A Semester in the Gospel of Mark

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Seminary classes appear to either be (a) content-based in which one must master a body of knowledge (theology, church history, etc.), or (b) skills-based in which one must master a skill to an academically acceptable level (preaching, interpreting text, Greek, Hebrew, etc.)  This spring I spent a semester learning Inductive Bible Study (IBS) skills and practicing on the English text of the Gospel of Mark. It was a lot of work, but rewarding!

If you think about it, no one recorded every waking moment Jesus spent on earth.  Even today we do not record every moment of every day, even if reality t.v. shows and Snapchat stories promise you otherwise… everything is edited! So we have four different gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, each by a different author, each telling the parts of Jesus’ life and ministry that they wanted to communicate to their audience. The content of each narrative is absolutely true, simply edited by a different author.

IBS asks the question, “Why did Mark chose to tell this story, to this audience, at this point in his narrative?” IBS presumes that Mark, with the help of the Holy Spirit, arranged the stories of Jesus in a particular fashion to communicate particular truths to his audience.  IBS is a bit like bringing AP English Literature skills to the gospel narrative and asking questions about structure, recurring themes, framing, foreshadowing, climax, repeated cycles, and more.  Once we understand the structure of a passage, and its context, then we become better interpreters of the text.  Single verses, yanked out of context and

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applied to a situation, become taboo… After all, no one opens a letter from an old friend, reads only the 5th paragraph, and then puts the letter away for another time!

This is the companion commentary we used which I recommend for anyone teaching on Mark by Mark Strauss:

And just to give you an idea, here are some examples of the introductory paragraph of IBS papers I wrote every week all spring:

5x5x5 Reading Plan Welcome

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[originally posted Jan 9, 2017]

Dear 5x5x5 Bible Readers,

Wow!  300+ people from our church body have committed to reading through the New Testament this year using the Discipleship Journal 5x5x5 plan.  (Also available on the You Version app.)  I am so excited to take this challenge together, you’ll have many people to talk to about what you’re reading!

Our reading plan starts in the gospel of Mark.  Mark was written to a non-Jewish audience and was a book for people who were not acquainted with Jesus or Christianity.  Mark’s goal is to introduce you to Jesus and the book is loosely chronological and reads easily like a newspaper.  Mark doesn’t quote the Old Testament much, never mentions the Law, and doesn’t record many speeches or parables.  Mark is more like a concisely edited documentary film script… It is full of action verbs like “at once” and “immediately” (42 times)… Mark’s characters are “amazed”, “astonished”, and “terrified”… He would have written in all caps with lots of exclamation points today!

I’d like to encourage you to Read regularly – but also to Reflect, Record, Respond, & Repeat (all the good R words from Sunday’s sermon!).

Sometimes it helps to read with a question in mind – In the book of Mark I am asking, “Who is Jesus?  What can I learn about his character, his power, his mission, and how he interacts with people?”

Five minutes a day – let the Word change your life!  Make a new habit!  Courage to you all.

 

365 Challenge – Mark

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Dear 365 Readers,

As you may know, there are four gospels and each tells the story of Jesus’ life – but in a  different style, for different audience, with differing focal points.  Matthew was written for Jews, and served to tie the New Testament to the story and promises of the Old Testament.  Mark’s gospel is entirely different.

Mark was written to a non-Jewish audience (maybe the Romans?) and was probably a missionary style book for people who were not acquainted with Jesus or Christianity.  Mark doesn’t quote the Old Testament much, never mentions the Law, and doesn’t record many speeches or parables.  Mark is more like a concisely edited documentary film script… It is full of action verbs like “at once” and “immediately” (42 times)… Characters rush from place to place and action sequences are spliced together in a way that almost defies organizational structure.  Mark’s characters are “amazed”, “astonished”, and “terrified”… He would have written in all caps with lots of exclamation points today!

You will not need special instructions for reading Mark, it is loosely chronological and reads easily like a newspaper.  Enjoy!