Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jesus the Markdown, aka The Gospel According to Mark

Most scholars believe that the Gospel according to Mark is one of two primary source documents for both Matthew and Luke. So reading Mark is a lot like re-reading Matthew or Luke. Rather than going through the whole tedious story again I'll discuss only the elements unique to Mark, plus any verses that catch my eye that I overlooked in Matthew. This won't be an exhaustive examination of all of Mark's unique elements, but rather just the parts I care about.
  • Chapter 5
    • Verses 1 - 13: a retelling of Matthew 8:28 - 32, the story of Jesus exorcising demons then sending them into pigs. One glaring difference between the two versions is that Matthew says that there were two men in the possession of the demons, while Mark says that it was only one man. An observation unique to Mark is that Jesus asks the demon its name. I know, a lot of people think that God asks questions not because he has to, but because he wants his victim to come clean. I can sort of understand this for humans, if I bend my mind a bit and imagine that God loves us and wants us to grow. Telling the truth is a growth experience. But the demons are already damned. Why would God do anything to help the demons in any way? I conclude that Jesus really didn't know the demon's name. Mark also mentions the size of the herd of pigs: 2000 animals. That just makes the whole scene more appalling. At least Matthew allows us to imagine just a few pigs.
    • Verse 39: Overlooked in Matthew 9:24: Jesus says that the girl is not dead, but asleep. Jesus wouldn't lie, would he? So he didn't perform any miracle here; he just woke the girl up. So maybe his miracle lay in correcting the inaccurate diagnosis of those attending to the girl?
  • Chapter 6, Verse 3: Jesus' audience asks themselves, "Isn't this the carpenter?" while Matthew 13:55 has them asking, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?" I have to guess that Matthew is more likely to be correct, given that Jesus never gave any carpentry-related parables. He didn't have any problem giving ridiculous farming- and shepherding-related parables, which were so obviously wrong that anyone with half a brain would have discounted most of what he said.
  • Chapter 8, Verses 22 - 26: Jesus seems to be tired or something, as he has to touch a blind man's eyes twice in order to restore the man's vision. The first time Jesus touches him, the man sees people but they look like trees. Also, Jesus has to ask the man, "Do you see anything?" As I mentioned before, I can understand God asking questions, like asking Adam in the Garden, "Where are you?" in order to get Adam to be brave and admit his fault. I can't think of any good reason for Jesus to ask the man whether he can see. There is no spiritual growth there. This is a request for information, which is inconsistent with an omniscient god.
  • Chapter 9
    • Verse 29: Overlooked in Matthew 17:20. Jesus has cast out a demon that his disciples could not manage. He explains to them that, "This kind can come out only by prayer." According to my NIV copy of the bible, some manuscripts add and fasting. The troubling aspect of this exchange is that Jesus didn't say something like, "I'm God, so the demon had to listen to me." Why would God have to pray (and possibly fast) in order to get a demon to heed his order? Some Christians might want to say that Jesus was telling his disciples that they had to pray (and possibly fast), not that his ability to cast out the demon was contingent on his own habit of praying (and possibly fasting). But surely his disciples prayed, didn't they? Back in Chapter 2, Verse 19, he says that his disciples can't fast while he is present, but it's not clear whether fasting really was required on their part. Again, my NIV footnote says "some manuscripts", nothing like "the most reliable manuscripts". So I have to guess that the part about fasting was added later by evil heretics. I can conclude only that Jesus meant a certain kind of prayer of which his disciples had no knowledge, therefore he himself had to pray to get the demon to come out, meaning that he is not the Almighty and makes no such claim.
    • Verse 49: "Everyone will be salted with fire." What the hell does that mean?
    • Verse 50: "...be at peace with each other." This is new. Matthew records no such command from Jesus. Seems like the early Christians who had only the book of Matthew (i.e., Matthewists) would not have known that Jesus had made this profound connection between saltiness and interpersonal peace.
  • Chapter 10
    • Verse 21: "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Ooh, steamy. Doesn't Jesus love everyone? What's the point of this statement? Or is "loved" mistranslated, perhaps a euphemism for "blew"?
    • Verse 24: "...how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!" This is in rather stark contrast to Matthew 11:30, "My burden is easy and my yoke is light." Good thing Jesus kept these two principles separated between the Matthewists and the Markists. Otherwise, they might have been confused.
  • Chapter 14, Verses 27 - 31 and Chapter 15, Verses 66 - 72: The unskillful story of Peter denying Jesus three times before the rooster crows becomes--impossible though it may seem--even stupider than before. Now Peter denies Jesus before the rooster crows twice. But wait, there's more. All over the footnotes of my NIV copy of the bible, I see "Some early manuscripts do not have" all this baloney about twice, meaning that some early manuscripts agree with Matthew. Evil heretics again, I suppose.
  • Chapter 15, Verse 23: While Jesus is on the cross, "they" (whoever "they" were) offer him wine mixed with myrrh, not wine mixed with gall. I looked up the word gall and found that it means the contents of the gall bladder, also known as bile. I looked up the word myrrh and found that it refers to a kind of sap from trees in the genus Commiphora, family Burseraceae. Which of these conflicting accounts in the inerrant, inspired word of God are we to believe?

No comments:

Post a Comment