I don’t have much to say about Mark, because it’s the shortest Gospel and virtually all of it was copied into Matthew. (A smaller percentage, but still the majority of the text, was also copied into Luke.) I’m actually thinking of omitting it from my abridged Bible reading challenge for that reason. (Thoughts on that?)
Reading Mark, though, can be an interesting experience because when so much of the material you find in Matthew isn’t there, it’s easier to notice the material original to Mark. I actually found Mark rather troubling when I first read it all the way through when at Christian summer camp (I must have been in my early teens). Matthew’s advice about being good to other people is mostly gone, but the stuff about the Kingdom of Heaven being near is still there, so it makes it much easier to notice that stuff and think, “wow, Mark makes Jesus sound like a nut!”
The other thing about Mark is that Jesus gets angry. A lot. Bart Ehrman actually devotes several pages to this point in Misquoting Jesus. You see, in some manuscripts, Mark 1:41 says Jesus had compassion on a leper who wanted to be healed. But in others, it says he gets angry with the leper. Which is it? One of the points Ehrman makes in defending “angry” being the original line is that in Mark, Jesus gets angry fairly often, but Matthew and Luke consistently get rid of references to Jesus being angry when copying Mark.
At the time, I thought you’d have to be a Bible studies super-nerd to care about that sort of thing, but rereading Mark now… yeah. Jesus is really angry in Mark. One of the most striking examples is Mark 7:24-30:
24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.[a] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
It took awhile for this to click, but Jesus is pretty much calling a woman a dog for asking for her daughter to be healed (and because she isn’t Jewish?) And then agrees to heal the daughter once the woman accepts her place as a dog. Way to be inclusive, Jesus!
Okay, now for the few tweets I bothered to make about Mark:
- I wonder if I should delete Mark from my “abridged Bible challenge.” Vast majority of Mark was copied into Matthew. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/11/draft-of-an-abridged-bible-reading-challenge/ …
- Mark 6:1-5: The people in Jesus’ hometown say, “hey, don’t we know this guy?” This limits his ability to work miracles.
- Oh, I had not gotten the fact that in Mark 7:25-30, Jesus implies a Greek woman is a dog. (B/c she’s not Jewish??) Thanks to
- The Bible says both that if you’re not against Jesus, you’re with him, and if you’re not with him, you’re against him. Logically, they’re…
- …the same thing, but they have very different implications: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/withme.html …
- Mark 13:6 “Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”
- Mark 13:24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.”
- Mark 13:25 “and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
- Mark 13:26 “Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.”
- Mark 13:30 “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”
- Mark 16:16 “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”
- Mark 16:17 “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues.”
- Mark 16:18: More signs of believers: they will pick up snakes, not be hurt by poison, and cure the sick by laying on of hands.
- The verses I just tweeted from Mark are from a later edition to the text, but for most of Christianity’s history, Xians didn’t know that.