Mondays with Mark


Though I’ve delayed putting this up (because I thought this would be brief), I’ve decided to put up a little bit of Mark that I’ve gathered over the past few weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been able to co-teach the gospel according to Mark here at the Calvary Chapel Bible College in York, UK. It’s been a terrific experience for me, and I hope that I continue to have the chance to continue in teaching. 

The Gospel of Mark has been overlooked to often in favor of the other three Gospels (two of which are the Synoptic gospels – Matthew and Luke) which are much longer than Mark. Even throughout Church history it took some time for a “commentary” to come out on Mark, and it was a blip on the radar in an ocean of glaciers of any other biblical book to read/study/teach.


Though I’ve heard Mark is “action-packed” it was hard for me to believe, at least, until I actually started studying it. Jesus is always on the move, is always doing something grand, is always confounding the Pharisees, is always saying more about Himself than the scribes would like to admit, etc. The first class I taught was on Mark 2.13-3.6, which is actually part of a bigger section starting with 2.1 [2.1-3.6]. Essentially, this ‘bigger’ section can be divided up into 5 pieces called a chiasmus [chiastic structure].

A What-mus?

Before going into Mark, here’s what a chiasm(us) is (essentially). A technical definition of a chiasm = the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism. (It’s like the shape of an X split down the middle).

Phrases following this pattern include:

  • “I mean what I say” and “I say what I mean.” 
  • “Oh, you haven’t, haven’t you?”
  • Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” 
  • “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Suzy Q’s Visual Example

Suzy Q goes to the zoo and sees…

A  Lions
    B  Tigers
              C  Bears
                      D  Oh my! [High Point/Focus; Suzy Q runs back & sees…]
              C’  Bears

       B’  Tigers
A’  Lions

…after seeing too much, Suzy Q goes back home.

So there is a mirror [or ‘reversed’] image used to show the high point of the story, with any repetition being like the left and right sides of a stereo speaker (according to Peter Gentry). 

Mark 2 

Here’s where this chiasm comes into play. After showing Jesus to be wildly popular in Mark 1Mark 2 brings us to sudden conflict where the scribes and Pharisees plan to stop this unmerited popularity.

2.1-3.6 Is divide up into 5 sections:

A  Healing (2.1-12)
        B  Eating (2.13-17)
               C  Fasting and Piety (2.18-22)
        B’  Eating (2.23-28)
A’  Healing (3.1-6)

But not only is there a mirror image, but with each step the conflict grow more tense and terse.

The Controversy Rises

A  Anger is mental (2.1-12)
    B  Anger directed toward disciples (2.13-17)
        C  Anger directed at disciples (2.18-22)
             D  Anger is premeditated and directed at JC (2.23-28)
                   E  Anger is mental, but now includes a plot to kill JC (3.1-6)

Upcoming Posts

Why does this structure matter? In my next post will develop the relationship of Mark 1 to Mark 2, and how Jesus popularity is contested by the religious elite early on in Mark’s Gospel, and how this 5-tier structure actually fleshes itself out in Mark 2.

Other Mondays with Mark


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