Bible Study Group
Bible Study Group
18th June 2021
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
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
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
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.
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).
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
-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'
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
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)
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.
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).
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'.
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.
-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