GOSPEL OF MARK 2018 04 CH 6, 7


Boring, M. Eugene.  Mark: A Commentary.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series edited by C.Clifton Black and John T. Carroll.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2006).

Byrne, Brendan.  A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2008).

Donahue, S.J., John R. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J..  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the Sacra Pagina biblical commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2002).

Duran, Nicole Wilkinson Duran, Teresa Okure, Daniel M. Patte editors.  Mark.  Part of the Texts @ Contexts series edited by Athalya Brenner and Nicole Wilkinson Duran.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2011).

France, R.T.  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series edited by I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner.  (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 2002).

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid.  What was Mark At? The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  (Columbia Press, Dublin, 2008).

Healy, Mary.  The Gospel of Mark.   Part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture edited by Peter Williamson and Mary Healy.  (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2008).

Hengel, Martin.  Studies in the Gospel of Mark.  Translated by John Bowden from the original German.  (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene OR, 1985).

Myers, Ched.  Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.  Twentieth Anniversary Edition.  (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1988/2008).

Myers, Ched & Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Stuart Taylor.  “Say to the This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. (Orbis, Maryknoll NY, 1996).

Perkins, Pheme.  The Gospel of Mark.  New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. VIII.  Part of the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary series convened by Leander Keck.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995).

Placher, William C.  Mark.  Part of the bible commentary serried Belief, A Theological Commentary on the Bible edited by Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2010).

Ryken, Leland, James C.Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, General Editors.  Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.  (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 1998).

Sweetland, Dennis.  Mark: From Death to Life. Part of the Spiritual Commentaries on the bible series edited by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2000).

Williamson, Jr.,  Lamar.  Mark.  Part of the Interpretation biblical commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick d. Miller, and Paul J. Achtemeier.  (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1983)




This talk is by Mary Lou Stubbs.

Mark written about 40 years after resurrection – 70ad or a little later.  A period when Judaism was re-inventing itself, re-trenching.  Less tolerant.  This rejection of Jesus / Christians leads Mark to portray / emphasize the betrayal of Jewish leadership in the life of Jesus, the Pharisees become the ‘bad guys’

Compare this gospel to a home-made quilt.  Straight-forward, apparently simple, available to the common person.  Pieces are well-worn, evoke memories and emotions.  Small pieces trimmed and fit with others in a small pattern, small patterns are repeated with variation until a whole quilt is created.

Gospel of Mark tells us of Jesus at one level, the gospel writer at another level, and the Christian community that Mark wrote for.

Her reading of the gospel is through HER lens – religious sister (Daughter of Charity), her passion (service to the poor).

All of us are in ministry.  Ministry = “gospel inspired activity”

What happens in these chapters?

Jesus comes home famous, not welcomed but rejected.

Jesus sends out disciples without stuff but with the power of the H.S.

Herod hears, John the Baptist returned?

Crowds follow.  Jesus provides food for the crowd.

Storm.  New crowds.  Pharisees and controversy.

Jesus leaves the country.  Approached by Gentile woman on behalf of her daughter.  Finally cure of deaf man.  Mark 7:37:  “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak.”

The pace of these chapters somewhat paralleled in our lives today – being overwhelmed, over-stimulated, exhausted by the pace.

Jesus is hoping the disciples will see the whole pattern and not just the pieces, see the work of God in their midst.  Too busy doing ‘for’ God to see God in our midst?  Never too late to stop and look back and reflect and see, particularly the bigger patterns of social justice, service to others.

Jesus is rejected by his family and friends.  Are we jealous of others?

Jesus sent the disciples out 2 by 2.  When have we been successful and joyful in our ministry?

King Herod nervous when he hears about Jesus.  When have we gotten nervous.

We will find strength in partnership with the community, the Spirit, the people we serve.


Pope Benedict, first encyclical, on Christmas 2005:

“The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity.  These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable.  For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.”  Deus Caritas Est

Our communal / social sins are truly sins.  “…the overdue recognition of the churches longstanding tradition on social justice as constitutive, not optional, to the Gospels and to ordinary Catholic faith … many of the sins on the latest list have always been with us, especially the gap between the rich and poor … Broader patterns of social evil like racism, sexism ad poverty … drug trafficking, chemical dumping, unethical science and corporate greed are sinful.”    National Catholic Reporter.






Outline of chapter 6:

  • Teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth
  • Sending out the 12
  • King Herod hears about Jesus
  • Story of Herod and the execution of John the Baptist
  • Journey to a deserted place & Feeding of the 5,000
  • Journey back to the other side by boat & Jesus walks on water
  • Healings in Gennasaret


Similarities: John and Jesus

  • both encounter the ruling power who has an interest in them
  • both powers are manipulated to put to death the holy man
  • Those who hate the holy men do so out of fear for their own status / role / well-being
  • after death someone rescues the body and gives them a decent burial


Bread in the OT (numerous references to manna)

Exodus 16:1-5

Having set out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came into the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. Here in the desert the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.


The Israelites said to them, “Would that we had died at the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion; thus will I test them, to see whether they follow my instructions or not. On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in, let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Sitting in groups of 100’s and 50’s

Exodus 18:14-24  Jethro and Moses get the people organized


When his father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he inquired, “What sort of thing is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone while all the people have to stand about you from morning till evening?” Moses answered his father-in-law, “The people come to me to consult God. Whenever they have a disagreement, they come to me to have me settle the matter between them and make known to them God’s decisions and regulations.”


“You are not acting wisely,” his father-in-law replied. “You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but also these people with you. The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now, listen to me, and I will give you some advice, that God may be with you. Act as the people’s representative before God, bringing to him whatever they have to say. Enlighten them in regard to the decisions and regulations, showing them how they are to live and what they are to do.


But you should also look among all the people for able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and set them as officers over groups of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. Let these men render decisions for the people in all ordinary cases. More important cases they should refer to you, but all the lesser cases they can settle themselves. Thus, your burden will be lightened, since they will bear it with you. If you do this, when God gives you orders you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” Moses followed the advice of his father-in-law and did all that he had suggested.



Teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth

Family relationships were extremely important and at the same time somewhat nebulous.  The words for brother and sister could mean cousins, step-brothers and step-sisters, etc..  Clearly “James, the brother of Jesus” is very well attested in many places.  Donahue p. 187ff offers a number possible answers to the problem which occurs to all of us Catholics:

  1. there were physical brothers and sisters of Jesus. Accepted by some in the early church, by most Protestants and most scholars.
  2. these were children of Joseph by an earlier marriage
  3. cousins

Jesus is identified as the “son of Mary” – this is not the normal way of identifying someone (son of …) would be normal.  Mark may not have done so because God was Jesus’ father – a Christological reason.  Early Jewish polemic used a text like this to suggest that Jesus was illegitimate.

Donahue p. 183: “Any Jewish layman could address a synagogue meeting if invited by the synagogue officials.”  (Rabbi was an honorific term, did not then connote ordination or official recognition.  In Pirke Avot, a hundred years later, one became a rabbi / teacher when one could and did attract paying students.)


Sending out the 12

Two witnesses were needed to testify in court against someone.  This may have been an underlying reason to send them out 2 by 2 – so that their words might not be subjected to immediate scorn.  Alternatively – may have just been a practical concern, a concern for safety on the road… who knows?

Deut. 19:15-21

“One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.


“If an unjust witness takes the stand against a man to accuse him of a defection from the law, the two parties in the dispute shall appear before the LORD in the presence of the priests or judges in office at that time; and if after a thorough investigation the judges find that the witness is a false witness and has accused his kinsman falsely, you shall do to him as he planned to do to his kinsman. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst. The rest, on hearing of it, shall fear, and never again do a thing so evil among you. Do not look on such a man with pity. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot!


Numbers 35:29,30

“These shall be norms for you and all your descendants, wherever you live, for rendering judgment. “Whenever someone kills another, the evidence of witnesses is required for the execution of the murderer. The evidence of a single witness is not sufficient for putting a person to death.


This section, along with others such as the Great Commission at the end of Matthew, are part of our church’s tradition of being “sent”, of being sent by Jesus to bring the good news to the world.  We are evangelistic at our core.

King Herod hears about Jesus

This is King Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great (who rebuilt the Temple).  He was born about 20 years before Jesus.

Interestingly – Herod is told that some consider Jesus a prophet – but the people of Nazareth have just rejected him as a prophet!  Similar to the testimony of the demons?


Story of Herod and the execution of John the Baptist

The dance may or may not have been sexual in overtone.  No evidence at all for the artistic tradition of making it sexual in nature.

Herod makes a rash oath – something that the wisdom tradition constantly warned Jews against.

Judges 11:29-32

The spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and through Mizpah-Gilead as well, and from there he went on to the Ammonites.   Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD. I shall offer him up as a holocaust.”   Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his power, …



Journey to a deserted place & Feeding of the 5,000

Like a flock without a shepherd:

Num. 27:15-18

Then Moses said to the LORD, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all things, to guide them in all their actions; that the LORD’S community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.”   And the LORD replied to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand upon him.


Isaiah 40:10,11 the LORD will feed them like a shepherd

Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm;

Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs,

Carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.


The text notes that all were “satisfied” and may be an allusion to the manna in the desert where each was satisfied by it.

Placher p. 109: “… the key numbers related to the history of Israel – five loaves, like the five books of the Law, fed them; twelve baskets, like the twelve tribes, were left over.  Jesus laments that the people are sheep without a shepherd, regretting the lack of the sort of great leader Israel once had.  Those fed are all identified as men, and they are arrayed in a kind of battle formation, evoking eschatological calls to gather the troops of Israel.”

Donahue p. 208: “The closest OT parallel to this story is the miraculous feeding of one hundred men with twenty barley loaves by Elisha.”  2 Kings 4:42-44  Which comes in the same chapter as a number of other miraculous events done by Elisha..

2 Kings 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing the man of God twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. But his servant objected, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha insisted. “For thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'” And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said.


Donahue p. 209 points out that this feeding story comes right after the excessive banquet of Herod for the elite of Galilee.

Journey back to the other side by boat & Jesus walks on water

Donahue p. 215: “Mark is not interested in the moral or ethical aspect of the disciples’ failure but in their narrative theological function.  The reader is told why they fail: because in some mysterious way god willed their failure and hardened their hearts.  The discordance between the readers understanding and the disciples’ perception furthers the dramatic flow of Mark.”



Outline of chapter 7:

  • Controversy with the Pharisees over unwashed hands leading to teaching on what does and what does not defile a person
  • In the District of Tyre – healing the daughter of the SyroPhoenician woman
  • Healing of the man who was deaf and had a speech impediment near Decapolis


Controversy with the Pharisees over unwashed hands leading to teaching on what does and what does not defile a person

Perkins p. 606: “Dispute over such traditions divided sects within Judaism from one another.  The arguments in this section may have been formulated when Jewish Christians had to defend their failure to observe such pious customs.  Mark and his readers are uninterested in the details of Jewish legal debates.  The explanation Mark provides for the reader (v.3, 4) reflects an outsider’s almost sarcastic view of Jewish customs.  Both Pharisaic and Essene legislation shows that these sects required their followers to eat food in a state of ritual purity.  The traditions about eating made distinctions between requirements for laity and priests.  Exceptions dealt with situations in which individuals might have to eat without performing ritual washing.”   Divisions among Protestants and Catholics over proper rituals for baptism, communion, etc.????

One of the big innovations of the Pharisees was the idea that all of the people were called to be holy – not just priests.  This meant, in practice, that rules that previously were understood to apply only to priests while they were serving in the Temple were now being applied (with adjustments) to everyday folks in the midst of everyday life.  A great concept – hard to implement!  For us today – as if we were to apply monastic life rules to married life – including prayer in the middle of the night, silence at other hours, etc.

Some things however were from the beginning for all Jews and gave a sense of both religious and  national identity.  Circumcision, Sabbath, dietary restrictions about what could be eaten and what was forbidden.  It is precisely these things which generated the most controversy in the early church as Gentiles were brought in.    WHAT MARKS A CATHOLIC TODAY?   WHAT USED TO MARK US OFF???

“Qorban” – goods declared by a person’s vow to be dedicated to the Temple could be used by them in their lifetime.  (Perhaps like certain legal trusts today?)    But the vow, held some sects, could not be set aside – even in the case that one now needed to support one’s aged parents.  Later rabbinic law ruled that it could be set aside – indicating that in the time of Jesus it was still unsettled.  Jesus points out that this can be seen as a contradiction to other, more basic, laws of God.

Williamson p. 134: “Mark 7:1-23 is properly viewed in the wider perspective of the early church’s struggle with Jewish law.”   For Mark and for the early church it is significant that the opposition now comes from Jerusalem.  For the church today – from ????

France p. 277: “The controversy over ritual purity, with its radical implications for the status of the food laws which divide Jew from Gentile, thus appropriately acts as the narrative hinge between the Jewish and Gentile phases of Jesus’ ministry in the north, and at the same time points forward to what awaits him in the subsequent phase of the drama when he makes his way to Jerusalem, the place from which this hostile delegation has come.”

On the one hand attention to details in relatively minor things can be a good constant reminder of the bigger things.  A style of policing implement in NYC years ago that supposedly led to a big drop in larger crimes.  On the other hand – we can become formalistic, over-valuing the minor things and overshadowing the major things – as the Pharisees are accused by Jesus, and which also happened in NYC.

Jesus does not outright reject all human interpretation of the Laws in the OT – but he does subject all such interpretation to judgment – is it faithful to the spirit of the law involved?  The subject of what Jesus really felt about the law etc. would take a whole semester of study in itself – and perhaps few real conclusions could be drawn.

France p. 283: “”But for the scribes, as for religious groups generally, there is an assumption that what has once been established by usage is normative; for them this practice is now self-evidently right.  Jesus’ response will therefore focus on this more fundamental issue of the relative authority of tradition as such as a guide to the will of God, rather than on the provenance of the particular tradition in question.”

A great canon lawyer, James Corriden, taught that whenever the law is being used as a club to beat someone over the head with – it is being misused.   Perhaps especially in the case of particulars of a law, of a custom, etc..


Healing seen from an African perspective

In Duran p. 8 and following the author, Israel Kamudzandu from Zimbabwe, notes the similarity between the healing actions of Jesus and African healers / shamans.   Even more so he points out the similar qualities – trustworthy, upright, friendly, willing to serve others,  able to discern what is within others.

Duran p. 9: “The religious beliefs and practices of African people are interwoven with magic, and the distinctions that were made by missionaries between African culture and church did not exist among the people.”   African practices were more holistic than our modern western healing practices – as were those of Jesus.

Duran p. 12: “African Christians are aware of mystical powers in the universe.  The source of this mystical power is ultimately from God, and is given to certain individuals as a gift.  In recent years, especially after independence, African Christians began to trust clergy with the ability to heal and ward off evil forces and sickness.  For most Africans, the universe  is not a static place but a dynamic living planet in which God directs everything.  God has absolute control over it and the medicine specialists display their access to God in various ways, such as the ability to diagnose and prescribe herbs.  Similarly, in Mark Jesus is portrayed as a miracle worker and a charismatic magician, acclaimed as the agent of the divine eschatological fulfillment.  Therefore it is not a surprise that African Christians carry the Bible wherever they go and use it as a charm for protective purposes.”



In the District of Tyre – healing the daughter of the SyroPhoenician woman

Tyre was on the Mediterranean Sea, to the northwest of Galilee, in Syria.  Foreign territory.  Hostile territory – traditional enemies of the Jews, though they sometimes aided them.

Boring p. 210: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus is considered by Mark as the key turning point.  Before it – disciples were clueless, after it – they understood.   Before it – Messianic secret, after it – mission to proclaim the good news.  Before it – Jesus mission to Israel / Jews, after it – Church’s mission to the Gentiles.

Williamson, p. 138, notes that the focus of this story is less on the cure and more on the issue posed by the woman.  The early church openness to Gentiles was justified on the basis of this and a few other similar texts.

dogs were not ‘pets’.  They were unclean.  The Jews considered Gentiles dogs.  The phrase is intentionally offensive.

France p. 296: “As a result the reader is left more vividly aware of the reality of the problem of Jew-Gentile relations, and of the importance of the step Jesus here takes to overcome it.  The woman’s “victory” in the debate is a decisive watershed as a result of which the whole future course of the Christian movement is set not on the basis of Jewish exclusivism but of sharing the ‘children’s bread’ “.

Does the Gentile woman understand the “bread” better than Jews / feeding story, or the disciples?   Later tradition names her Justa and her daughter Bernice (Boring p. 210)  Boring p. 214 notes that she is the only person in the entire gospel to address Jesus as Lord.

Perkins passes on (p. 611) the ideas of Gerd Theissen in Gospels in Context  – that a socio-economic  dynamic is being played out and then overcome.  Galilean farmers resented their produce being bought and sold to feed wealthy Gentiles with their own children going hungry (in hard times).  In the interaction Jesus acknowledges this resentment but does not yield to it.  “The miracle is the overcoming of prejudice and boundaries that separate persons.”  Interestingly – this view means that the woman does not represent a “poor victim” of the world but instead a wealthy oppressor!

Healing of the man who was deaf and had a speech impediment near Decapolis

Decapolis – a Gentile region.  “Ten cities” .  An area across (east) of the Jordan River as it emerges from the Sea of Galilee.  From a geographic point of view it makes no sense at all for Jesus to go from Tyre to the Decapolis area by way of Sidon.   It is possible that Mark is suggesting  that Jesus was in exile.  Another scholar (Boring, p. 216) suggests that it represents a wider area of where there were Gentile-based churches at the time of Mark.

As much as the miracle in Tyre was under-played – this one is quite dramatic and spelled out.

Williamson p. 138: ‘Significantly, the reference in Isa. 35 is to the glorious fulfillment of God’s saving purpose in the end-time.  “He has done all things well, “ followed by a reference to Isa. 35:5-6a, is therefore far more than a character reference for a good man.  The Marcan text will suggest to sensitive readers and hearers that in Jesus the eschatological reign of God is present.”

Isaiah 35:1-10 (the whole chapter)

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.


Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak,

Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God, he comes with vindication;

With divine recompense he comes to save you.


Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared;

Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing.

Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.


The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; The abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.

A highway will be there, called the holy way; No one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it.


No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.

It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy;

They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.



NEXT WEEK: Mark chapter 8 – 9:32


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