ... I agree that this is a toughie. I wish I knew why Mark spoils it all by the women failing at the end, when they have done so well in Chapter 15, where
              Message 6 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                On 9 Jul 99, at 10:02, Stevan Davies wrote:

                > > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                > >
                > > - Woman is commended in the strongest possible terms for
                > > connecting Anointing with Suffering.
                > >
                > > Named female disciples at the end are said to have succeeded
                > > in "following" and "serving" Jesus, from Galilee to the cross.
                >
                > Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But
                > you can't have both.
                >
                > If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J
                > must be anointed beforehand, good for her. But then the
                > women coming to anoint Jesus after he's dead don't get it
                > and hence haven't "followed" or whatever in the right way.

                I agree that this is a toughie. I wish I knew why Mark spoils it all by
                the women failing at the end, when they have done so well in Chapter
                15, where Mark seems to make such a point of following + serving. I
                seem to remember that Shuessler Fiorenza fudges it and doesn't really
                come to terms (to my mind) with the failure at the end of the Gospel.
                >
                > If they, on the other hand, have done the right thing in
                > coming to the tomb in blissful ignorance of the problems
                > that resurrections cause for anointers, the Anointing woman
                > hasn't really done anything special.

                Yes -- I see what you mean. And yet Mark does appear to project a
                future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                thing right.

                Perhaps too we should say that it is implied that the women of
                Chapters 15+16 did ultimately do the right thing in that the readers
                know of the news of the resurrection? But that answer never seems
                that satisfactory, and rather lessens the impact of 16.8. As Mike
                Parsons writes:

                > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.

                I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.

                Mark
                --------------------------------------
                Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                New Testament Web Resources
                Mark Without Q
                Aseneth Home Page
              • Mark Goodacre
                I meant to refer also to this new, on-line article in my previous message. I came across it earlier this week: Marie Sabin, Women Transformed: The Ending of
                Message 7 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                  I meant to refer also to this new, on-line article in my previous message. I came
                  across it earlier this week:

                  Marie Sabin, "Women Transformed: The Ending of Mark is the Beginning of
                  Wisdom", _Cross Currents_, Summer 1998, Vol. 48 Issue 2

                  http://www.crosscurrents.org/sabin.htm

                  It makes as good a case as can be made that 16.8 does represent an up-beat,
                  optimistic ending / new beginning, e.g. she translates "they were filled with awe"
                  (reverence) rather than "for they were afraid. But she still cannot get away from
                  "they said nothing to anyone" in direct contradiction to the command in 16.7.

                  Mark
                  --------------------------------------
                  Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                  Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                  University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                  Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                  http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                  New Testament Web Resources
                  Mark Without Q
                  Aseneth Home Page
                • Mike Parsons
                  Reply to: Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark but wait a minute, mark. is the annointing woman the exception or but one of a number who get it
                  Message 8 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                             Reply to:   Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark
                    
                    
                    but wait a minute, mark. is the annointing woman
                    the exception" or but one of a number who get "it right" (depending on what 'it' is). the friends of the paralytic, the widow with her mite, etc., that is, all those minor characters who display some positive traits and who are commended explicitly or implicitly by Jesus and/or the narrator (the reps of the 'good soil,' so Tolbert, Rhoads/Michie). this of course assumes some gap-filling on the interpreter's part. after all, these characters disappear after their 'fifteen lines of fame" and are very different from those more developed (disciples, women, religious authorities, political authorities)--all of whom do, as malbon points out, seem ultimately to fail. do these minor characters actually undermine malbon's point or rather serve to highlight it? in other words, given what we know about the developed characters in Mark, are we to assume that contrary to them, these minor characters did continue to 'get it' or are we to assume they did not (that is failed in some way)? this is a case of gap-filling, of course, and seems very complex to me. while i understand that to 'project' these characters beyond the text is a treacherous thing to do, it seems to me the positive reading of the annointing woman (and others) depends on this very act. to be sure, the Markan Jesus encourages us to go beyond the text in his claim that this deed will be remembered everytime the gospel is proclaimed, but it is, after all, this particular deed and not the woman herself (or her subsequent actions, about which we know nothing) which will be remembered.
                    mikeal
                    Mark Goodacre wrote:
                    Mark Goodacre wrote:

                    >On 9 Jul 99, at 10:44, Stevan Davies wrote:
                    >
                    >> > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                    >>
                    >> > Mark does appear to project a
                    >> > future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                    >> > (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                    >> > thing right.
                    >> >
                    >> > > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                    >> > > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                    >> > > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                    >> > > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.
                    >> >
                    >> > I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.
                    >>
                    >> No you aren't. See above.
                    >
                    >Sorry -- thanks for pointing out my lack of clear thinking. I suppose I
                    >meant that I am in sympathy with the idea that the women in Chapter
                    >16 have failed too. But the woman in 14.3-9 is the exception -- she
                    >has to be: "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world . . ."
                    >and that has not yet happened. So she stands out. Not everyone fails.
                    >
                    >Mark
                    >--------------------------------------
                    >Dr Mark Goodacre
                    mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                    > Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                    > University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                    > Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom
                    >
                    >
                    http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                    > New Testament Web Resources
                    > Mark Without Q
                    > Aseneth Home Page
                    >
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                    >From: Mark Goodacre <
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                    >Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Narrative structure of Mark
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                  • Stevan Davies
                    ... No you aren t. See above. Steve
                    Message 9 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                      > From: "Mark Goodacre"

                      > Mark does appear to project a
                      > future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                      > (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                      > thing right.
                      >
                      > > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                      > > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                      > > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                      > > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.
                      >
                      > I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.

                      No you aren't. See above.

                      Steve
                    • Mark Goodacre
                      ... Sorry -- thanks for pointing out my lack of clear thinking. I suppose I meant that I am in sympathy with the idea that the women in Chapter 16 have failed
                      Message 10 of 18 , Jul 9, 1999
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                        On 9 Jul 99, at 10:44, Stevan Davies wrote:

                        > > From: "Mark Goodacre"
                        >
                        > > Mark does appear to project a
                        > > future in which the Anointing Woman of Chapter 14 is commended
                        > > (future tense), so the case remains that she has special and has got the
                        > > thing right.
                        > >
                        > > > . . . but ultimately themselves fail because rather than following the
                        > > > young man's command to "go and tell" they run away in fear and
                        > > > trembling. E.S. Malbon argues in her CBQ piece, "Fallible followers,"
                        > > > that in the end EVERYONE fails in their attempt to follow Jesus.
                        > >
                        > > I find myself, in the end, in sympathy with this reading.
                        >
                        > No you aren't. See above.

                        Sorry -- thanks for pointing out my lack of clear thinking. I suppose I
                        meant that I am in sympathy with the idea that the women in Chapter
                        16 have failed too. But the woman in 14.3-9 is the exception -- she
                        has to be: "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world . . ."
                        and that has not yet happened. So she stands out. Not everyone fails.

                        Mark
                        --------------------------------------
                        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                        Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                        New Testament Web Resources
                        Mark Without Q
                        Aseneth Home Page
                      • Maluflen@aol.com
                        In a message dated 7/9/1999 10:08:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time, miser17@epix.net writes:
                        Message 11 of 18 , Jul 13, 1999
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                          In a message dated 7/9/1999 10:08:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
                          miser17@... writes:

                          <<
                          Ahh, I think you have one. Or you can have the other. But
                          you can't have both.

                          If the point of the Anointing woman is that she knows that J
                          must be anointed beforehand, good for her. But then the
                          women coming to anoint Jesus after he's dead don't get it
                          and hence haven't "followed" or whatever in the right way.

                          If they, on the other hand, have done the right thing in
                          coming to the tomb in blissful ignorance of the problems
                          that resurrections cause for anointers, the Anointing woman
                          hasn't really done anything special.
                          >>

                          Steve, you do know the real explanation for the above:

                          (1) In Matt, the first Gospel written, the woman in Chapter 26 does the
                          anointing for Jesus' burial, and the women at the tomb come merely to look,
                          not to anoint.

                          (2) Luke, writing second, has transformed the story in Matt 26 into the story
                          of a sinful woman in Lk 7, who washes Jesus' feet with her tears. Thus, Jesus
                          has not been anointed for his burial in Luke, so the women have to bring
                          spices and ointments to the tomb for this purpose.

                          (3) Mark, writing third, has followed Matt in his account of the woman who
                          anoints Jesus for his death in Mk 14, but he then follows Luke more closely
                          for his account of the women at the tomb, without noting the resulting
                          inconcinnity.

                          Leonard Maluf
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