Bible Study Group

2nd December 2021

Luke 1:26-38 The Annunciation

Note the strict parallelism between the annunciation of John the Baptist's birth and that of Jesus.

v. 26: 'sixth month', i.e. of Elizabeth's pregnancy; 'Nazareth ', an insignificant town, never mentioned in the O.T., despised by Palestinians in Jesus's own time (John 1:40) and inhabited  by jealous, material-minded people (Luke 4:23-30).

v. 27: 'Mary', the Hebrew "Miryam' means 'the exalted one'.

v. 28: 'Rejoice, so highly favoured!', is the better rendition of the Greek than 'Hail, full of grace!', emphasizing upon the source of goodness (instrumentality), rather than upon its effects (fullness). Mary, therefore, is the object of God's grace and favour, chosen for a long time past. 'The Lord is with you.', a popular greeting, but coming from God implies being set aside for something special.

v. 29: 'asked herself ... mean', the Greek verb implies intense, prolonged reflection, supported by a strong faith.

v. 30: 'do not be afraid; you have won God's favour.', parallels Luke 1:13, as does the birth formula in v.31.

v. 32: 'He will be great ...', O.T. language usually reserved for God's redeeming action among his people.

 v. 34: '... since I am a virgin.', literally 'since I do not know man.'  (as a wife knows her husband).

v. 35: '... the power of the Most High will  cover you with its shadow.', is reminiscent of O.T. expressions for God's presence, e.g. Haggai 2: 6 - 9.

v. 37: 'for nothing is impossible to God.', Mary's virginity reveals a complete trust and obedience before God.

20th November 2021

Mark 13:3-8; 24-32 The Coming of the Son of Man

These two passages are meant to be read together, forming part of Chapter 13 - The Eschatological Discourse in which Jesus preaches on the end of time for humanity. It deals with the present in function of the future and is not an anticipation of future events, but a transposition of the fullness of things after death, which cannot be lived out perfectly in this life.

The passages are written in the 'apocalyptic' style, representing the future in fantastic form, dealing with the future in function of the present, e.g. to console the faithful, or to communicate an eschatological truth, such as the final judgement, which can lead us to conversion,or to take our life more seriously.

v. 3: 'Peter, James, John and Andrew', the first - called disciples.

v. 4: '... is this going ... will all this is about to be fulfilled?',  Mark's sharpens these questions by referring to the parousia.

v. 5: 'Take care ...', warnings against being led astray are a characteristic of apocalyptic writings.

v. 6: 'in my name', emphasizing that Jesus is the true messiah.

v. 7: 'wars and rumours of wars', another example of apocalyptic distress.

v. 8: 'beginnings of the birthpangs.',  the figure of a woman in labour is often used in the Bible to announce the coming of the Day of Yahweh, or the Messianic era.

v.24: 'time of distress', refers to vv. 14-23; 'the sun ... the moon ... the stars ...', all OT images symbolizing divine judgement.

v.26: 'the Son of Man coming with great power and glory', reflects Daniel 7:13, understood to be a superhuman individual, possessing  heavenly 'power and glory'.

v.29: 'when you see these things ', refers not just to vv.24-27, but to all that has gone before; 'he is near', or 'it is near', impossible to say from the Greek verb for 'is'.

v.30: 'this generation ', Mark is thinking not only of the destruction of Jerusalem, but of the coming of the Son of Man.

v.32: 'nor the Son', for Mark, Jesus is only the Son, i.e. not sharing the same 'godhead ' as the Father, the doctrine later elaborated at the Council of Chalcedon.

An Introduction to St. Luke's Gospel

Christian tradition maintains that the author is Paul's "beloved physician" ( Colossians 4:14), who probably came from Antioch in N.W. Syria. and wrote the Gospel around 70 AD.

Luke, having carefully selected his sources (Luke 1:3), has followed Mark's outline, leaving some details out, while expanding others to make his Gospel as relevant as possible to his non-Jewish readers, in the main converted Gentiles.

Because in Luke's mind, evangelization starts and ends in Jerusalem, as evidenced by his writing of the Acts, so does his Gospel. Therefore, the Ascension takes place in the outskirts of Bethany  and not in Galilee, as in Mark's and Matthew's Gospels. Luke's biggest divergence from Mark though, is found from 9:51-18:14 which combines Sayings that Luke sourced on his own.

Luke is very respectful of his readers and of the characters in his Gospel, avoiding anything that is critical, derogatory or offensive to both. That is why the Italian poet Dante  called him the 'faithful recorder of Christ's lovingkindness'. However, Luke contrasts this tenderness for the poor and lowly with his severity for the proud and those who abuse their wealth, but they are not condemned until the time of mercy is over.

The other notable features of Luke's Gospel are: insistence with prayer, detachment from the material and the prominence given to the Holy Spirit and Joy.

The Greek used in the original version of the Gospel is generally of a very high standard, but out of respect for his sources, Luke 'roughens' it up in some places.

2nd November 2021

Mark 12:38-Pharasaic Leaders and Widows Mite

v. 38 'long robes', i.e. the 'thalith', or shawl used for prayer and religious duties, showing off piety; 'greeted obsequiously', i.e. with deep bows in recognition of their superiority in matters of Law.

v. 39:  'front seats', sitting facing the people on the bench facing the Ark, containing the biblical scrolls.

v. 40: 'swallow the property of widows', this rather sweeping and unqualified accusation seems to reflect a later anti-Jewish polemic.

v. 41: 'opposite the treasury', may refer to vaults inside the Temple, or the women's  court enclosure which had 13 trumpet-shaped coffers for offerings.

v. 42: 'two small coins', equalling in Roman coinage to about one sixty-fourth of a labourer's daily wage.

v. 44: Jesus measures the worth of her offering in terms of her sacrifice, thus alluding, in this context, to the laying down of his own life.

22nd October 2021

Mark 12:28-34 The Greatest Commandment of All

v. 28: 'One of the scribes', a Marcan device linking this episode to the previous one; 'first of all', there was some debate among Jewish teachers of the Law at the time to find the 'parent commandment' from which the rest would be derived.

v. 29: 'Listen Israel', Jesus cites the opening verse of the 'shema', which News recite daily.

v. 30 'you must love the Lord', i.e. because He is one (v.29), which is, therefore, a declaration of monotheism.

v.31: 'love your neighbour ', not only their fellow-Jew, as the Law commanded, but also the foreigner living among them. The combination of these two commandments is reckoned to be unique to Jesus.

v. 32: 'holocaust and sacrifice ', this addition to the scribe's reaffirmation of Jesus' words alludes to 1Samuel 15:22.

v. 34: 'not far from the Kingdom of God', varies from the usual concept that God's Kingdom is still to given to humanity and could be a reformulation of Jesus' original thoughts; 'no one dared to question him', Mark's way of separating the content of the previous events from that of the next.

23rd October 2021

Mark 10:46-52 The Blind Man of Jericho

v. 46: 'Jericho', about 18 miles NE of Jerusalem; 'Bartimaeus', named only in Mark.

v. 47: 'shout/cry out', verb used in connection with unusual appearances (Mk.6:49), or recognition of Jesus' transcendence (e.g. Mk.9:24, 26). In this case made by someone other than a demon. 'Son of David ', Jesus is heir to the Davidic line.

v. 48: in this event, Jesus does not ask for his identity to be kept a secret; 'he shouted all the louder', this repetition serves to emphasize Bartimaeus' conviction of Jesus as the Son of David.

v. 51: Jesus'  question is the same as the one put to James and John in Mark 10:36; 'Rabbuni', a solemn expression usually used when speaking to God, which Mary of Magdala says before the resurrected Christ (John 20:16)

v. 52: 'immediately his sight returned', without the usual healing gestures; 'followed him along the road', the Greek also suggests 'along the way (of discipleship)'


15th October 2021

Mark 10:35-45 James's and John's Misunderstanding

v. 37: the sons of Zebedee's request recalls Jesus' promise of the 12 thrones (Mt.19:28; Lk. 22:28-30); 'glory', i.e. as the messianic king.

v. 38:  'the cup' and 'the baptism' are symbols of Jesus' coming Passion; ' baptism' in Greek means ' immersion'.

v. 40: 'these are not mine to grant', only the Father can do this. Jesus can only show the way to glory by his own death.

vv. 43-44: the way authority of 'great men' is exercised is to be replaced by conduct of a servant and  'the rulers', i.e. 'the first', should act as slaves.

v. 45: 'as a random for many', patterned on the 4th Song of Isaiah's suffering Servant of Yahweh (Is.52:13-53:12), although may not have been said Jesus and is probably an addition by the Early Church.

7th October 2021

Mark 10:17-30 On Riches and Earthly Ties

vv. 17-18: 'Good Master', a title not commonly addressed to a rabbi, hence Jesus' reaction; 'eternal life', i.e. God's kingdom.

v. 19: 'You must not defraud;', only found in Mark, suggesting that being rich involves some form of exploitation, e.g. Zaccheus  (Luke 19:1-10).

v. 21: 'Go and sell everything you own...', Jesus's words are an absolute command, compared with those in Matthew 19: 21, which are conditional.

v. 24: 'The disciples were astounded ...', because wealth and prosperity were considered signs of God's favour.

v. 27: An allusion to the words in Genesis 18:14 recalling God's power to fulfill his promises to Abraham, thus renewing the disciple's hope in the Messianic salvation.

v. 29 'for my sake and the sake of the gospel.', i.e. Christ is present in and identified with the proclamation of the gospel.

v. 30: 'not  without persecutions ', perhaps a reference to the church's situation at the time.

v.31: An isolated saying.

2nd October 2021

Mark 10:2-16 Marriage and Divorce

v. 2: The Pharisees' question in Mark omits the  phrase 'for any reason whatsoever' (Mt. 19:3), indicating that the early Church was unfamiliar with the rabbinical dispute on this question.

v. 4: 'the writ for divorce', as in Deuteronomy 24:1-3

v. 6: 'unteachable ', Dt.24:1-3 was not so much a commandment, but rather a permissive rule governing married life, i.e. an adulterous woman was not allowed to cohabit with her husband again.

v. 6: Jesus answers quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 for the indissolubility of marriage.

v. 7: In the context of Gn. 2:24, a man's urge to seek unity with his wife is stronger than parental ties.

v. 9: Jesus' pronouncement claims God's will on this question is more authoritative than Mosaic Law.

v. 11-12: Jesus' final pronouncement on this question, excludes Matthew's 'I am not speaking of 'fornication'  (Mt. 19:9) and assumes a woman can start divorce proceedings against her husband suggesting that Mark was writing in a non-Jewish context where Jewish laws were unknown or irrelevant and where civil law permitted women to divorce their husbands.

v. 13: 'bringing little children to him ', a possible reference to the custom of scribes blessing the young on the Day of Atonement; 'The disciples turned them away,' maybe because they objected to the parents treating Jesus as a scribe.

v. 14: Jesus reaction may be due to: the parents understood Jesus's message better than the disciples; only children had the confidence to call God 'Abba'; or a word of repentance to his disciplines, i.e.make your whole life a Day of Atonement, in order to enter God's kingdom.

v. 15: This saying can be similarly interpreted as Mark 9:42.

21st September 2021

Mark 9:38-48 Using the name  of Jesus

v. 38: 'casting out devils', probably referring to the situation facing the early church and not by Jesus when nondisciples cast out devils in his name.

v. 39: 'must not stop him', Jesus' tolerant attitude is questionable due to the complicated situation this caused, therefore, this saying may only be attributed to Jesus.

v. 41: 'cup of water', an additional saying made possible by the same Greek phrase for 'in your name' and 'because you belong to Christ'.

v. 42: 'obstacle ... little ones', i.e. shakes their faith in Christ.

vv. 43, 45, 47: these warnings against self-entrapment would have been particularly relevant to Christians in Rome during Nero's persecution.

v. 48: 'where their worm does not die nor their fire to out', OT reference to the filth and fire of Gehenna, the ravine south of Jerusalem where human sacrifices were offered to gods and rubbish burnt.

16th September 2021

Mark 9: 30-37 Second Prediction of the Passion

v. 30: 'leaving the mountain/that place', a Marcan formula indicating a new area of Jesus' ministry.

v. 31: 'will be delivered ', a prediction of Judas' treason but could also mean 'be handed over' to death according to God's saving plan; 'put him to death', i.e. killed, as found in anti-Jewish argument and therefore, this part of the verse is considered a probable Christian addition.

vv. 32-34: to keep consistency with the first and third predictions of the Passion, Mark has included this summary of the disciples' misunderstanding.

v. 37: 'who welcomes one of these little children', an adapted saying on how the disciples are to treat others. 

11th September 2021

Mark 8:27-35 Peter's Profession and Jesus' Correction

This passage is the watershed in Mark, as it climaxes Jesus' revelation as the Messiah and introduces the theme of the suffering Messiah

v. 27: 'Caesarea Philippi ', NNE of Lake Galilee; 'the men', most probably the people outside Jesus' circle.

v. 29: 'you', i.e. the Twelve, in  contrast with 'the men'; ' the Christ', Peter's act of faith is in Jesus's messiahship, not yet in Jesus's divinity.

v. 30: Jesus' prohibition reflects his attitude towards the popular idea of the Messiah at the time.

v. 31: 'he began to teach them', Jesus' commentary on Peter's admission; 'was destined', implies the fulfilment of scripture; 'to suffer ... to rise again:' considered as a prediction of Jesus' passion and resurrection, but showing signs of Christian elaboration after the event.

v. 32a: 'openly', suggests Jesus is now not hiding the revelation of his coming suffering.

v. 32b: 'rebuked him', because Peter has failed to grasp that messiahship entails suffering and death.

v. 33: 'turning and seeing his disciples', Jesus' reply is intended not only for Peter; 'Get .. man's', Peter is playing the role of Satan by suggesting Jesus should be the popular political liberator, this aligning himself against God's salvific plan.

v. 34: 'come after me', arm uses the same Greek verb as  'Get behind me,' (v.33) to link the previous event with this group of sayings on discipleship; 'renounce himself', i.e. to stake one's whole life for the Kingdom, now within reach; 'take up his cross',  probably refers to  repenting and dedicating wholly to God, rather than to the Crucifixion.

v. 35: 'save it ', i..e. no sacrifice is too great for life in God's kingdom;  ' for the sake of the gospel ',  implies that Christ is present in and identified with the proclamation of the good news.

2nd September 2021

Mark 7:31-37 Healing of the Deaf Man

v. 31 '...Tyre... Sidon ...', this geographical setting links this miracle with the previous passage,  i.e. the cure of the Syrophoenician's daughter and sets a Gentile setting for the second miracle of the loaves in Mk. 8:1-10.

v. 33: 'He took him aside in private ' continues to connect this miracle to the Messianic secret theme of the gospel; 'put his fingers...spittle', Jesus' gestures are 'sacramental', as they become effective signs of the opening of the ears and the loosening of the tongue.

v. 34: 'looking up to heaven', more of a sign ofJesus' intimacy with God than a prayer.

v. 35: 'his ears were opened ... ', the unusually solemn terms in which the effects of the miracle are told suggest Isaiah 48:8.

v. 36: 'the more widely they published it.', the Greek word for 'published' is the same one used for proclaiming the Gospel.

v. 37: 'Their admiration was unabounded.',  the only place in Mark where the reaction of the crowd is so strongly emphasized; ''makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak'', alludes to Is. 35:5-6 prophesying  that the age of the Messianic salvation has arrived with Jesus.

Mark 6:30-34 The Return of the Apostles

v. 30 apostles: this is the only place where Mark uses the name for the Twelve instead of the usual 'disciples', so as to distinguish them from John's disciples in  Mk. 6:17-29. The meaning here is simply 'those sent out', rather than that of their post-Pentecostal profile.

v. 31 'come away...by yourselves': only in Mark is Jesus alone with the Twelve, in anticipation of a revelation to them; 'rest for a while': 'rest' associated with the Israelite entrance into the promised land after 40 years in the desert (Joshua 1:13,15) and with God as the shephard who gives rest to his flock (Isaiah 65:10), thus, with v.34, prefiguring Jesus as the Good Shephard.

6th July 2021

Mark 6:6b-13 The Mission of the Twelve

v. 6b the villages: Mark's emphasis, as compared with Matthew's (see Mt. 9:35).

v. 7  he summoned the Twelve: a parallel with Mk. 3:13-19.

vv.8-9  he instructed them: literally 'charged them'; 'except a staff': this difference from Matthew and Luke and the other variations, nevertheless, indicate that the missionary must be detached; 'no bread': emphasis to prepare the reader for the miracle in Mk.6:35-44.

vv.10-11 highlights the acceptance, or non-acceptance of the disciples, rather than the futuristic lesson in Mt. 10:15.

v.12 preach repentance: as a preparation for Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom.

v 13 anointed...with oil: apparently a Palestinian custom in which the Church sees  as the prefigurement of the practice in the Sacrament of the Sick.

1st July 2021

Mark 6:1-6 Jesus is rejected in his hometown

v 1 home town: presumably Nazareth, but the Greek word ‘patrida’, or ‘native place’ alludes to Jesus’ final rejection by his people.

v 2 teaching: this leads to skepticism (v.3a), then to opposition (v.3b) and finally to disbelief (v.6a) compared with Mk. 1:21-27.

v 3 ‘son of Mary’: the only N.T. text by which Jesus is named in this way, suggesting this to be a form of insult, as Jewish custom refers to a man as the son of his father.

‘brother’, ‘sisters’: Jesus’ kinsmen, as there is no evidence that Mary has other children.

‘James’: probably the first bishop of Jerusalem, but not one of the Twelve.

v 4 ‘despised’: literally, ‘not without honour’.

v 5 he could work no miracle there: again miracles require faith.

This episode concludes Jesus’ Galilean ministry, which is followed  by a more active participation of the Twelve (Mk. 6:7 - 13:30), as an anticipation of the apostolic Church.

24th June 2021

Mk. 5:21-24, 35-43 - The daughter of Jairus raised to life.

v. 22 one of the synagogue officials: Jairus’ confident approach to Jesus is contrasted with the hostility of the scribes (e.g. Mk. 2:6,16,24).

v. 23 lay your hands: healing by imposition of hands not mentioned in the O.T. , or in rabbinical writings.

v. 35 ‘Your daughter is dead …’ :Jairus’ faith in Jesus’ power to raise the dead, besides in Jesus’ healing powers, is being tested; ‘why put the Master to any further trouble?’: betrays the messengers’ lack of faith.

v. 36 ‘only have faith.’: faith is a prerequisite for a miracle.

v. 37 ‘Peter and James and John: the witnesses to the transfiguration.

v. 39 ‘asleep’: can be interpreted literally, or from a paschal outlook, as in Mark, Jesus’ miracles symbolise the passage from death (sin) to new life.

v. 42 got up: the same Greek verb is here used as for Christ’s resurrection.

v. 43 overcome with astonishment: the same Greek word is used here, as in the  episode where Jesus’ relatives accuse him of insanity (Mk. 3:21).

MK 5:25-34 - Cure of the woman with a haemorrhage.

v. 25 haemorrhage: a woman's period made her ceremonially defiled under Levitical Law.

v. 27 She had heard about Jesus: the Greek rendering denotes a frequent proclamation of the risen Christ.

v. 30 power: this physical release of power that seems to heal automatically still requires faith, as in v. 34 and v.36..

18th June 2021 

Mk.4:35-41

The Calming of the Storm (Discipleship under stress)

vv. 37, 38a, 39 and 41a: early Christian creed in Jesus' power to work miracles.

vv. 35-36, 38b, 40 and 41b: later additions.

v. 36 and leaving the crowd: suggests that this miracle was for the disciples' benefit, but other boats with him indicates it was of interest to wider audience.

v. 37 the boat: considered a symbol for the Church.

v. 38 the cushion: more exactly, the helman's seat on the afterdeck, where Jesus would be protected from the waves.

v. 39 rebuked the wind: as if it were a demon ... 'Quiet now! Be calm! (lit. 'Be muzzled')': in its O.T. context, this shows Jesus' divine mastery over the sea, as God's in the creation narrative.

v. 40 'How is it that you have no faith?': possibly more to do with Mark's recollection of the disciples' loss of faith at Jesus' death, rather than no faith at all in him, as this is a post- resurrection account.

v. 41 'Even the wind and the sea obey him.': a catechetical device to stress that Jesus is God.

11th June 2021

Mark 4:26-34 - Two Parables

v. 26-29 The Parable of the Seed

v.26 'throws seeds on the land', like in the Parable of the Sower (Mk. 4:1-9), the Kingdom of God will come, because it has already irrupted into the world through Jesus' ministry.

v. 27  'how, he does not know', the Kingdom will not come abruptly, but grow from hidden sources, thus Jesus reaffirms that it will not come through force.

v.29 'the harvest has come', the Kingdom will reach its fullness through its own internal power.

 

v. 30-34 The Parable of the Mustard Seed

v. 31 'the smallest of all seeds', probably not, but serves to contrast the Kingdom's humble beginnings with its full potential.

v.32 'the biggest shrub of all', the tree is in the O.T. as an image of God's rule (e.g. Judges 9:15);

'the birds can shelter', an allusion to Daniel 4:21 where the Kingdom is compared with the immensity of the Babylonian Empire at the time, which gave shelter to all peoples.

v.33 'so far as they were capable of understanding it', presupposes that the people understood it to some degree and that Jesus wanted to disclose the truth.

v.34 'he explained everything to his disciples', implies that the parables had to be 'solved' to which only the disciples were priviledged, but Mark's intention here is to show that  the disciples received not only the Jesus' explanation about the parables, but to the whole of his teachings.




Mark 15: 42 - 43
The Burial

v. 43: 'Joseph of Arimathaea', for Mark he is a pious Jew from the town nowadays identified as Rentis, 20 miles NE of Jerusalem, who out of respect for Deuteronomic Law, buried Jesus. This makes v. 42: confusing, for if Joseph was a pious Jew, he could not perform this work on 'the vigil of the sabbath'. Mark's timescale seems to suggest that Passover and Sabbath fell on the same day that year (see John 18:29 and 19:31).

 

Mark 15:23 - 41  

The Crucifixion

v. 23: 'wine mixed with myrrh', to sooth the mind.

v. 24: 'They crucified hm', Mark does not give any of the gory details; 'shared out his clothing', a Roman custom of taking prisoners' clothes as booty.

v. 25: 'third hour', i.e. 9 a.m., not the 'sixth hour' (John 19:27), suggesting Mark was following early Christian liturgical practice for celebration the Passion, rathar than the sequence of events.

v. 26: 'the inscription... The King of the Jews', a Roman custom giving the reason for the penalty, also representing both Pilate's sanctioning the political accusation the Jewish authorities against Jesus' and his contempt of them.

v. 27: 'two robbers', the Greek word could also mean 'insurrectionists'.

v. 29: 'they shook their heads', gesture referred to in the O.T. (e.g. Psalm 22:8) which Mark uses to convey the folly of the cross, the 'stumbling block' for Jews.

     

Jerusalem: The Place of the Crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Death of Jesus

  v. 34: 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani', Aram transliteration for Psalm 22:2; the psalm by which jesus identifies himself with the upright man who surrenders to Yahweh's justice to find consolation and triumph, rather than a cry of failure and despair.

'he is calling on Elijah', the prophet, who was believed to rescue the pious from distress, was expected to return (see (Mark 6:14, 8:28, 9:11).

v. 36: 'vinegar', or sour wine carried by the soldiers used for quenching thirst when mixed with water.

v. 37: 'loud cry', as in Matthew's account, in contrast to Luke's and John's.

v. 38: 'veil of the Temple', the curtain before the holy of holies; could be a symbolic statement by Mark that the way to God is now open.

v. 39: 'In truth this man was a son of God.', this acknowledgement by a pagan is, in a sense, the climax of Mark's Gospel, even though it is more likely that for the centurion, Jesus was rather more than man, although not the full Christian understanding.

v. 40: 'Mary of Magdala',  resident of the town in Galilee and probably the same woman from whom Jesus drove out seven devils (Luke 8:2); 'Mary...mother of James the younger', could the same as 'Mary the wife of Cleopas' (John 19:25) and James as the son of Alphaeus' (Mark 3:18), 'the brother of the Lord' (Galatians 1:19).

 

Mark 15:1 - 22

Jesus before Pilate

v. 1: 'had their plan ready', literally from Greek, 'having prepared a deliberation'; 'handed him over', suggesting complicity between the Jerusalem and Roman authorities. 'Pilate', the Roman procurator and prefect of Judea.

v. 2: 'Are you the King of the Jews?', although Mark's source for this question is uncertain, Pilate understandably makes it, as Jesus has admitted to being the Messiah before the Sanhedrin, and this was the highest title for Israel's kings.

'It is you who say it.', meaning unclear, but could be a half-consenting 'yes', implying that Jesus would have put the question differently.

v. 5: 'no reply', Jesus' silence implies his innocence.

v. 6: 'At festival time', although John (18:39) also refers to this Roman custom of reprieving prisoners to a subjugated people on a feat day, there is no historical evidence for this.

v. 7: 'Barabbas', an Aram name meaning 'son of Abba', literally 'son of the father'. His appearance at the scene of the trial may be the reason for the presence of 'the crowd' (v.8) and Pilate's attempt to get himself out of an awkward situation , suggesting further complicity of the chief priests in Jesus' trial.

v. 13: 'Crucify him!', a capital punishment of Persian origin, used by the Romans for slaves and non-Jews.

v. 14: ' What harm has he done?', Pilate is seen as making an effort to defend an innocent person.

v. 15: 'anxious to placate the crowd', Pilate's complicity is clearly stated.

 

 

Jerusalem: the Church of Condemnation

 

Jesus crowned with thorns  

v. 16: 'soldiers', in pay of the Romans; 'the Praetorium', either Fortress Antonia on the NW corner of the Temple, or Herod's palace on the W. of the city; 'the whole cohort', unlikely to be the 200-600 men, as the Greek word used suggests.

'v. 17: 'dressed him up in purple', i.e. not the soldiers scarlet military cloak as in Matthew's account, therefore implying an imperial role.

v. 18: 'crown of thorns', the long thorns used for fires could be easily woven into a radiate crown of the type used by Greek kings. 'Hail, king of the Jews!', imitating the imperial acclamation; 'Ave, Caesar, victor, imperator!'

v. 19: 'struck ... spat', i.e. the same treatment received by Jesus, as when he appeared before the Sanhedrin.

 

The Way of the Cross  

v. 21: 'enlisted Simon of Cyrene. father of Alexander and Rufus', a colony of Jews had settled in Cyrene (Libyia) since the 4th century B.C.. Simon was probably visiting Jeusalem for the Passover, whereas his two sons were probably known to the Roman community Mark wrote his Gospel for.

v. 22:  'Golgotha', a Greek form of the Aram word for 'skull'.    

Mark 14:15 - 42
The Last Supper 

  v. 18: 'one of you', Judas is not mentioned by name.

v. 20: 'dippinginto the same dish', probably sharing the Passover 'horoset' sauce.

v. 22: 'took bread', following the tradition of the head of the household, saying a blessing over the unleavened bread before the lamb was eaten. 'this is my body',

Jesus gives a new meaning to the significance of the bread, where the word 'is' ('estin'  in Greek) can mean 'is really' or 'is figuratively'. Catholic tradition, with the aid of other biblical texts, has resolved this as meaning true identity and real presence.

v. 23: 'took a cup', probably the third cup following the meal, after which the 'Hallel' (benediction) was sung.

v. 24 'blood of the covenant', an allusion to the sacrifice at the end of the Sinai covenant; 'poured out for many', all peoples are admitted to this new convenant with God.

v. 25 'until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God', the relationship that the institution of Eucharist establishes between Jesus and his follows anticipates its completion at the end of time.

Jerusalem: The Upper Room of the Last Supper Gethsemane

v. 28 'after my resurrection', literally, 'after I am raised'.

v. 33: 'Peter and James and John', the same disciples as at the Transfiguration.

v. 34: 'to the point of death', Jesus' grief is so great that death would be preferable.

v. 37: 'Simon', Mark calls Peter by his original name, implying the latter's new character, through his association with Jesus, is somewhat lacking at this time.

v. 41: 'sleep on', could be also rendered as a question, but as it followed by 'It is all over.', which translated means 'It is enough.'; therefore, it is better understood as a command. 'sinners', could mean either non-Jews, or non-observant Jews.


23rd March 2021

Mark 14: 43 - 72

 

  Jerusalem: Gethsemane

The Arrest

v. 43: 'one of the Twelve', this re-introduction of Judas suggests that this episode is part of a pre-Marcan account of the Passion.

v. 47: 'one of the bystanders', unnamed, but it is Peter in John's Gospel.

v. 48: 'brigand', or 'robber' (from the Greek), making Jesus' ironic remark identifying his captors as coming from the Temple.

vv.51-52: only found in Mark.

The Trial

v. 53: 'to the high priest', Mark appears to have transposed Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin to an unofficial nightly event, that logically would have been place in the morning, as in Luke's Gospel; Caiphas being the high priest.

v. 55: 'the whole Sanhedrin', lit. 'sitting together', 'session', or 'council', 'a body of 71 chief priests, elders and scibes who met under the ruling high priest to decide religious, legal and internal Jewish civic matters that did not belong to the Roman governor'.

'evidence', witnesses were the prosecutors in Jewish court procedures, two of which had to agree in their testimony.

v. 60: 'Have you no answer...?', a possible intervention by the high priest, because of there is no agreement among the witnesses.

v. 61: 'Son of the Blessed One',  only the anointed king of Israel could be called God's son.

v. 62: 'I am,', alludes to God's revelation to Moses (Exodus, 3:14), reinforced by the rest of Jesus' answer.

v. 64: 'blasphemy', because of Jesus' claim that he will sit at God's right hand and be judge in God's kingdom, and not that he profaned God's name.

'he deserved to die.', i.e. by stoning, not to be executed by the Romans. (But see John 18:31-32).

Peter's denials

v. 68: Peter pretends not to know Jesus.

v. 70: Peter's simple denial.

v. 71: Peter's denial with cursing and swearing.

v. 72: 'he burst into tears', or 'wept'  the Greek version preceded by the verb 'epibalon', which could mean also 'having reflected on it'.

     

Mark Chapter 14:1  - 14

The Conspiracy against Jesus

v. 1: 'Passover' celebrated in Jerusalem, being the most important feast of three, obligatory for every Jewish male over 12 years old, followed by 'the feast of Unleavened Bread', for seven days.

'two days', also understood as being the next day, referring to the three days for the Passion and Resurrection from Friday to Sunday by counting both ends.

The Anointing at Bethany

  v. 3: 'Bethany', S.E. of the Mount of Olives; the anointing episode interrupts that of the conspiracy, which continues in vv. 10 and 11; 'nard', ('nardos' in Greek, derived from 'nardin' Persian); 'on his head'. suggests Jesus' royal dignity, as in the OT the head of a king was annointed.

v. 4: 'Some who were there', they become 'the disciples' and 'Judas' in Matthew's and John's account, respectively.

v. 5: '300 denarii', equivalent of 300 days' wages.

v. 8: 'anointed my body beforehand for its burial', thus respecting the sabbath by not buying the oils for burial on that day, i.e. the day of the burial.

 
  

 Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

The Preparation for the Last Supper

v. 12: 'first day of the Unleavened Bread', actually the day before, as corrected by 'when the Passover lamb was sacrificed', i.e. the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple at sunset.

v. 13: 'a man carrying a pitcher of water', Jesus' prediction means that the man would take the disciples to the right house, as male water-carriers would normally tote water in skins.

v. 14: 'The Master', 'Teacher' in the Greek version, suggests the owner of the house was a disciple of Jesus and this was sufficient identification.

 

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