The Gospel of Mark’s sophisticated structure

Ivory Plaque with the Evangelist Saint Mark an...

Image by Bertana/Maggi via Flickr

 

 A great revelation to me was the deliberate and complex ordering of Mark’s gospel. I supposed I’d thought of it as a collection of stories about the words and actions of Jesus with only a rough narrative structure. But through our readings and Gene’s lecture outline, we become aware of several layers of organization.   

  • The two main themes: Who is Jesus, and What does it mean to follow him.
  • The buildup of dramatic tension, beginning with the end in mind—the resurrection of Jesus. The start of his ministry and the call of his first followers, followed quickly by miracles and five conflict stories.
  • The Suffering Servant theme and Messianic imagery.
  • The ironies and twists of the understanding/misunderstanding passages.
  • The faith and fear themes in the parables.
  • The parallel structure of the two “bread” sections.
  • The patterns of the three Passion proclamations.

I am in awe of how someone could accomplish this 2,000 years ago. Just imagine, Mark didn’t have benefit of copy-and-paste word processing, or even cut-and-paste copy paper, as newspaper reporters used as late as the 1980s. Much of it had to be thought through in his mind before committing to a scroll of parchment or papyrus.   

This gives me great confidence in the canonical process—that is, how the early Church determined which first-century writings were authentically inspired. God picked quite a skilled instrument in Mark the Evangelist.   

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