[Synoptic-L] Narrative Structure of Mark
As a newcomer to the list, I've been watching this thread for a bit
jumping in, but thought that Shawn's most recent post suggesting the
presence of structure in Mark seemed an opportune moment to suggest one
my pet theories. It's my opinion that the Gospel's narrative structure
very carefully worked out so as to emphasize at least two major themes
contrast between the response of "all the people" to the message of John
about the coming "mighty one" and the message of Mark's community
(exemplified by the "young man" or "neaniskos") concerning the crucified
risen Son of Man ("and they said nothing to anyone, for they were
and 2) The (polemic) transfer of the cosmic battle between Satan and
to the human realm, now between Mark's followers and the authorities.
Mark, I believe has laid the gospel out in an extended "concentric
parallelism" (Joanna Dewey's term, though I've not seen her apply it
way) or chiasm that pairs segments of narrative throughout the text.
The diagram of this arrangement looks like this:
A Beginning - John points to Jesus 1:4-8
B Jesus' baptism - The splitting of the heavens, "You are my son,"
C Jesus is tested in the wilderness 1:12-13
D The parable of the sower 4:1-9
E Raising of the young girl 5:21-43
F The death of John the Baptist 6:14-29
G Stilling of the second storm (exorcism
the deep) 6:45-52
H Peter's confession 8:27-30
I - Jesus' first passion
H' Transfiguration 9:2-10
G' Exorcism of possessed boy 9:14-29
F' Appearance of the rich (young) man 10:17-22
E' Raising of the young man in Secret Mark (followed
D' Parable of the vineyard 12:1-11
C' Jesus is tested in the temple 12:13-27
B' Jesus dies, the temple veil is split "Truly this was God's son."
A' The "post-runner" the young man, points to Jesus 16:1-8
In the same way that Mark linked the opening and closing pericopes of
baptism and death with the use of schizomenous and eschisthe (not to
the naming of Jesus as "Son.") he has used linking language in the other
pairs, some more obvious than others, but all nonetheless there.
The structure confronts the reader/hearer with a radical choice between
images of the Messiah, while demonizing the communities opponents. A
thorough working out of this pattern can be seen in the full paper,
I'm still working out some of the kinks in it all though, so I look
to your comments.
Jeffrey H. Krantz
Church of the Advent, Westbury, NY
Mercer School of Theology, Garden City, NY
- On 8 Jul 99, at 21:36, Jeffrey Krantz wrote:
> Mark, I believe has laid the gospel out in an extended "concentricThanks for this. After reading the piece, I remain wary of chiastic
> parallelism" (Joanna Dewey's term, though I've not seen her apply it
> way) or chiasm that pairs segments of narrative throughout the text.
theories of the Gospels for the following reasons:
(1) The old problem that it is surprising that no-one has spotted this
before and that, if so, Mark has failed in what he was attempting to do.
(2) The parallels between Greek expressions are entirely what one
would expect in taking any two sections from the Gospel at random.
I once did a test not on a chiastic theory but on Aileen Guilding's
lectionary theory of John (in Chapter 6 of my Oxford M.Phil. thesis)
in which I took a random selection of passages and actually found
more, not less, correspondences than she had in her carefully worked-
out pattern, and this in spite of her claims that "This cannot be
(3) Michael Goulder once argued strongly for a chiastic structure in
Luke's Central Section (1957?) with correspondences in the Greek
etc. only to abandon the theory not long afterwards. This similarly
reinforces the gut feeling that theories like this are pictures in the fire.
(4) More specifically, I am concerned about the unevenness of the
scheme here proposed. Sometimes one part of a pair follows on
straight away from one part of another pair and sometimes there are
large gaps left unaccounted for. Most clearly, there is a problem with
ABC all covering just Mark 1.4-13 where C'B'A' is comprised of
12.13-27, 15.33-39 and 16.1-8.
(5) Similarly, some of the links are inevitably strained. For example,
re. pair F:
> Were their presences at the beginning and end of the gospel not enoughI think that the parallel between "death" and "reader's first encounter"
> to tie them together as matching characters, the fact that the death
> of one is mirrored by the reader's first encounter with the other
> should suffice.
is not strong.
(6) The theory requires one to accept that the earliest version of the
Gospel = Secret Mark, a matter that is not of course consensus.
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
New Testament Web Resources
Mark Without Q
Aseneth Home Page
- At 10:55 AM 7/9/99 GMT, Mark Goodacre wrote:
>Thanks for this. After reading the piece, I remain wary of chiasticMark,
>theories of the Gospels for the following reasons:
>(1) The old problem that it is surprising that no-one has spotted this
>before and that, if so, Mark has failed in what he was attempting to do.
Your points (2)-(6) to Jeffrey Krantz seemed very strong and sufficient.
Hence it is your point (1) above I'd like to discuss briefly. If there is a
very strong reason why past NT literature has not reported on what may seem
to certain investigators to be an obvious point, then (1) does not hold.
The example I have in mind is one of the arguments favoring Mark being
secondary to Matthew: it was Matthew's anti-gentile statements that provided
the chief impetus for AMk, in Rome, to write his gospel. In so doing, AMk
not only removed these anti-gentile irritants, but retaliated in kind by
portraying the Jewish disciples and friends of Jesus as being extra dumb,
discourteous and fearful. This is nasty business that hardly any NT journal
editor would want to have published in his journal, nor book publisher would
wish to have pubished within his line of books. They would no more want this
than the 19th-century theologians wanted to face up to the full implications
of the Augustinian tradition; thus, primacy of Mark was much to be preferred.
However, no such strong reason of theological commitment exists for NT
scholarship to have avoided earlier reporting of Jeffrey Krantz's
argumentation, so your point (1) may still be relevant there.
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