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What role do the miracles play in Mark's gospel?Collins, A. The Beginning of the Gospel, pg. 39 - 72. Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 1992. The omnipotence of God is affirmed by Mark's gospel, Jesus in Gethsemane declaring 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you' (Mark 14:36)-
The miracle stories suggest that Jesus shares in this omnipotence Conveyed in the response of disciples to Jesus's calming of the storm (4:41) o 'who then is this, that both the wind and sea obey him' Paradox- God gives Jesus power to perform miracles, yet has him suffer/die
Enlightenment critique of miracles, Hume 'a wise man...
proportions his belief to the evidence'As violations of nature's laws, Hume maintains we can have no proof of miracles Accounts of miracles are always received opinions, in his view Pg. 42 'the first histories of nations are full of miracles and prodigies, whereas later histories explain things by natural causes'
Rationalist approach; accepts what is reported to have happened, rejecting reports on how it is meant to have happened.Mark 6- they do not believe that five thousand men were fed with 5 loaves and 2 fish, instead Jesus's teaching inspired everyone to share the food they had Pg. 42 'the miracle was not that the laws of nature were broken, but that human beings were taught to love and share'
John Hull looked at the similarities to be seen between the Synoptic tradition and Hellenistic magic.-
While he did not think Jesus saw himself as a magician 'he found evidence that Jesus 'entered without reserve into the central conflict of the magician's art, the struggle with evil powers directly confronted in the persons of the possessed' and that Jesus was remembered as using folk remedies' Hull came to the conclusion that in Mark's gospel could be seen great influences of magical beliefs, stemming from the author's desire to meet needs and expectations of his audience
Morton Smith- looked at the link between Greco-Roman magic and the synoptic gospels, comparing historical Jesus to certain kinds of ancient magicians (e.g. ranging from deceiver to theios aner) Exorcism/healing in antiquity Almost all health problems were seen as stemming from demons, this medicine became exorcism.
Evil spirits; external ('obsessing') or internal ('possessing')Miracles and the historical JesusDavid Strauss argued that the healing stories of Jesus were created after his death by his followers.-
Bultmann pointed out that the stories, as they appear in canonical Gospels, seem shaped by post-Resurrection views of Jesus Given the strength of the miracle tradition it seems unlikely the miracle stories are completely fictitious
Pg. 53 'given the overall picture of Jesus as a charismatic leader from a village in Galilee who apparently identified with the non-elite, it seems likely that he did extraordinary deeds involving healing and exorcism that gave rise to the miracle tradition' Of what importance was Jesus's healing?Some see it as authorizing Jesus as a divine man or a Hellenistic hero Or as the eschatological agent of God
In Mark's gospel it seems that Jesus's miracles confirm his role as an agent of God, and moreover convey the struggle between Satan and God. However, despite these healings symbolizing the triumph of divine over evil, Collins argues they are still important at a level of personal benefitThus the welfare and health of the individuals were also important Pg. 58 'if the historical Jesus linked his healing activity to the rule of God, then this activity expresses an aspect of what the rule of God is about.' 'it includes compassion for those suffering physical, emotional, mental and spiritual distress'
In the first 8 chapters of Mark, over half the narrative material is on miracles. John Hull argues that we must view Mark's miracle stories in light of the worldview of ancient magic and folk medicine. Collins suggests that the context we ought to look at Mark through is the Jewish and early Christian apolcalyticism context. In Mark's gospel, the miracles are not activities of Jesus but also activities which his followers can engage in.The disciples are sent out to exorcise (as well as preach) and Mark suggests that through prayer the faithful may exorcise (9:23, 29)
Mark 8:11-13, the Pharisees try to test Jesus by asking for a sign from heavenJesus's healings and exorcism have prompted people to see him as a prophet (6:15, 8:18)
View presented by Mark's gospel- due to malevolent spirits which have rebelled against divine power there is evil in the world. Pg. 72 'human disobedience is related to the rebellion of the spirits. But in the fullness of time, God has acted through Jesus to redeem humanity and all of creation from these forces of evil.' Through witnessing, Jesus's followers participate in this redemption. God wills evil to accomplish the redemption of creation. Twelftree, G. Jesus, The Miracle Worker, pg. 57 -102. InterVarsity Press, Madison, 1999. In Mark's gospel there are 20 miracle stories and summaries of healings, taking up almost a third of the gospel; more so than any other gospel. Mark's purpose centres on Jesus's identity and mission. Wrede- the messianic secret, Jesus as banning the healed to proclaim it. Johannes Schreiber- the miracles in Mark's gospel represent a theios aner Christology which Mark was 'in competition with the self-emptying gnostic saviour that Mark wished to promote' pg. 58 Many have seen the evangelist's purpose with the miracle stories in the picture they paint of Jesus as Messiah, thus
being written for those not in the Christian community as an evangelistic document. However, much material in the gospel does not seem to have been written for such an audience (e.g. the question of fasting) i.e. those outside the church Much of Mark's teaching seems directed towards Christians Therefore it is unlikely that Mark's main motive in including these miracle stories is to teach outsiders of Jesus's identity and message. Pg. 58 'rather, his use of the miracle stories will be a piece with his purpose, primarily to encourage his readers in their faith, evangelism and life together' Jesus's first public appearance in Mark's gospel is a miracle story (the demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum). This story confirms Jesus's identity which is at first demonstrated by heavenly voice saying 'my Son'(1:1) The relation between Jesus's teaching and his miracles is conveyed by synagogue setting and emphasized by crowd's response at 1:27, 'what is this? A new teaching - with authority!'The crowd's response is written in what is taken to be Markan syntax, demonstrating the importance Mark ascribes to Jesus's teaching being realized in exorcisms.
Mark 1:28 - the miracle is unable to be hidden given that Jesus's fame spreads throughout Galilee After the healing Simon's mother, her response to Jesus is described with the word diakoneo, one not often used by Mark, meaning service. Demonstrates idea of total devotion to Jesus after being healed At the end of Mark's first day of ministry there is a summary of his healings, suggesting that his miracle activity had been much more extensive than the mere 2 miracles described by Mark. After hearing from the disciples that everyone is looking for him, Jesus tells them that they must go to neighbouring towns 'so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do' 1:38
While Jesus is portrayed as proclaiming and casting out demons in Galilee (1:39) he soon after heals a leper 1:4045)The healing of the leper- leprosy was seen, in the Old Testament, as stemming from sin, so this healing tells us something of Jesus's authority to forgive as well as heal. The leper's address to Jesus conveys complete faith, he begs and kneels and says 'if you choose, you can make me clean' (Mark 1:40) Most manuscripts document Jesus's response to leper as him being 'moved by pity' but others say he was 'angry'
Emphasis shifts from performing miracles to teaching Perhaps this is an instance in which Mark presents teaching and proclaiming the word of God as Jesus's primary mission Cranfield sees this as Jesus 'rejection the disciples' demand for Jesus to make the most of the opportunity to become a popular miracle worker.'However we might question whether there is such a shift; in the 2 preceding stories Jesus has been shown as performing miracles.-Perhaps Mark is trying to suggest both teaching and healing are Jesus's messageHow might we interpret his anger?
o Jesus angry at evil for having done this to one of God's creatures?
o Jesus angry at Israel's injustice lepers face o Angry because of the breaking of divine sanction Mark 1:43, Jesus 'sternly charged' the leper having healed him. Why? Does this convey Jesus's response to the leper for having infringed the law in approaching Jesus?
Stern charges were a Middle Eastern command to silence
The healed man, contrary to Mark's commands to not tell anyone, proclaims it freely; the miracle cannot be kept a secret.No message distinct from the miracle, however, is proclaimed, just the miracle itself The choice of the word 'proclaim' suggests that the miracles were of paramount importance in the spread of the message about Jesus
Why is the healed man 'testimony to them' (Mark 1:44) by showing himself to the priest? Jesus has commanded silence so it does not appear this is an attempt to make unbelievers believe?Perhaps instead this is to demonstrate Jesus's respect and obedience to the law. The miracle story shows us that Mark thinks Jesus's miracles cannot be kept secret; in contrast, the miracles result in a great and positive interest in him, meaning he is no longer able to enter into the town without people flocking to him (Mark 1:45)
The healing of the paralytic is the first instance in the gospel in which Mark explicitly mentions faith since establishing it as a vital response of the ministry of Jesus (1:15)Faith of those bearing the paralytic-Not merely trust in a miracle worker; they seek out Jesus specifically, thus faith in Jesus himself. (2:4) Jesus refers to the man as 'son', a word (teknon) he uses to address disciples, perhaps demonstrating the man has faith in Jesus Mark 2:5 'son, your sins are forgiven' - conveying common belief of link between illness and sin Jesus seems to act on behalf of God in forgiving sins 2:10 ('the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins') lead the gospel's audience to see Jesus's healing dealing not just with illness but also with the forgiveness of sins
Before this point in the gospel, Jesus has been a powerful healer who casts out demons, heals, teaches and gathers support and followers-His ability to forgive sins is without parallel here Although many were thought to heal, there is no account in Jewish literature of anyone being able to forgive sin, Messiah or not. Thus although Jesus is conveyed as healer he is more than just healer, he acts on behalf of God. Further demonstrating his power is the potential allusion to Daniel 7:14 in use of title 'Son of Man', in which one 'like a Son of Man' is given great authority by God The crowd glorifies Jesus after the miracle (2:12) Different reactions to Jesus's miracles o Crowd glorify god and react positively
o o o
The healed leper responds in faith Four men who carried him show vicarious faith Scribes see Jesus as having blasphemed
The healing of the man with a withered hand As a result the Pharisees go out seeking to destroy Jesus (3:6), healing is thus not the only result of Jesus's miracles, also antagonism.
Mark instead suggests that Jesus's power to exorcise stems from the Holy Spirit This seems confirmed later when Jesus remarks to those opposing him (12:24) 'is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?'Mark's focus seems to be on Jesus's authority which overrides 'the legal conventions of his adversaries' pg. 66
'of God' confirms the origin of Jesus's miracles as divine 3:27 the parable of the strong man- explanation of the importance of exorcisms; as Satan is defeated Jesus takes those he had controlled from him
Mark 3:7-12 - acts as a summary which points to the extent of Jesus's ministry of healing, much more than the individual stories mentioned.
Mark shows both the antagonism resulting from the miracles as well as the tension and unity between healing and teaching in Jesus's ministry
The commands to silence which follow the miracles demonstrate the impossibility of hiding the miracles.
There is a broad pattern in Mark's miracle stories, 2 cycles
The twelve appointed Jesus gives the 12 disciples the authority to preach and cast out demons, rather than healing in general; perhaps reflecting that most of Jesus's healing illustrated in Mark has been exorcisms?
The source of Jesus's authority to exorcise Scribes see Jesus's power to exorcise as stemming from Satan or Beelzebul. 3:24 - Jesus denies that Satan could cast out himselfSea miracles (4:34-41 and 6:45-52) Exorcisms (5:1-20 and 7:24-30) Healing stories (5:21-43 and 7:31-37) Miraculous feedings (6:30-44 and 8:1-10)
The paired narratives are likely Mark's way of developing the identity of Jesus as well as the faith of those witness to the miracles. The second cycle of miracle stories seem less great than the first.
Jesus walks on the sea (no storm mentioned) and only feeds 4000 as opposed to 5000. Could this decline be due to a lack of faith?
The healing of the blind man near Bethsaida (8:22-26)Receiving sight might act as a metaphor for receiving understanding Two-stage healing- taken to mean that the disciples only understand Jesus's miracles partially
Another potential reason Mark might have included 2 corresponding cycles is to highlight the stories' settingsFeeding of 5000 - Jewish setting Feeding of 4000 - Gentile setting
This parallelism demonstrates Jesus's two parallel missions; to Jews and to Gentiles Stilling of the storm First nature miracleThe boat in Mark's gospel is always depicted as a place for Jesus and his journey Thus the boat might be seen as an image representing the church The storm might be seen as the suffering of the church of preternatural attack (Mark as was common of the time, believed supernatural beings controlled the elements)-
Sleeping conveys Jesus's sense of security and trust in God, as well as his authority over the elements His extraordinary faith in God is conveyed by his serene response in contrast to the reaction of the disciples
Parallel to Old Testament story of Jonah. Just as Jonah is awakened and asked to pray for help (Jon 1:6), the disciples awaken Jesus who speaks to the wind and sea (Mk 4:39) Subsequently, just as in the Old Testament God gains authority over the natural elements, so too does Jesus in this miracle story in Mark As the disciples ask 'who then is this?' (4:41) it is implied that Jesus is someone greater than Jonah The disciples lack of faith. Faith being, according to Dibelius 'belief in the power of the miracle-worker... the confidence that Jesus, the great miracle-worker, excelled all other thaumaturges' The question 'who then is this?' might suggest, however, that this faith is the recognition that Jesus is the Son of God and can save his struggling disciples from 'a preternatural storm in the church' (pg. 71) The Gerasene Demonaic- This healing story is set in Galilee; Jesus's teaching is not confined to Jews. It is often assumed that Mark sandwiched stories together (e.g. Jairus's daughter and woman with haemorrhage). But
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