Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Mark 13-16

In chapter 13, Jesus preaches to his disciples that "not one stone here [of the temple] will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."  He foresees the end times, that "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom," with earthquakes and famines.  He tells them that these are the beginning - the KJV says of "sorrows," the NIV "of birth pains."  He explains that they will be "handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues."  But "the gospel must first be preached to all nations."  He warns them to beware of false prophets, and to know that heaven and earth will pass away but never his words.  And he tells them that these things will happen before this generation passes, but that no one but the father knows the time.  So that they must constantly watch for the signs.

Chapter 14 starts with Jesus and his apostles in Bethany "in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper."  A woman anointed him with "expensive perfume" and some of the disciples grumbled that they could have sold it and given it to the poor.  Jesus tells him that the poor will always be with them, but he won't, and that she has done a good thing.  Then Judas went to the priests to betray him.  Jesus sent his disciples to a house where a room was prepared for the Passover, and they had the last supper.  He poured out the cup and said, "this is my blood."  He broke the bread, saying "this is my body which is broken for you."  "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Jesus told them that they would "all fall away," quoting Zechariah.  When Peter protests, Jesus tells him that he will deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows twice.  They then went to a place called Gethsemene, and Jesus asked them to sit for a while as he prayed.  He prayed to God that he would "take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."  When he came back to the disciples, three times, they were sleeping.  Then Judas appeared with a crowd sent from the chief priests and elders.  He kissed Jesus, thus identifying him for the crowd as the one they wanted.  There was a scene and one of those standing near cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, but Jesus stopped them, asking why they hadn't just taken him from the temple courts where he had been preaching.  "But the Scriptures must be fulfilled."  A young man, "wearing nothing but a linen garment," was following Jesus.  When he was seized, the young man fled, leaving the garment behind.

They brought him before the Sanhedrin, and when they asked if he was the Christ, he responded, "I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."  They high priest asked whether they needed to hear any more blasphemy, and they condemned him as worth of death, and began to beat him.  Meanwhile, Peter, in the courtyard, denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus, and wept when the rooster crowed for the second time.

In chapter 15, we are told that the "the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin" came to a decision to hand him over to Pilate.  Pilate asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews and Jesus answered, "yes."  He then asked the crowd whether he should release Jesus or Barabbas, and the priests incited the crowd to say Barabbas.  Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, and they cried, "Crucify him!"  And to satisfy them, Pilate released him to the crowd.  The soldiers led him away, mocking him.  They put him in a purple robe and twisted a crown of thorns on to his head.  They made a man named Simon from Cyrene carry his cross and they took him to Golgotha.  They crucified him, and divided his clothes casting lots.  There were two robbers crucified, one on either side of him.

At the ninth hour, he cried out ""Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  The soaked a sponge in vinegar, put it on a stick and offered it to him.  Then, with a loud cry, he breathed his last.  At the same time, the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom.  And the centurion watching said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"

It was the day before the sabbath.  Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body, which surprised Pilate, as he didn't expect him to have died yet.  Learning that it was true, he gave the body to Joseph, who wrapped it in linen and laid it in a tomb cut out of rock.  A large stone was rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.  Mary Magdelene, and Mary "the mother of Joses" saw where he was laid.

In chapter 16, when the Sabbath was over, the Marys went to anoint the body.  When they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away.  When they entered the tomb, "a young man dressed in a white robe" told them that "He has Risen!"  He gave them a message to take to Peter, that he would see him in Galillee, and the women fled in fear.

Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and she went and told the mourning disciples, who didn't believe her.  Later, Jesus appeared to the eleven while they were eating, and rebuked them for their lack of faith.  He told them to go out in to all the world and preach the Gospel, and that "all who believe and are baptized will be saved."  After he spoke to them, "he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God."  The disciples went out and preached everywhere, "and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."

Thoughts, questions, issues
  • Jesus quotes Isaiah extensively - chapter 13 seems like something that could almost have come from Isaiah (and part of it did, as verses 24-25 are quotes from Isaiah) or Jeremiah.  It's an apocalypse.
  • In 13:8, the Greek word "ὠδίνων" is translated "sorrows" by the KJV and "birth pains" by the NIV.  It seems likely that the NIV is more accurate here (and in almost all cases where there is a translation conflict.)  It appears four times in the New Testament.  In Acts 2:24, it is used for the "agony" or "pains" of death, but in the other three cases, "birth pains" is either most likely correct (Mk 13:8, Mt 24:8) or obviously correct (1 Th 5:3).
  • 13:10 has Jesus using the Greek word "εὐαγγέλιον" for the first time in this book.  It's generally translated as "Gospel" or "Good News," and it's clearly the Greek word from which "evangelical," "evangelist," et al., are derived.
  • I've already mentioned the fully formed Christology that appears in Mark.  Here we see it again in what is almost a quote from Daniel:
    Dan 7:13-14

    I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

     14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

    Mk 13:26-27

    26"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

  • It's hard to know just what Jesus means by "this generation."  Read literally, with the strictest possible definition of "generation," we're talking about these things happening within the next twenty years or so.  But the Greek word, "γενεὰ," can also mean "age" or "race" or "nation."
  •   So there are at least a couple of possibilities:
    1. Jesus is speaking of the race of men - the race of men will still live when the end times come.
    2. Jesus is speaking literally of the current generation, and the end times actually began at the resurrection.
    3. Jesus is speaking figuratively, to emphasize the fact that no one knows when the end will come, it could come at any minute, and the need for watchfulness is urgent and imminent.
  • in 14:10, does that "then" ("then Judas Iscariot went...") imply causation?  Or is it simply a temporal link?  In computer programming (and logic), the "if...then..." construct is a fundamental building block.  Is this a case of "IF Jesus won't rebuke the woman for not giving that money to the poor THEN Judas will betray Jesus?"  It almost reads that way.  The preposition could have been left out and the ordering would have been assumed.  The "then" seems to link the betrayal to the previous action. (In John's Gospel, it is Judas, in fact, that is the one complaining that the oil has been wasted, because he has been stealing from the money bag [Jn 12:4-6)].)
  • Is there a tradition that associates the anointing woman with Mary Magdalene?  Does one of the other Gospels identify her?  Or it that a connection that I've made sometime in the past for no good reason?  [John does, in fact, identify the woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, but that's a different setting than the story Mark and Matthew tell.]
  • The precise meaning of the cup and the bread is, of course, one of the significant disagreements between branches of the church.  I won't comment on it until I've read through all four Gospels again.
  • Who is the young man in linen, fleeing naked from Gethsemane?  I have seen interpretations suggesting that this was Mark (John Mark) himself, or others that associate that young man with the rich young man from chapter 10.  I don't know.
  • I'd never noticed before that the Sanhedrin "reached a decision" "very early in the morning."  So even after bringing him in and putting him on trial and convicting him, they were still unsure of what, exactly, to do with Jesus.
  • It is my understanding that Mary, the mother of Joses is Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and also Mary the mother of Jesus Christ.  I'm not sure why that's my understanding, but it is.
  • There was little-to-no-regard for women, culturally, at the time of the Gospels.  The weakness of the witness is actually one of the strengths of the case for historicity.  A later invention would not have had Jesus appearing before women.

Proverbs 15:18-33

As I've noted before, there's a lot of duplication in the lessons in this book.  Here in chapter 15, for example, verse 18 echoes verse 1.

  1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
       but a harsh word stirs up anger.

18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension,
       but a patient man calms a quarrel.

The first talks about behavior, the second about the characteristics of men that exhibit those behaviors, but the message is virtually the same.

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