Bible Study Group

23rd February 2021

23rd February 2021

Mk. 9:2-10 - The Transfiguration

v. 2: 'Six days later', presumably after the events in Caesarea Philippi (Mk. 8:27-9:1); 'a high mountain', traditionally considered Mount Tabor in the Galilean region, alluding to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12-18; 31:18)

v. 3: 'transfigured', the Greek verb used is the same root as for 'metamorphosis', i.e. a profound change in appearance, which was believed to happen to the just in the world to come.

'dazzling white', white clothing often used to denote otherwordly apocalyptic glory (e.g. Daniel 12:3).

 

v.4: 'Moses and Elijah', represent the Law and the Prophets, both connected with Sinai and now with the 'new Sinai' of the fulfilment of the O.T. in Jesus.

v. 5: 'three tents', reference to the 'booths' used at the Feast of Tabernacles.

v. 7: 'a cloud came, covering them in shadow', an O.T. image of God's presence, to which the three disciples are not mere spectators, but deeply involved in the manifestation of Jesus' messianic glorification, as representatives of the new people of God.

v .8: 'my Son, the beloved',  as at Jesus' baptism., i.e. an allusion to Jesus as the suffering Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 42.1).

'Listen to him', Jesus is now a prophet like Moses, whose teaching must be adhered to under penalty of eradication from God's people (Deuteronomy 18-15)

 

vv. 9-10: Although Mark continues his 'Messianic secrecy', here, he is explicit about its end at Christ's resurrection.

Mk. 1:12-15 -  The Temptation

v. 12: 'Immediately', Mark uses this word a lot in the first part of his Gospel, giving its message a sense of urgency;

'drove him out', this verb is also used for Jesus' driving out demons (e.g. Mk. 3:22-23)

'wilderness', or 'desert', reflects more the belief as the habitat of evil spirits, rather than Israel's sojourn in Sinai during the Exodus.

'forty days', similarily, reflects a lengthy period of time, rather than to the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai by God's people.
v.13: 'tempted by Satan', unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark gives no details.

'with wild beasts',  a possible symbol of the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom as Paradise regained, or the evil Jusus had to contend with.

'the angels looked after him', i.e. the help given Jesus in his struggle with Satan.

v.14-15: Mk.'s summary of Jesus' Galilean Ministry (Mk.1:14-6:13), with Galilee being central to Mk. as the meeting-place of the Risen Lord (Mk.16:7).  Mk. refers to Jesus' message in specific Christian terms as 'Good News', which can mean its proclamation and content, with Jesus being both its messenger and message.

v.15: Mk. places 'The time has come' before 'Repent' (compare Mt. 4:17), to emphasise Jesus' already fulfilled redemptive nature in Galilee.

11th February 2021


Jesus curing the sick. Detail from the convent wooden door in Tabgha, or Magadan in the Bible, where the cure of the leper is said to have taken place.

Mk.1:40-45 - Cure of a Leper

-v. 40: 'a leper', excluded from Israel by Mosaic Law, who Jesus has the power to cure.

'on his knees', as opposed to 'bowed low' in Matthew (Mt.8:2)

-v. 41: 'Feeling sorry', and - v.42: 'sent him away', some interpretations suggest that this is a combination of two early accounts in which Jesus felt 'angry' against the leperous spirit and so sent this spirit away, and which Mark interpreted, as sending the leper away. However, most translations maintain the current version.

-v. 44: 'the offering', see Leviticus Chapter 14.

-v. 45: 'talking about it' and 'telling the story', the Greek verbs are the same technical terms, as those used by the early Church for 'proclaiming' and 'spreading' the Word. Hence, Mark is making a subtle catechetical point that those who have been cleased by Christ in Baptism must evangelise.

4th February 2021

Mk.1:29-39 - A Number of Cures

- v.29: 'Simon, James and John' are also the three privileged witnesses of the Transfiguration.

- v.31: 'helped her up', or 'raised her up' , the latter being closer to the meaning of the same verb Mark uses of Jesus' Resurrection.

'she began to wait on them', or 'serve them', the verb used by Mark has the same root as for the words 'deacon', or 'diaconate'. Therefore, service is expected of those whom Christ has saved.

- v.34: 'he would not allow them to speak', to avoid giving the wrong impression of his Messiahship, which was not political or military, in contrast with his own ideal. Mark gives this 'silence' special emphasis, as preparation for Jesus' full revelation.

-v.37: 'looking for you', in Mark this verb is usually used in contexts of evil intentions (e.g. 8:11), or misguided sort of seeking (e.g. 3:32).

-v.38: 'I came', literally 'came out', meaning either from Capernaum, or possibly 'coming forth' from God.

The Cure of the Demoniac – 31-01-21

Mk.1:21-28

-v. 21: 'teach', Mk. records less of Jesus' doctrine (than Mt. and Lk.), associating this activity with a 'veiled' self-revelation and with his miraculous power, which causes amazement among the people, who are often specified (e.g. 2:13, 4:2, 6:34, 7:37) and his disciples (8:31, 9:31).

-v.22: ' with authority', as opposed to the scribes, who unlike the rabbis had no authority to impose binding decisions. However, in Mk. this implies Messianic authority

-v.23: 'unclean spirit', at the time, sickness is ascribed to evil spirits. The demoniac's 'crying out', describes the seriousness of his suffering.

-v.24: The demoniac in effect recognises Jesus as the Messiah, whose divine power is greater than that of the evil spirits.  To know an adversary's name  -'Jesus of Nazareth', ' the Holy One of God' (e.g. a prophet like Elisha) - was to have a magical power over the person. Here, though, it is used to hide Jesus' true identity from the crowd, known only to the Christion reader. 

20th January 2021

3rd Sunday of the Year 'B'

Mk. 1:14-20

vv. 14-15: Mk.'s summary of Jesus' Galilean Ministry (Mk.1:14-6:13), with Galilee being central to Mk. as the meeting-place of the Risen Lord (Mk.16:7).  Mk. refers to Jesus' message in specific Christian terms as 'Good News', which can mean its proclamation and content, with Jesus being both its messenger and message.

v.15: Mk. places 'The time has come' before 'Repent' (compare Mt. 4:17) to emphasise Jesus' already fulfilled redemptive nature in Galilee.

v. 16: 'was walking along', or 'passing by' suggest an almost casual encounter of Jesus with his first apostles. However, the same verb is associated with events manifesting Jesus's divinity, e.g. Mk. 6:48, Mt. 9:27, Lk. 18:37.

v. 17: 'Follow me': this commanding nature of Jesus' calling and his disciples' immediate response gives them a new direction in their lives, which is the true meaning of  'Repent'.

v. 20: 'leaving their father': a possible exaggeration to show that discipleship leads to the renunciation (and/or distancing from) of possessions and family ties.

Some background notes on St. Mark's Gospel

Authorship:

Unanimously attested by the early Church as written by Mark, the disciple of Peter: 'When Mark became Peter's interpreter, he wrote down accurately, although not in order, all that he remembered of what the Lord had said and done'. (Papias of Hierapolis, early 2nd. cent. quoting an earlier source)

The Evangelist is, therefore, usually identified as John Mark (Ac.12:12,25; 1Pt 5:13). John is a Jewish name, Mark a Greek version of a Latin name, suggesting he was a Jew from the Greek-speaking world; cousin of St. Barnabas (Ac.15:37,39); accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first mission (Ac. 13:5); with Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome (Col. 4:10; Phlm. 24)

Date:

Written in Rome, some time after St. Peter's death and before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, to which the Gospel alludes and therefore, between 65 and 70 AD.

Audience:

Written for non-Palestinian Christians of pagan origin, as evidenced by the little effort made to connect the Gospel to the O.T., the care taken to explain Jewish customs (e.g. Mk. 7:3-4), the translation of Aram words (e.g. Mk. 3:17), the geographical details (e.g. Mk.11:1) and to stress the meaning of the gospel message to pagans (e.g. Mk. 8:1-9).

Literary Style:

It is the shortest of the three synoptic gospels - 16 chapters in all. The language is very simple and direct, using a style for writing reports, or relating news used in the common Greek language at the time. There is also a sense of urgency, especially in the first half of the gospel conveyed by the repetitive use of words like 'immediately', or  'at once'.

Structure:

Two structures have been proposed to the gospel after an introduction Mk:1:1-13:

1) A geographical structure, i.e. The Galilean ministry Mk.1:14-3:6; the height of the Galilean ministry Mk.3:7-6:13, ministry beyond Galilee Mk. 6:14-8:26; from Caesarea Philiippi to Jerusalem Mk. 8:27-10:52; the Jerusalem ministry Mk.11:1-13:37; the passion and resurrection Mk. 14:1-16:8.

2) A theological structure of two parts:

Mk. 1:14-8:33: The mystery of the Messiah , in which the focus is on the miracles of Jesus and his teaching is reduced to the parables; the coming of God's reign is emphasized and Jesus tries to hide that he is the Messiah.

Mk. 8:27-16:8: The mystery of the Son of Man, in which the the focus is on Jesus' teachings, which is directed mostly to his disciples with the gradual revelation that the messiahship is to be achieved through suffering, not be force, or for political ends.

These two parts overlap at Mt. 8:27-33, when Peter asserts that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus' first prediction that he must suffer. It has, therefore, been suggested that the theological structure has been superimposed onto the geographical.

Mk.1:7-11

-v.7:'someone who is more powerful than I am', i.e. Elijah, in whose role John casts Jesus initially.

-v.8:'the Holy Spirit', the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran refer to the purifying effect of 'a holy Spirit' , suggesting why this is immediately followed by Jesus's baptism.

-v.9:'baptised by John', that Jesus submitted himself to John's baptism of repentance probably caused a theological problem to the early Church. Matthew mentions Jesus's intention (Mt.3:13) and then as a fulfilled action (Mt.3:16), as does Luke (Lk. 3:21). John doesn't mention it at all.

-v.10:'he saw', Mk. describes this divine manifestation as an apocalyptic vision, of theological significance:1) 'the heavens torn apart', an allusion to Isaiah 64:1, a prayer that the inauguration of the end of time is a new exodus; 2) the Spirit...descending on him', an allusion to Isaiah 63:11,14, where during the Exodus, God's spirit is thought to have come down upon Sinai to form his people; 3) 'like a dove' a symbol of Israel and hence Jesus is a representative of the new people of God. 4) 'a voice came from heaven', by making only Jesus a witness of this theophany, Mk. keeps Jesus's identity a secret, known only to the reader (see the introductory notes on the Gospel).

-v.10: 'had he come out of the water', another allusion to Isaiah 63:11 recalling the passage through the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan under Joshua and the new exodus as in Isaiah 40:3-4

© 2021 Holy Cross Hucknall