I have tried reading the bible about a dozen times but I always start with Matthew or Genesis but my eyes go all blurry at the all the begats in Matthew Ch1 and the bewildering number of people that appear and disappear in Genesis so I decided to skip Matthew altogether this time and go straight to Mark. What a fine idea that was.
I have been reading a little bit at bedtime and I have actually been looking forward to it every night. It’s a good read. All the well known stories are there (the later ones anyway. Mark didn’t cover the nativity stuff. Matthew and Luke made that stuff up to fulfill some earlier prophecy) and they are told in a very distinctive style. The stories are very precise in some details but he just glosses over big chunks of the rest of the story.
It’s odd which details get the precise treatment and which ones don’t. It’s almost as if he were just writing a story that would have been already familiar to his readers – or maybe he was jotting down the memories of an older companion who insisted that he get this bit just right.
Another odd facet of Mark is the way he has Jesus saying “but don’t tell anybody” after every good deed and, when he tells a parable, he explains it to the disciples in private so that no one else would understand. For someone who came for our salvation, the J-dude was pretty secretive with his advice. Or maybe Mark just wanted to show that he had some inside scoop that wasn’t available to the common Galilean Fanboy.
All the books I have read on bible criticism seem to concur that Mark wrote after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. In other words, about forty years after the traditional date for Jesus’s death (that’s a bit like me writing about England winning the world cup “There are people on the pitch! They think it’s all over! ….It is now!” but Israel in 4BC had no mass communication. He also wrote in Greek in a country far away from the lands he talks about with such precision.
Maybe he was writing on behalf of a disciple (who was, presumably, illiterate)? That would explain all the obscure references – “make sure you tell them about the tax collector at Capernaum!…” – and big omissions and all the insider details.
Mark was supposedly the source for both Matthew and Luke which makes their accounts third hand at best. Let’s see if Luke does as good a job as Mark. The start looks promising…
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,Â that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
Now, who was Theophilus, I wonder…