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New Testament

What was the literary style of the Gospel of Mark?

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April 21, 2015 12:08AM

Mark's Gospel is a paradox. On the one hand, it is written clumsily and ungrammatically, in an unpolished Greek style. On the other hand, the author displays considerable literary skills, and planned and developed the Gospel with great proficiency.

Some scholars say that Mark's Gospel began as a mimesis composition. In ancient Greek times, students of Greek learnt to take one of the great literary works, especially those of Homer, and develop a new and original work, using material from the original. The student's essay need not have been fiction, but the development of the story had to rely on the Homeric epic or other such source. The student had to identify the source that had inspired his writing, but to do so openly was considered boring. The approved method was to place clues, or flags, in the text, so that readers could work out just what part of the great literary works had been used to inspire the new writing.

It appears that the author of Mark's Gospel was skilled at mimesis. Throughout the Gospel can be found words or passages that some scholars say can be interpreted as mimesis flags. Even his use of clumsy and ungrammatical Greek was used to disguise his background and intentions.

The author achieves emphasis by means of two ancient literary techniques, intercalation, and chiastic and parallel structures, which create associations of otherwise unrelated events, in the minds of the reader. The framework parallel structure encompasses the entire gospel, as seen in the following summary:

A . John explains the coming of Jesus (Mark 1:1-8)

B .The baptism of Jesus (1:9)

C . The voice of God from heaven, "Thou art my beloved son" (1:11)

D . The forty days in the wilderness as an allusion to Elijah and Moses (1:13)

E . The people were astonished at what Jesus taught (1:22)

F . Jesus casts out an unclean spirit (1:23-26)

G . Pharisees took counsel with the Herodians how they might destroy Jesus (3:6)

H . Demons, whenever they see Jesus, fall down and say that he is the Son of God.

-- Jesus commands that they tell no one of this (3:11-12)

I .. Jesus calls the 12 disciples (3:13-19)

J .. Jesus rejects his own family: he has a new family, his followers (3:31-35)

K . Jesus rebukes the wind (4:36-41)

L . The demoniac, wearing no clothes (5:15), cries out that Jesus not torment him and Jesus sends out the demons (5:1-20)

M . Jesus comes into his own country (6:1)
-- Where he was brought up

N . The people misunderstand Jesus and he can do no mighty work (6:2-6)

O . Jesus sends out the disciples and curses those who will not receive them (6:7-11)
-- in sending the disciples with authority and expecting all to receive them, Jesus is asserting his own authority

P . Herod thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead (6:14)

Q . Herodias and her daughter conspire to kill John the Baptist (6:16-29)

R . Feeding the thousands, and related miracles and discourses (6:33-8:21)

S . Who do people say that I am (8:27)

T . Peter affirms faith in Jesus as the Christ (8:29)

U . Whosoever shall be ashamed of me: of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed (8:38)

V . The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes (8:31a)

W . Be killed and after three days rise again (8:31b)

X . Prophecy of second coming (9:1)- Jesus tells the disciples that some of them would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God coming with power.

B' .The Transfiguration of Jesus (9:2-3)

C' .The voice of God from heaven, "This is my beloved son" (9:7)

D' . Jesus talks to Elijah and Moses then to the disciples about Elijah (9:4-13)

E' .A great multitude was amazed at Jesus (9:15)

F' .Jesus cast out a dumb spirit (9:17-27)

G' .They shall kill the Son of man and he shall rise on the third day (9:31)

H' .Jesus clarifies his divine status, saying that he is not God: "Why call me good? There is none good but God" (10:18)

I' . Peter says the disciples have left all and followed Jesus (10:28)

J' . Those who have left their family for Jesus have a new family: all Jesus' followers (10:29-30)

K'. Jesus rebukes the 'sons of thunder', James and John (10:35-45 - cf 3:17)

L' .Blind Bartimaeus cries out for mercy and casts off his clothes, then Jesus heals him (10:46-52)

M' .Jesus comes into Jerusalem (11:1-10)
-- Where he will die

N' .Jesus misunderstands the fig tree that can provide no fruit (11:13-14)

O' .Jesus casts out them that sold and bought in the Temple and curses them for making the Temple a den of thieves (11:15-17)
-- Jesus is asserting his authority

P' .Jesus asks whether the baptism of John is from heaven or of men, and the priests, scribes and elders can not answer (11:30-33)

Q' .Parable of husbandmen who conspire to kill the vineyard owner's son (12:1-9)

X' .Prophecy of second coming (chapter 13)

-- on clouds of glory, within the lifetimes of some of those to whom he was speaking

R' .The Last Supper (14:17-25)

S' .Art thou the Christ, Son of God (14:61)

T' .Peter denies Jesus three times (14:66-72a)

U' .And when he thought thereon, Peter wept (14:72b)

V' .The chief priests, elders and scribes delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate (15:1)

-- Delivering Jesus is a similar concept to rejecting him.
-- Both parts of the pair involve chief priests, elders and scribes

W' .Jesus dies and on the third day rises again (15:37, 16:6)

A' .The young man explains the departure of Jesus (16:6-8)