Friday, November 10, 2017

The Gospel of Mark: a World-Historical Text

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. --Mark 1:40-45

This passage appeared in a friend’s post. Mark, the earliest of the the Gospels, and the shortest, is also in many ways the most powerful--a brilliant, world-altering text. Think about it. Whoever this author was, he created a new genre of writing to communicate a new reality that had entered the world. Scholars point out that his Greek was crabbed, uncouth. But his narrative skills were immense.

In Mark we see the human side of Jesus. We see him almost as a man reeling from his own powers. Much in the narrative also indicates a closeness to the crowds that thronged to get near this power.

Erich Auerbach, the first couple chapters of whose Mimesis are sheer brilliance, points out that Mark was the first writer in the ancient world to write of the lower classes as fully human characters. He brought into writing an entirely new, and more fully human, way of communicating social reality. I would suggest that this is because, like many a first Christian, he recognized that Jesus' coming radically altered social reality as such.


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