As members of Hugh’s Sunday School class gathered for the first time after the Pandemic forced them to stop, excitement crowded the room. Tom’s hands waved like a flag at his good friend Henry.
Their eyes glistened showing joy. Their masks hid their grins. Mary hand bumped her best friend, Helen. Marty, air high fived his friend Tony. Marsha held her arms near to her body and signaled hello to her friend Darla. Other members shuffled into the class waving hello to all the members.
The room filled slowly as the members tried to stay six feet apart. A small rumble spread across the room as the members hurriedly shared “It is so good to see you, after all these weeks.”
“Let’s get our class started,” Hugh pleaded.
“I have missed our in-person meetings and fellowship because of COVID-19. But I am thankful you kept in contact with one another and we were able to do some virtual studies together,” explained Hugh.
“I am excited that we get to dive into our study of the Gospel of Mark. Today, our text touches on Mark 1:1. Let’s read the scripture. I am using my New American Standard Bible.”
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,”
“As we begin our study, let’s make a few observations about the text. How many words are found in your English translations?”
“Twelve in my New American Standard Version,” shared Henry, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Fourteen words are in my New International Version,” explained Mary, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,”
“Twelve in the English Stand Version,” said Tom, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” “Twelve in both the King James Version and New King James Version,” added Marty. Both read, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Tony chimed in, “The Holman Christian Standard Bible also has twelve, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’” “Does anyone have one that has more than twelve words?” queried Hugh.
“The GOD’S WORD translation possessed fifteen words,” Marsha piped in. It reads, “This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Darla added, “The Arabic Bible in Plain English uses thirteen words. It reads, ‘The beginning of The Gospel of Yeshua The Messiah, The Son of God.’” “So, as you look over your translations, what seems to stand out? What words do you think are most important or key words worthy of more study and focus?”
Henry inserted, “I see beginning, gospel, Jesus, Christ, Son of God. They each seem to be critical to me.”
“Exactly,” piped in Marty. “Each word adds information for the reader as we begin to study this Gospel.”
“Let’s start with “beginning,” explained Hugh. “We need to ask, the beginning of what? The beginning of the Gospel of Mark itself? Some think so. Others think it is the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry which follows beginning in verse 4.”
“Howard Vos, in Mark, A Study Guide Commentary, page 12 says, ‘Verse 1 introduces the book tersely and simply. It is like a title or caption. One can almost see a herald striding on stage, playing a fanfare and announcing a drama: Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God. The terseness of the statement epitomizes the whole Gospel and creates the attitude, “Let’s plunge in.” 
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ appears to be the title for the whole book. So, we need to understand this to be the Gospel concerning or about Jesus Christ,” explained Hugh.
“Let me see if I can add another dimension to our study by looking at how we can understand ‘beginning.’ The Greek word is arche. Arche can be translated as the staring line or point, the foundation, or the place of origin. Others see it as referring to “principle or foundation.”
“Remember that these words do not make a complete sentence. Arche can be related to the following verses in three ways:
1) place a period at the end creating a full stop and it is a title.
2) verses 2 and 3 should be considered parenthetically so that verse 1 is connected to verse 4. “The beginning happened when John the Baptist came …”
3) Verse 1 is to be directly related to verse 2, ‘the beginning was as it is written in Isaiah.’” 
“It seems best to me that we understand a period coming after ‘the Son of God.’ Then “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to Son of God,’ implies this is the starting point, the foundational truth related to the work and ministry of Jesus Christ.” “Class, as much as I regret it, our time is gone. We will explore ‘gospel,’ ‘Jesus Christ,’ and “the Son of God,’ next week.
Do you think Hugh understood the meaning and purpose of arche as he explained it? Why or why not?
Which of the three options offered by Bratcher and Nida on how to understand verse 1 in relation to verses 2 and 3 do you feel is the best way to understand verse 1? Why do you think this?
Do you think we should understand arche as referring to the origin or starting line to understand the Gospel or Mark or is it best to see it as the overall guiding principle of what should be contained in a gospel? Please offer an explanation.
Howard F. Vos, Mark: A Study Guide Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1978), 12.
Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark: Helps for Translators, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1961), 2.
“What do the words cranes, dates, leaves, have in common?” asked Hugh.
Mary thought, “He has me puzzled. I can’t see any relationship at all.”
“Hugh,” pondered Tom privately, “Have you lost a French fry out of your Happy Meal? What kind of question is that? What do these random words have to do with our lesson related to Mark 1: 1-3?”
“Hmmm,” Sarah meditated on Hugh’s question. “Hugh, my train isn’t’ going down the same track as yours.”
Jim’s megaphone level voice reverberated throughout the room, “Hugh, we don’t know! Help us out, please! You are making my head hurt with this kind of thinking!”
The Sunday School class laughed, and everyone shook their head in agreement.
“Ok, I will tell you. These are Homonyms. Without proper context, these sayings can mean more than one thing. How can crane be understood? It can refer to a bird, or a construction machine, or even someone stretching her neck to see something better.”
Harriet interrupted, “And date can be a fruit, or when a boy takes a girl out, or when you were born.”
“I understand, Jim, bellowed out, “Leaves can be what kids love to play in during the fall, and I hate to rake up or referring when we exit our class in a few minutes.”
“Exactly,” Hugh said, shaking his head in the positive. “Today, we are going to focus on the background of Mark 1: 1-3. To grasp its meaning, we need to remember some of the historical contexts for these verses.
“Can someone remind us of what the common man on the streets of Jerusalem or Caesarea Maritima or Capernaum experienced most days?”
“Arnold, what do you think?”
“Hugh, it seems to me that the common Israelite in the first century were a lot like us. They went day by day, struggling to survive. John 7:49 refers to the leaders describing the common people ‘But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” (NKJV) Yet, I think most of them embraced the Jewish faith as much as they knew how. I am sure others sat on the fringe of the Jewish religion, had received a physical circumcision, but their hearts remained far from God.”
“Hugh, as I read the gospels and other letters of the New Testament, many of the people attended the synagogues and journeyed to the temple in Jerusalem on specific holidays and festival days. I think most paid the temple tax. Life must have been hard and their faith helped them survive,” said Maria.
Merle, can you help us out?” asked Hugh.
“I know that Romans were in political control. Roman soldiers patrolled Israel from the north in Galilee to the south in Judea. They could be found on the Mediterranean Coast in the west to the Jordan River Valley in the east. I am sure the people feared the Romans and their brutality. I heard that the Roman soldiers often waked into a garden, picked the fruit off trees, and eat it without paying for it. Roman soldiers were known to seize livestock without payment. The average Jewish citizen stood defenseless.”
“Hugh, can I add to that?” asked Tom. “I know that there was a high sense of Jewish nationalism, especially in Galilee because the Jewish revolt of A.D. 60-66 broke out in that region first. Some of the Jews longed for political and religious freedom. We know false messiahs, charismatic leaders, and men who wanted to take advantage of the situation constantly appeared, clamoring for a following. ”
Timothy added, “And the Pharisees controlled the day-to-day religion of the Jews with their petty law-keeping – even tithing the small leaves from the mint plants they used that day. As much as we put the Pharisees down for their ‘legalism,’ it seems the average Jew of the day respected most of the Pharisees. I think we put down those who attempt to live by a strict keeping of the Law rather than admiring their desire to please God as they understood how. How many might have held esteem for Pharisees like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea?”
“The Sadducees and the High Priest ran the temple. The High Priest collected a fortune from the coin changers and sale of “holy” sheep for sacrifices,” piped Harrison.”The Jews did not embrace these folks as a general rule. The Jews understood these leaders to be in business with the Romans.”
“Does anyone else have anything to add? You mentioned the average Jews embracing their religion, the Roman occupation, the Pharisees and Sadducees and how the Jews felt about those groups. Since no one spoke up, I want to add one thing to our conversation before we close our session for this morning,” stated Hugh.
“I read Zechariah’s speech this week in Luke 1: 73-75. I want to quote it here,
‘ The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.’
“We mentioned both the religious affirmations of the Jewish people and the political suppression they were experiencing. Zechariah’s speech reflected the Jewish blending of religious and political freedom. Many willingly laid down their lives as one false messiah claimed to be their redeemer.”
“Their political expectations alongside their religious fervor kept the average Jew’s hope alive. Of course, like Americans, our hopes fluctuate depending on where we live, how we manage to survive, and who influences us.”
“One writer describes this period, ‘The average first-century Jews in the land of Israel had zeal without full knowledge, hope without understanding, religious practice without clear theology.”
“New revelation from God had not appeared since Malachi of the Old Testament. These Jewish people longed to hear from God. They prayed for political and religious freedom. They prayed and hoped for their Messiah to arrive. We are ready to move into Mark 1:1-3 next week. How does Mark’s gospel connect to the Jewish nationalistic hope for a Messiah?”
Hugh slid out of the driver’s seat of his dark blue 2013 Prius when Mack yelled at him from across the Church’s parking lot, “Hugh! Hugh!” Hugh’s head swiveled to find the source of such a scream.
Almost out of breath, Mack greeting Hugh with a hearty handshake, gripping Hugh’s hand until the blood circulation was about the burst the ends of Hugh’s fingers. Hugh struggled to get his hand out of such a vice-grip clutch.
“Hugh, what a week! I love this study we are doing! I can’t wait to share with the class, some of the biblical doctrines I found in Mark 1. I used to wonder where the preacher found so much material to preach 30-45 minutes. Now, I think I have some idea. The Bible is full of truth if we read it carefully and with purpose.”
“Mack, you are absolutely correct Let’s wait until we can get class started to share, is that alright?”
“Yes, Hugh! But I want to go first.”
“Sure enough, Mack.” Hugh couldn’t believe that the men and women of his class are excited to study their Bibles. “Thank you, Lord. You are the reason for all this happening.”
“Good morning class. How was your week? How did your studies go? Mack tells me, he is ready to go. Mack, will you pray for us before we begin. We know that with the aid of the Holy Spirit to illumine what has been revealed already, we cannot understand God’s Word.”
“Father, thank You for saving us from the penalty of sin. Thank You for using Your Spirit to illumine our minds to be able to grasp the message of Mark 1. May You bless Hugh as he teaches and leads us this week. May we all seek to bless You and obey You. Amen.”
“Ready, Mack? Let’s go. What doctrines did you learn from Mark 1? That is, what did you learn about God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, the Holy Spirit, salvation as well as other areas of theology?”
“Class, I was so excited to do this work. I decided to focus on the Holy Spirit. It seems like the Holy Spirit filled this chapter from the beginning to the end. Get your Bibles and let’s read.”
“Mark 1:8 says, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
“I see this verse teaching John the Baptist emphasized that Jesus’ ministry would be marked differently than his because he merely baptized with water, but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist connects the arrival of the Holy Spirit with the coming of the Messiah.”
And Hugh, I read Mark 1:10 “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove”.
“We learn the Holy Spirit attends the ministry of Jesus from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism. Mark notes that Jesus saw the Holy Spirit descending as a dove upon Him.”
“And finally, look at Mark 1:12 – “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness”
“It seems to me that Mark emphatically asserted that the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness to be tested. It is interesting that the Spirit brings Jesus into immediate contact with evil forces after the Father’s confession that Jesus is His Son, in whom He is well pleased.”
“Well done, Mack. Let’s let someone else have a turn. Sharon, you look like you have something to say.”
“Thank you, Hugh. I am nervous, so please be with me. This has been such a helpful tool for me. I never learned to look at my Bible through such eyes. I now see more things than ever.”
“Class, I read Mark 1:10-11 – “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
If I am wrong, please let me know. But, I saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, in these verses.”
“The Father spoke to Jesus, the Son, Jesus, the Son heard the Father speak, and the Holy Spirit descending on the Son. Isn’t that the Trinity? Aren’t they all at the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist?”
I did some additional research on Mark 1:11 -– Some feel that this verse along with others teaches that Jesus was adopted by the Father. It is assumed that the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus was the Father’s placing of deity on Jesus. Yet, this is not what Mark is teaching.
Jesus is more than an independent man who would have lived on as Jesus of Nazareth had this not happened to Him. Jesus would not be fully God and fully man, only a god (spirit)-filled man.”
“Well done, Sharon. Tommy, you look like you will jump out of your seat. What theological ideas did you see in Mark 1?”
In Mark 1:14 – 16 – After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.”
I thought Jesus sees his message of the coming kingdom as goodnews. This verse teaches that Jesus is the author and messenger of the message, but also the subject of the goodnews.
“I also read Mark 1:24-26, 34 – “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. And verse 34 – and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”
“These verses indicate that demons can speak, probably using the vocal tools of the persons they possess. In 1:34 a difference is made between demons and diseases. Mark 1:25 shows that Jesus has power to command the demons to remove themselves from the persons they possess.”
“Great job as always, Tom. Finally, Ernie, would you like to finish our study for the week? What did you observe concerning the things of God?”
Mark 1:41 stood out for me, “Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
“Jesus felt compassion on those who came to him sick and ailing. We see the tenderhearted, sympathetic side of God through Jesus. Jesus always displayed a strong sense of care towards those with physical ailments. I am thankful Jesus has this kind of compassion toward us today as well.”
“One passage I didn’t know how to make much of it, but thought it touched on baptism is Mark 1:10 – Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Do you think we are to learn that baptism implies submersion into water? I mean, how could Jesus come up out of the water otherwise?”
“Thank you, Ernie. Thank each of you for your contribution to our Bible study this morning. Next week, I want you to go to the internet and copy Mark 1 and paste it into a document. I want you to eliminate any paragraph markings that the copy may have”.
“You might find spaces between paragraphs or breaks. Eliminate them. Then, read through Mark 1 and mark where you think the ideas change. Once you have done that – then apply a heading for each paragraph indicating the major thought of the paragraph.”
“Remember I am praying for you as you study God’s Word. Please remember to pray for me and for one another. We better hurry to worship before the pastor gets after us.”
If you are finding this study, helpful, please drop a comment. Did you or can you find other doctrines that I did not touch upon in this study? Please share those with us.
“Hugh, Hugh!” David cried after Hugh as Hugh ambled down the corridor towards the Sunday School class.
“Hugh, this was one of the most exciting Bible studies I have ever done.
I spied people and things I had never seen before, and I can’t wait to share with the class.”
“That’s great, David.”
“Hugh,” shouted Marci as she rushed up to Hugh and David. “I have never seen so much come alive from a chapter in the Bible! Thanks for showing us how to do these chapter annotations. I feel that I am really beginning to know what is in Mark 1.”
As the trio entered the room, the classroom was buzzing from others in the class trying to outdo the others in what they had learned over the last six days.
“Class, let’s pray and get started.”
“Father, thank you for all you taught us this week from Your Word. May you continue to open our eyes as we individually and corporately look at Mark 1. Amen.”
“Well, I can see you are excited about your Bible study over Mark 1. Let’s do this systematically so we can share some of your newfound overviews of our chapter.”
“Who wants to go first and share with us some of the chief people you identified in Mark 1?”
“David, you, look like you are sitting on egg shells. Share with us.”
“My major people are Jesus, John the Baptist and the disciples. My minor people are Zebedee, the demon possessed man, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and the leper.”
“Very good, David.” Did anyone else have other characters from Mark 1? Marci?”
“In Mark 1:1 I saw God. He has to be a major character, I would say. Minor people would include those who went to John the Baptist to be baptized from Judea and Jerusalem in Mark 1:5. And in Mark 1:8 I noticed the Holy Spirit is mentioned.”
“In Mark 1:1 I saw God. He has to be a major character, I would say. Minor people would include those who went to John the Baptist to be baptized from Judea and Jerusalem in Mark 1:5. And in Mark 1:8 I noticed the Holy Spirit is mentioned.”
“Excellent, Marci. Anyone else want to add someone else? Tom, what did you see?”
“Mark 1:10 and 12 mentioned the Holy Spirit again coming down as a dove and driving Jesus into the wilderness. And a voice – the voice of the Father speaking out of heaven.”
“Great job, Tom. Did anyone see other people in Mark 1? Yes, Amy, go ahead?”
“In Mark 1:13 Satan is mentioned. Later in Mark 1:16, Simon and Andrew are named along with James, the Son of Zebedee and his brother John.” Their father, Zebedee is named in 1:19 and 20.
“Let’s end with one or two more persons. Let’s see, Howard, who did you find in Mark 1?”
“I found the people in the synagogue of Capernaum (1:21). I also thought that “the unclean spirits needed to be mentioned (1:27). Others I found toward the end of the chapter included James and John, Simon, Simon’s mother-in-law, people who had diseases and were demon possessed (1:34-35).
“Very good, Howard.”
“Rebecca, did you observe any other characters?”
“In Mark 1: 39, devils are referenced. A leper who Jesus healed is found in 1:40-45. Within those verses, Jesus is mentioned again, along with priests and Moses.”
“Excellent class! I think you have understood this method of study quite well I wonder if we stopped to consider the value of looking at characters or people mentioned in the Bible? What can we gain from such a study? I ran across some interesting study helps this week and want to share some of these with you as we wrap up our study.”
“First of all, I ran across a few resources to help with character studies. Amazon describes The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters: The Complete Who’s Who in the Bible.
This was published by Zondervan in 2001 as “An exhaustive, ready reference of every person named in the Bible. 40 major figures are covered in full-length articles. Contributions from 24 world-class evangelical scholars. Biblical references, brief description and relationship to other Bible characters uncover the value of every man and woman in the Bible from Aaron to Zurishadai.”
“A second source is “11 Important People in the Bible” can be found in The Bible for Dummies, which was written especially for me. The book covers Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Mary, Jesus, Peter, and Paul.
“The Logos Bible Software Blog” from May 22, 2007 lists the top 50 people in the Bible. They utilized computers to search for frequency of mentions and the dispersion of those mentions across biblical books and chapters. You can access this article at: https://blog.logos.com/2007/05/top_50_people_i_1/
Who do you think most important person is? Jesus, of course. They identified three clusters with Jesus, David, Moses and Jacob being in the top cluster. They provide a screenshot which can be downloaded with these 50 mentioned characters.
“Daniel Foster on May 4, 2007, posted another article in Logos Bible Software Blog that touched on ‘The Most Important Person in the Bible. Mr. Foster added another blog on May 25, 2007 called the “Top 50 Women in the Bible.” Yet, another chart is available for download and personal use.
“In closing, let me ask, what can we learn from focusing on such characters in the Bible? Any ideas?”
“David, what do you think?”
“Hugh, I think we learn that they were real people, just like us. Take David or Moses, for example. They served the Lord in phenomenal ways, messed up, and God still used them for His purposes. We can discover guidance for our lives.”
“And Hugh,” interrupted Amy. “I think we gain insight into how God moves among His people. We begin to see the importance of obedience to God’s Word.
We see God’s hand of blessing for those walking in His statutes and His hand of curse or discipline for those in disobedience. We learn to trust God, His promises, and His warnings.”
“Before we run out of time, I want to add that I believe by studying people in the Bible,” piped in Alicia. “We gain understanding about the culture and times the people lived in. Traditions are mentioned from time to time, such as the washing of hands and tithing of mint. This helps us understand Jesus anger with outward religion by itself.”
“Excellent thoughts in relation to characters and why we need to note them in our studies. May our study help us to learn to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength. For next week, select your favorite verse or verses out of Mark 1. The following week, we will touch upon some of the key doctrines found in Mark 1. Someone told me once, that a farmer can plow deep and slow or he can plow shallow and fast, but he cannot plow fast and deep. See you next week, Lord willing!”
If you read this blog and have other ideas about why we should focus on Bible Characters, please post a comment. Blessings to you.
A warm smile flashed across Hugh’s face as he entered the Sunday School classroom. Hands around the room were clapping with a joyful beat like that of a victorious college football or basketball team arriving at home. Cheers filled the room.
Until this moment, Hugh hadn’t realized his absence over the last couple of months had impacted the lives of these people in the room. His mother’s sudden illness and the Christmas holidays interrupted his plans to teach the class how to study God’s Word.
“Thank you, so much! I am humbled by your applause. Thank you for the emails, the cards, the text messages, and prayers. Each act of love meant so much to us. Mom is recovering from her illness. I pray your Christmas and New Years brought joy and peace to you and your families.”
“Now, let’s return to where we left off. We are learning to use a Chapter annotation or outline as we begin to study a text. This will allow us to get a clearer literary context for our focal passage.”
“Someone tell me, where is the proper place to begin our Bible study?”
“Correct, Lynn. Step one is Prayer. We always acknowledge our need for the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds to God’s revealed truth. Let us pray.”
The second step leads us to read the chapter at least 5 times. We might want to read it in 2-3 or more translations as well. Why might we do this?
“Indeed, Harry. We are able to see how different words might be understood in our passage. We can see a range of meanings. We might begin to make notes as we read of items that jump out at us as we read.”
“Our third step is to create a catchy title. Be as descriptive and memorable as possible. One to three words is best. For example, 1 Corinthians 13 might be called, ‘The Love Chapter.’ or 1 Corinthians 15, ‘The Resurrection Chapter.'”
“One writer offers the title for John 4 which tells about Jesus and the woman at the well and the nobleman’s son who was healed, “Well-Well!” What might we title Mark 1? What are your suggestions?”
“My title for Mark 1 is, ‘Jesus, the Noise-Maker!” What do you think?”
Our fourth step is where we gain the title for our exercise. We need to summarize or annotate the contents of the chapter. Our Chapter is Mark 1. You might find it helpful to use an outline format, or a list format of the major points/ parts of the chapter or even a bullet list. “
“Remember: You are not seeking to interpret anything yet. Your goal is to record what Mark tells us. Just the facts here. Your outline might look like this:”
“Mark 1: 1-8 – John the Baptist heralds the coming Messiah before Jesus arrives on the scene. “
“Mark 1:9-13 – John the Baptist baptizes Jesus and God, the Father, affirms Jesus’ identity as the Holy Spirit first appears.”
“Mark 1: 14-20 – Jesus raises his voice to call his first disciples to follow Him by faith.”
“Mark 1: 21-34 – Jesus teaches and does miracles. “
“Mark 1: 35-39 – Jesus sets the example and shares His mission with His disciples.”
“Mark 1: 40-45 – Jesus shows who He is with the dominion that He has as the stage is set for the rest of His ministry.”
“Step 5 causes us to read through Mark 1 again. Who are the chief people involved in the chapter? You might list them along with what is said about them or what they might do. What is significant about each of them? Look for pronouns (he, she, they, it, we). Ask yourself, to whom is each pronoun referring? Why are some more important and others so not important in the chapter?”
“Step 6 proves to be one of my favorite steps. You read through the chapter and select the one or two verses that best summarize the contents of the chapter. Did the author state his purpose for writing? What single verse or two verses could you build application from?”
“Step 7 leads us to read through the chapter again. This time watch for comments that tells us about God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. What do we learn about their attributes? Is Jesus seen as powerful, holy? Does the Holy Spirit do anything?”
“Ask yourself, what do I learn about christology? pneumatology? soteriology? ecclesiology? angelology? anthropology? eschatology? or the Christian life?”
“Step 8 – The central lesson and application. This is where you write down what you learned from the previous steps. What insights have you gained from this survey of the chapter?”
“First of all – is personal application – Ask yourself, ‘what major principles or truths do I see that God wants to teach me from this chapter? What is the writer trying to communicate? What changes do I need to make myself? Conclude with these 2 questions, “How do these truths apply to me personally?” and “What specifically am I going to do about these truths?”
“The second area of application is corporate – Ask yourself, how should I understand this chapter’s truths in light of my Sunday School class? my church? my small group? my family? my circle of friends?” What do we need to do as a group?”
BE SPECIFIC with each application statement.
“Our homework for next week is to review steps 5, 6, 7 and 8. Then read through Mark 1. Complete each of the steps 5, 6, 7, and 8. We will discuss these together to see what we each came up with and compare them. We might even vote on which one we feel best answers each step.”
“Study to prove yourself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”
Tweetable comments. You might consider tweeting these statements:
“I am so glad to be home!” exclaimed Hugh. He tugged at the green sweater he wore, struggling to remove it before he began to teach his Sunday School class.
have you been, Hugh?” asked Thomas. “Johnny did a fine job teaching our class
the last couple of Sundays, but we
missed you being with us.”
experienced an adventure of a lifetime the last three weeks, Johnny. I visited
Israel for twelve days and then flew to Greece for a five-day tour.”
sounds exciting,” replied David,
plane landed in Athens without any problem. The driver who was to pick me up,
was waiting as my tour company promised. My fears were greatly relieved.”
did you stay?” posed Maryanne.
stayed in Athens at a hotel with the Greek name, ‘Rooster.’ It had a beautifully
etched rooster on the glass in the front of the hotel. My hotel was near the
Syntagma Square where various groups demonstrate. Twice, I had to exit my bus
two or three blocks from my hotel after
being on tour all day because of demonstrations. Once the communist party
demonstrated against a longer work week.”
sounds like an interesting week, for sure,” piped in Sally.
that wasn’t the real adventure. My tour bus and guide arrived on time in front
of the hotel on the first afternoon I arrived in Greece. We headed to Cape Sunion to tour the Temple
of Poseidon. We passed beautiful scenes of the Greek coastline, viewed the
Saronic Gulf and some of its islands, along with scanning a few steep cliffs
and crystal blue water.”
was the Temple of Poseidon like?” asked Maryanne.
“I don’t want to waste too much time on this, but it had a single row of columns around the edge of the temple. It had six columns at the end and thirteen along the side for a total of 34 columns. I counted sixteen columns standing. Four northern columns were reconstructed in the 1950’s said our guide. The columns were of Doric order. Each column stood about 20 feet tall and about 3 feet in diameter. What is unusual are the 16 flutes around the columns rather than the usual 20 flutes. The major building material was marble. Scholars claim the marble came from a nearby area, Agrileza.”
know how you like history and archeology. That must have been exciting for you
to see,” exclaimed Thomas.
was, but that was not my big adventure. As I viewed the remains of this ancient
temple, and walked around the grounds, I remembered the tour guide instructingl
us to meet at the bus at 5:15 pm to head back to Athens. So, about 5:00 pm, I
began my walk to the bus parking lot.
And when I arrived, guess what?”
chimed in Thomas.
had already left. I was left behind.”
did you do?” asked Sally.
to myself, ‘Big boy, this is not the time to begin to cry. You must be adult
about this. So, I walked over to 2 Greek bus drivers, praying they spoke
“Do either of you speak English?”
looked at each other, said something in Greek. I am sure one of them said, “We
have another American who can’t tell time. Then, one of them answered in
perfect English, “Yes, we do. Did you miss your bus?”
did, it appears.”
The bus drivers laughed again. The second bus driver said, “This happens all the time. We take care of all the passengers. Do you see that big, purple bus across the parking lot? Get on it when the others start loading. Just tell me the name of your hotel and we will drop you off.”
that is amazing! Left behind at the Temple of Poseidon. You ought to write a
book and make a movie about that!” laughed Sherry.
laughed and said, “Might do it. Let’s get started with our lesson for today.”
I want us to start learning how to do what I call chapter annotations. I will
begin to lay out some general rules for these chapter annotations and will eventually
provide you with a sample annotation.”
“Of course, when we begin any Bible study, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit. We desire to learn and apply God’s Word. Psalms 119:18 sums our desire best, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things our of your law.” Bible study ought to be a wondrous adventure as we get to know our Savior and His ways better.
119:22 reminds us to hide God’s Word in our heart so we won’t sin against
God. Verse 28 of the same Psalm exhorts
us to gain spiritual strength from God’s Word. Added to those from Psalm 119
comes verse 50 that teaches us the Bible contains promises for us to trust
while verse 60 exhorts us to be quick to obey God’s commands.”
sin corrupts our minds. We possess human, carnal, and fallen minds. The Bible
is God-breathed (inspired – 2 Tim 3:16-17). We carry the baggage of preunderstandings
and presuppositions which need to be checked by the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 2:14 teaches without the Holy Spirit, men do not accept the truths from God but considers them foolishness. The SPIRITUAL truths of Scripture can only be understood by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Once we have prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit, we need to read the biblical passage several times. I prefer to read the passage at least 5 time and maybe more, if it is a difficult pasage: twice from my favorite translation and one time from three different translations. I don’t look for anything specific. I merely read to get the content of the chapter into my mind. You might want to listen to a recording of the chapter for more details.
have read the chapter several times, I seek to summarize the chapter into one
short, succinct caption. I attempt to limit it to seven words or fewer if
possible. The shorter, the easier to remember. I also want the title to be catchy or
So, let’s stop and practice what we have discussed. I know we haven’t covered much material, but these are important steps. Let’s read through Mark chapter 1 five times. What titles would you give to Mark 1? Share those in the response box, please. Then we can discuss them. Titles I might use: “Great Beginnings!” “Strong Starts!” “”Introductions Please!”
Consider Completing the following statement:
My title for Mark 1 might be:
Ask yourself, “Does it cover the content of Mark chapter 1?”
Sam was born April 13, 1837 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, Charles, and his mother, Sarah, raised Charles in a strict Christian home. Sam attended the Boston Latin School.
At the ripe age of sixteen years, Sam matriculated in William College (1853). Two of his professors were naturalist Paul Chadbourne and geologist Ebenezer Emmons. These men guided young Sam to develop an interest in natural history. His favorite area of study was entomology.
Upon reaching nineteen years of age, Sam dedicated himself to a lifetime career of studying insects. Finally in 1847 Sam graduated from Williams at the head of his class.
Sam enrolled in the Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School in order to study under Louis Agassiz. Sam knew that Professor Agassiz was the most influential scientist in American at the time.
Sam studied under Professor Agassiz for four years and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1862. He worked for his favorite professor for another two years. Sadly, Sam fell under the influence of a new theory of its day, Darwinism.
Now, you might say, Hugh why are you taking class time to tell us about Sam? I wanted you to meet Sam Scudder. Sam Scudder wrote 180 papers during his lifetime – – on grasshoppers.
In 1862 his first paper identified 105 species of grasshoppers. By the end of his career, he had described 106 genera and 630 species of grasshoppers. Again you ask, “So what, Hugh?”
It fascinates me that a man could see that many differences in grasshoppers. After all, a grasshopper by any other name is still a grasshopper! Right? Where did Sam Scudder gain his skills to see so many differences?
Let me share another story that some think Sam H. Scudder wrote and then I will make application with it as we prepare to begin to study Mark’s Gospel in detail next week.
“This is how Sam’ story begins, “It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history.
He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that while I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.
“When do you wish to begin?” he asked. “Now,” I replied.
This seemed to please him, and with an energetic “Very well,” he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol. “Take this fish,” he said, “and look at it; we call it a Haemulon; by and by I will ask what you have seen.”
With that he left me, but in a moment returned with explicit instructions as to the care of the object entrusted to me. “No man is fit to be a naturalist,” said he, “who does not know how to take care of specimens.”
I was to keep the fish before me in a tin tray, and occasionally moisten the surface with alcohol from the jar, always taking care to replace the stopper tightly. Those were not the days of ground glass stoppers, and elegantly shaped exhibition jars; all the old students will recall the huge, neckless glass bottles with their leaky, wax-besmeared corks, half-eaten by insects and begrimed with cellar dust. Entomology was a cleaner science than ichthyology, but the example of the professor who had unhesitatingly plunged to the bottom of the jar to produce the fish was infectious; and though this alcohol had “a very ancient and fish-like smell,”
I really dared not show any aversion within these sacred precincts, and treated the alcohol as though it were pure water. Still I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. My friends at home, too, were annoyed, when they discovered that no amount of eau de cologne would drown the perfume which haunted me like a shadow.
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of a normal, sloppy appearance.
This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face — ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters view — just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour, I concluded that lunch was necessary; so with infinite relief, the fish was carefully replaced in the jar, and for an hour I was free.
On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field.
I pushed my fingers down its throat to see how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me — I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.
“Well, what is it like?” He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me; the fringed gill-arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshly lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment:
“You have not looked very carefully; why,” he continued, more earnestly, “you haven’t seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself. Look again; look again!” And he left me to my misery.
I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish? But now I set myself to the task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor’s criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,
“Do you see it, yet?
“No,” I replied. “I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.”
“That is next best,” said he earnestly, “but I won’t hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish.”
This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be, but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.
The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.
“Do you perhaps mean,” I asked, “that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?”
His thoroughly pleased, “Of course, of course!” repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically — as he always did — upon the importance of this point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.
“Oh, look at your fish!” he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
“That is good, that is good!” he repeated, “but that is not all; go on.” And so for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. “Look, look, look,” was his repeated injunction.
This was the best entomological lesson I ever had — a lesson whose influence was extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part.
A year afterwards, some of us were amusing ourselves with chalking outlandish beasts upon the blackboard. We drew prancing star-fishes; frogs in mortal combat; hydro-headed worms; stately craw-fishes, standing on their tails, bearing aloft umbrellas; and grotesque fishes, with gaping mouths and staring eyes. The professor came in shortly after, and was as much amused as any at our experiments. He looked at the fishes.
“Haemulons, every one of them,” he said; “Mr. ____________ drew them.”
True; and to this day, if I attempt a fish, I can draw nothing but Haemulons.
The fourth day a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odor had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old six-inch worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!
The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought into review; and whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz’s training in the method of observing facts in their orderly arrangement, was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.
At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favorite groups.”
— from American Poems (3rd ed.; Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879): pp. 450-54.
“Class, what is the point of Sam Scudder’s story, “The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz? David, what do you think?”
“Hugh, I think we rarely look at God’s Word with much depth and detail until we are like the student. We think we have seen all there is to see and so we quit. Hugh, we need a professor to teach us to look and see what God has written. May we be as dedicated to read, study, examine closely God’s Word as much as Sam Scudder was this fish.”
“David, you are correct. We will soon be taking a passage from Mark’s Gospel and examine it in detail. Why would we let scientists show us up in such detailed observations? See you next week!”
This is Dr. Lucas, If you are following this blog, please read Mark 1: 1-8 several times this next week. We will begin to examine these verses in detail. Read it 2-4 times per day each week. Make a few notes of what you see each day that you failed to see the day(s) before your current reading.
Dr. Lucas is an author, retired pastor and retired Professor of Bible from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky. Dr. Roy Lucas lives in the Appalachian Mountains in Harlan, Kentucky with his wife, Veda, also a writer.
He has articles in LifeWay’s Biblical Illustrator, Deacon Magazine, Senior Adult Bible Studies for Life, Lighthouse Bible Studies Refresh Magazine, CBN devotion, and the Revised Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2015). “Why are You Afraid?” appears in Food for Your Soul, Compilation 1 published by Lighthouse Bible Studies (June 2019). His weekly blog is Truth-Travelers.com.
He preaches, teaches, and serves as interim pastor. His doctorate is in New Testament studies. He excavated in the Tel Gezer Project and served with the Tel Gezer Survey Project. He leads tours to Israel.
He and Dr. John Ditty, Old Testament Professor of Bible at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky are leading a tour to Israel in March 2020. If you are interested, contact Dr. Lucas at his email address.
“Good morning folks. For our guests this morning, let me introduce myself, ‘I am Hugh. I am the teacher for this Sunday School class. A few of us have studied the purpose of Mark’s Gospel the last several weeks. Refer to the last 2 week’s blogs for information: ”
“Today, we will touch upon seven important backgrounds for the study of Mark’s Gospel. These backgrounds will supply us with important information each time we approach the study of Mark’s Gospel. These seven backgrounds will aid your study of any Bible book. These will aid you in determining the intended meaning of the biblical author, and ultimately, the Bible’s Author, God.”
“Before, I begin to touch on the seven important backgrounds, let me tell you an interesting story which hopefully illustrates my point about not knowing essential background information.”
pirates of the Aegean Sea in 75 BCE failed to consider the background of a
Roman citizen they captured. This 25-year-old Roman nobleman had set out to
study oratory in Rhodes when the pirates seized him. The story is recounted in Plutarch’s
the pirates asked for 20 talents for his ransom, this nobleman scoffed because they
did not know who he was. He suggested they ask for 50 talents. The Roman nobleman
sent men from his own entourage to raise the 50 talents for his ransom and
settled in for a period of waiting.”
meantime, this nobleman ordered the pirates to obey him. Wanting to sleep, he shushed
them to silence. He recited poems and speeches to them, even when they didn’t
want to listen. He mocked them and called them illiterate barbarians if they
did not applaud his work. The nobleman played their pirate games with them. Yet,
always, he ordered them as if he were their superior and they were his
“Being such an important Roman nobleman, he threatened the pirates with crucifixion. They laughed and saw these threats as coming from a jokester who was boisterous and slightly insane.”
“Thirty-eight days passed, and the ransom arrived. The Roman nobleman left the island, raised a naval force in Miletus, even though he did not hold any political office or military power. He set out to find his pirate captors.
He captured them and returned the pirates to the governor of Asia. The local ruler wasn’t sure he wanted to do anything about the pirates, so Julius Caesar stormed the prison where they were held and promptly crucified all the pirates. If the pirates had researched the background of the nobleman they had captured, things might have turned out different”.
week, we will seek to define seven important backgrounds that every student of
the Bible needs to explore as much as possible before tackling a specific
“Hugh, can I ask a question before you get into our lesson this morning?”
“Of course, David.”
“Hugh, what difference does knowing this information make when we believe God is the ultimate author of the biblical text. His Holy Spirit inspired the writers to write what they recorded. So, does it really matter where the writers lived and what they experienced?”
“David, that is an excellent question. We have no doubt that God was the ultimate author of our biblical text as you say. But, God laid out eternal, theological truths in His Word. We want to know the principles he placed in the Word so we can extract from His Word what He intended us to live by in this world. Do we agree that God communicated to Abraham and Abraham obeyed what God told him to do? Didn’t that happen in a historical environment?”
“When Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians, Galatians, as well as 1, 2 Timothy and the others, wasn’t Paul living in a special geographical location? Aren’t many of his letters direct results to circumstances happening in those places or to those people?”
This helps us ascertain the proper method to apply God’s Word in our lives. J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, say, “We do so because it offers us a window into what we must recapture God’s original intended meaning as reflected in the text and framed by the ancient historical-cultural context.’ Does that help answer your question, David?”
Hugh. That helps.”
“Alright, allow me to write my life of the seven backgrounds on the board before I start my explanation.”The author’s backgrounAuthor’s Background
The video will explain and illustrate the 7 background
“Class, let me warn you about one thing related to the study of backgrounds. –
Please understand that these backgrounds are not always an end all. Sometimes details become the only thing one studies, and the principle of truth is lost or overlooked.
Matthew 19:23-24 mentions how possible it is for a rich
man to enter heaven. The possibility is connected to the ‘eye of the needle.’ An
explanation that never surfaced until the 6th century A.D. referred
to a gate where a camel would craw through it in order to get inside Jerusalem
“The problem rests
on the fact that the ‘eye of the needle’ refers to just that, ‘the eye of a
Jesus intended his
audience to understand the largeness of the camel and the smallness of the eye
of the needle. This illustration intended to show how hard it is for a rich man
to stop trusting in his worldly goods and turn to trust Christ for his daily
Do you value these seven backgrounds? Why or why not?
Do you spend time exploring these when you study a passage? why or why not?
Any other areas you feel should be studied? Why do you make this suggestion?
“Hugh, There were
five major natural disasters that devasted our country in 2018. Can you name
“David, I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast,
let alone something that happened last year. What were they?”
First, rain and mudslides devasted the wildfire area of
Montecito, California. Twenty-one people were killed.
Second, Ellicot City, Maryland experienced devastating flooding when more than 8 inches of rain fell in a few hours.
The third devastating event in 2018 brought Hurricane Florence to the coasts of the Carolinas. Forty-three people died as a result of rainfall between 24 and 36 inches.
Fourth, the first Category 4 hurricane, Michael, hit the
Florida panhandle with winds in the Panama City area exceeding 150 miles an
hour. Michael killed 43 people.
And last, the California campfire swept through Paradise,
California destroying 13,000 homes and burning 150,00 acres. Eighty-five people
“Hugh I remember last week we asked the
the Professionals Know More than you?” We explored a few New
Testament Introductions and Surveys. This week we were going to focus on New
Testament Commentaries, weren’t we?”
“That’s true, David, but I am still hung up on the five
major crises of 2018 and what they have to do with our study on Mark’s
“Hugh, it seems
that crises can serve as a catch-all for just about anything bad happening,
including one of the purposes for why Mark wrote his Gospel.”
“I read a commentary by Robert Guelich. He explained some
commentators say Mark intended to address the crisis created by the Jewish War of
66-70 A.D. which affected the Jewish view of eschatology (Luhrmann).”
“Also, he mentions Weeden, who we encountered last week,
as postulating Mark’s purpose focused on correcting a crisis caused by the “Hellenization” of the mission with an
to how Guelich concludes his discussion:
“Therefore, Mark wrote the Gospel pastorally to address a
community under duress. This duress had
given rise to questions about who Jesus was and the nature of the “Kingdom” he
had come to inaugurate. Mark points back to the “good news concerning Jesus
Messiah, Son of God,” to remind them of who Jesus was and what he had come to
do as well as what he would do. The Gospel offered a renewed basis for their
faith, made clear the dangers and pitfalls along the way, and offered the hope
of the Kingdom future, the day of harvest, the mustard tree, the resurrection,
and the ultimate consummation of God’s rule.”
“ David, I see where your references to the five natural
disasters fits into our study now. Guelich postulated an interesting theory. But
listen to what Vincent Taylor suggests:
The motives which led him to write must have been those which influenced all the Synoptic writers – the delay of the Parousia, the passing away of eyewitnesses, and the desire to preserve the oral teaching of the primitive communities. Other motives, apologetic, liturgical, catechetical, must have also have guided his undertaking.”
to Guelich’s comments on Mark 1:8:26, he insists that to know the purpose of
Mark’s Gospel, one must begin at 1:1 where Mark says he set out to write the
“gospel concerning Jesus Messiah, Son of God.”
asserts that Mark’s purpose involved conserving the tradition since the early authorizing
witnesses for the traditions were dying. By writing down the “gospel,” Mark
preserved the Gospel from distortions or disappearance. Guelich criticizes this
view by asserting that oral tradition had proved to be as reliable as the written
resources in some cases.”
Geddert adds Mark penned his Gospel to have a specific impact on the reader as they study it from the beginning to the conclusion. He believes that Mark wrote his Gospel so that those who study each part in detail will be additionally impacted.
Larry W. Hurtado explains another avenue related to the purpose of Mark’s
Gospel. He offers some insight. He agrees that Mark is a Gospel about Jesus but
asserts that it is also a book about discipleship, that is, how to live as a
follower of Jesus.”
Hutado suggests that Mark concerned himself with explaining the cross as the major work of Jesus, but also the pattern for living the Christian life. Mark 8-10 highlight Jesus’ coming suffering and how it serves as a pattern for those following Jesus.
said David, “I ran across an interesting proposal by C. Bryan in his “A Preface
to Mark, where he expounded his theory that one purpose of Mark’s Gospel was
that it be read aloud.
R. T. France quoted recent estimates that only about 10% or perhaps in some
cities, 15-20% of the population could read. From
such statistics, Bryan develops his theory that Mark’s Gospel had the purpose
of being read aloud. He asks, “Was Mark written to be read aloud?” and his
assertion is “yes: “Mark was designed for oral communication – and for
transmission as a continuous whole – rather than for private study or silent
“Hugh, seems like our crisis over Mark’s purpose has been
Please view this short video where I summarize the 4 major purposes of Mark’s Gospel.
Does Bible study seem like a crisis to you? When? Why?
If you are a pastor or one who teachers regularly, does
the preparation ever seem like you go from one crisis to another? How can we overcome
such a crisis?
David moved to a table in the library after they had gathered a few resources.
“David, let’s see how many purposes the “professionals” have identified for Mark’s writing his gospel using only New Testament Introductions and New Testament Surveys.”
“First, we will list the purposes without evaluating them. Then, over the next couple of weeks we will evaluate the various hypotheses we encounter. “
“We want to be precise with our sources, so we know who said what. Does that sound like a working premise for our task tonight? And next week we will discuss what some commentaries say about Mark’s possible purpose.”
that works well for me. Remember, you are the teacher.”
“David, if you will survey a few of the New Testament Introductions written by the professionals who have spent a lifetime studying the materials related to Mark. I will select a few commentaries so I can be prepared for our study next week. Ready? Set? Go!”
share what you discover tonight in an hour. This way we can be home with our
families before it’s too late tonight.”
After an hour passed.
what did you discover from the New Testament Introductions?”
“Hugh, Dr. Thomas D. Lea reminds us that Mark did not provide a clear statement of purpose in the Gospel. Lea points out W. Wrede postulated that Mark wrote his gospel to cover up Jesus’ failure to declare He was the Messiah. Hugh, Wrede said that Mark put words into Jesus’ mouth so that Jesus prevented others from sharing his Messiahship.”
that is interesting for sure. We will come back to evaluate some of these ideas
in a couple of weeks. But tonight, we want to know what is said. What else did
continued by pointing out that internal evidence points to some reasons why
Mark wrote his gospel. For example, the very first verse of the gospel shows
Mark’s interest in sharing the gospel of Jesus. I surmise this is an
8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34 as evidence that Mark focused on the person and work
of Jesus. He adds to this internal evidence Mark’s Gospel where there is a call
for repentance in 1:15 along with Mark’s motif of servanthood where there is a strong
focus on Jesus death (10:45).”
suggests a second possibility resting on Mark’s understanding that persecution
would be encountered by the early Christians and he wanted them to be able to
stand strong in obedience to Christ (10:29-30). I guess this is intended to be encouragement
to endure suffering.”
source I read was by Kostenberger, Kellum and Quarles. These scholars added that the major problem
facing Mark was to explain the crucifixion of Jesus. After all, what Roman
would believe in a Jewish Messiah who died by crucifixion on a cross?”
They repeated Lea’s idea that the opening statement of Mark’s Gospel is the most likely purpose for writing the Gospel. They supplement Lea’s information by writing,
In the Gospel, God (who refers to Jesus as his ‘beloved Son” at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration; 1:11 and 9:7); demons (1:25; 3:11-12; 5:7); Jesus Himself (12:6; 14:61) and a Roman centurion (15:39) all agree that Jesus is the Son of God. In support of this claim, Mark’s Roman audience was treated to a dazzling display of Jesus’ miracle-working power
That shows his authority over the realms of nature, sickness, and death, and even the Supernatural (4:35-5:43).
found their summary most helpful:
we can note four interrelated purposes in Mark’s Gospel, all of which revolve
around Jesus’ identity as Son of God:
A pastoral purpose: to reach Christians about the nature of discipleship.
A missionary-training purpose: to explain who Jesus prepared His followers to take on his mission and to show others how to do so as well.
An apologetic purpose: to demonstrate to non-Christians that Jesus is the Son of God because of His great power and in spite of his crucifixion; and
An anti-imperial purpose to show Jesus, not Caesar, is the true Son of God, Savior, and Lord.”
like those four purpose statements.”
did you find anyone who had more than the purposes of Kostenberger’s group and
Wrede’s notion that Mark wrote to cover up Jesus’ failure to preach He was the
Robert H. Gundry suggests a new twist. Gundry posited that some feel Mark wrote
to soften the offensiveness of Jesus’ Messiahship for the Roman authorities. This is why Mark invented the “messianic
also explained that Mark may have written his Gospel to encourage the
persecuted believers by reminding them of Jesus’ own suffering and death.”
that is really interesting and helpful for us to keep in mind when we begin to
study the Gospel’s content soon.”
Hugh,” said David, “Donald Guthrie touched upon some important truths related
to the purpose of Mark. I really like how he explains Mark’s purpose.”
“In summary, Guthrie says that Mark’s motivating intention was to write a “Gospel,” that is, to recount the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
adds, “This at once distinguishes the book from a biography and explains the
large proportion of space devoted to the last three weeks of the life of Jesus.
The cross and resurrection were the central features of the Christian gospel.”
explains that Mark possesses an evangelistic purpose which is to account for
the historical events in the life of Jesus. Jesus did not need to be introduced
so Mark omitted birth narratives and stories of Jesus’ early life. Mark
confronts his reader with the contention that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark
assumes his readers know who Jesus is.”
some of the others already mentioned, Guthrie accepts the catechetical motive
as possible while downplaying the liturgical purpose.”
“Being a professional scholar, Guthrie highlights D. E. Nineham’s suggestions behind the motive of Mark:
To show that Jesus as the Messiah was innocent of Jewish charges and that his sufferings were part of God’s purpose.
To explain why Jesus did not publicly declare Himself to be Messiah.
To explain why Christians have to suffer, i.e. because Jesus had to suffer.
To present the works of Jesus as triumph over the forces of evil.
“Guthrie brings his discussion to a conclusion when he
affirms that not all scholars would hold to the four reasons provided by
Nineham, but many scholars agree that each played a part in the motive for Mark
penning his Gospel.”
that is quite a lot of information for us to ponder over this week. I will
share what the commentaries suggest next week. Then we will collectively
determine what we believe are Mark’s motives or purposes for writing this
night, David! See you at Wednesday night prayer meeting.”
“Night, Hugh. I plan to be there, Lord willing.”
Do you agree with the “professionals” as to what they suggest might be Mark’s purpose for writing his Gospel? Why or why not? If you have an idea, respond and let me know what you believe to be Mark’s purpose and support it with facts, please.
D. Lea, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: Broadman
and Holman, 1996), 141-142.
J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Lion and the
Lamb: New Testament Essentials from the Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, Nashville:
Broadman and Holman Academic, 2012), 80.
H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, (Downers Grove, Illinois,
Inter-Varsity Press/Tyndale Press, 1970), 57.