Category Archives: Mark

Jesus Is Anointed (Mark 14:1–11)

This section is excerpted from The Gospel according to Mark, by Julie M. Smith, p. 703-726. It contains the New Rendition, notes on each verse, and analysis. 

New Rendition

1 It would be the Passover, and the feast of unleavened  bread,  after  two  days. And  the  chief  priests  and  the  scriptorians  were  looking  for  a  way  that  they  might kill him [after] having taken him by stealth. 2 For they were saying, “Not during  the  feast,  or  there  will  be  a  riot  by the people.” 3 And being in Bethany, in the house of  Simon  the  leper,  being  reclined  [at  the  table],  there  came  a  woman  having  an  alabaster  flask  of  expensive  ointment  of  pure  nard;  having  broken  the  alabaster  flask,  she  poured  it  on  his  head.  4  But  some  were  angry  among  themselves:  “Why  was  this  ointment  wasted?  5  For  this  ointment  could  have  been  sold  for  more  than  a  year’s  wages and [the money] have been given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone.  Why  do  you bother her? She did a good work in me. 7 For ‘you always have the poor with you,’ and whenever you want to, you are able to do them good. But me you do not always  have.  8  She  did  what  she  could:  she  came  before  the  fact  to  anoint  my  body  for  burial.  9  Amen,  I  say  to  you:  wherever  the  good  news  is  proclaimed  in  the  whole  world,  what  she  has  done  will also be told in memory of her.” 10 And Judas Iscariot, the one of the Twelve,  went  away  to  the  chief  priests  that  he  might  betray  Jesus  to  them.  11  And  having  heard,  they  rejoiced  and  promised  to  give  him  money.  And  he  was  looking  for  a  good  opportunity  to  betray him.

Notes

14:1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: In first-century Jewish time keeping, “after two days” meant what modern readers would consider to be the next day, so Mark is describing the day before Passover (Ex. 12), or the Wednesday of the final week of Jesus’ life. Continue reading

Presentations on the Gospels, by Julie M. Smith, April 14 and 15, 2019

The John A. Widtsoe Foundation is sponsoring “Deepening Your Understanding of the Gospels” by Julie M. Smith, April 14, 2019, 7 pm, at Newport Beach Stake Center (2150 Bonita Canyon Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660). Info: http://www.widtsoefoundation.org/2019/04/05/deepening-your-understanding-of-the-gospels/

The Fish Interfaith Center and Chapman University is sponsoring an event: “Discovering Mark’s Unique Voice: A Conversation about the Gospel of Mark,” by Julie M. Smith, April 15, 2019, 7 pm, at the FIC Chapel. Info: https://events.chapman.edu/66024  This event will be videotaped.

 

“Jesus Walks on Water” (Mark 6:45-52)

This text is excerpted from The Gospel according to Mark, by Julie M. Smith, 424-432. It includes the New Rendition, Notes, and Analysis. 

New Rendition

45 And immediately he required his disciples to enter into the boat and to go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismisses the crowd. 46 And having left them, he went to the mountain to pray. 47 And evening having come, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And having seen them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them, as the night was ending, he comes to them walking on the sea and intending to pass by them. 49 And having seen him walking on the sea, they thought that it is a ghost and screamed. 50 For all saw him and were terrified. And immediately he spoke with them and says to them, “Have courage. I am [here]. Do not fear.” 51 And he went up into the boat to them, and the wind stopped. And they were extremely, utterly amazed. 52 For they did not understand about the loaves, but their heart was hardened. Continue reading

Mark 2:23-28: Jesus Teaches about the Sabbath

Excerpted from The Gospel according to Mark, by Julie M. Smith, p. 188-196.

New Rendition

23 And it happened on the Sabbath that he went through the grain fields. And his disciples began to make their way, plucking the grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why do they do on the Sabbath that which is against the law?” 25 And he says to them, “Did you never read what David did, when he had need and was hungry, him and those with him, 26 how he went in to the house of God in the time of Abiathar, the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread—which is unlawful for any to eat except the priests—and he gave some to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for the sake of people, and not people for the Sabbath.” 28 So the son of man is even master of the Sabbath.

Notes

2:23 And it came to pass: It is likely that Mark used this phrase to create a biblical sound to his text, making it another example of Mark’s irony: “a passage in which Jesus’ disciples are to be accused of violating a biblical law begins with the Old Testament formula ‘and it came to pass.’”[1] For the perceptive reader or listener, this phrase would contribute to the redefinition of what it means to be scriptural.

that he went through the corn fields: The KJV’s “corn” is likely misleading to American readers since the grain would have been wheat or barley and not maize, which is a New World crop and was therefore unknown to the biblical world. Continue reading

Jesus Heals a Lame Man (Mark 2:1-12)

This section is excerpted from The Gospel according to Mark, by Julie M. Smith, p. 156-171. It includes the New Rendition, Notes on each verse, and an Analysis.

Controversies: Jesus Heals a Lame Man (2:1–12)

New Rendition

1 And having entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he is at home. 2 And many were gathered, so there was no more room, not even near the door. And he spoke about the word to them. 3 And they come, bringing to him a man who could not walk, carried by four people. 4 And not being able to come near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. And having torn it off, they lowered the mat on which the lame man was lying. 5 And Jesus, having seen their trust, says to the lame man, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But there were some scriptorians there, sitting and questioning in their minds, 7 “Why does this one speak this way? He blasphemes! Who is able to forgive sins except one, God?” 8 And immediately Jesus, recognizing in his spirit that they are questioning within themselves this way, he says to them, “Why are you questioning about these things in your minds? 9 What is easier: to say to the lame man, ‘Your sins have been forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth—” He says to the lame man, 11 “I say to you: Rise. Take up your mat and go into your home.” 12 And immediately he rose, and having taken up the mat, went in front of all of them, so that all were amazed and honored God, saying, “We never saw this before!”

Notes

2:1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days: It is unclear whether “after some days” modifies “entered” (he entered after some days) or “noised” (his presence was not widely known until some days after he entered). Either way, the phrase prevents a conflict with 1:45 (where Jesus couldn’t enter into the towns), either by indicating that enough time had passed so that the crowd had died down (if it modifies “enters”) or that Jesus entered the town quietly so that no crowd gathered (if it modifies “noised”).

and it was noised that he was in the house: The “that” (Greek: hoti) can indicate direct speech, so this part of the verse could be translated as, “It was said, ‘He was in the house.’” The house could be

  1. Peter’s house, since that was the last house mentioned (1:29).
  2. any (unspecified) house.
  3. Jesus’ own home.[1]

2:2 And straightway: Most ancient manuscripts do not include “straightway” (Greek: euthys) here.[2] Continue reading

Review of The Gospel according to Mark

Thanks to Dan Peterson, who wrote a feature in the Deseret News about our newest book, The Gospel according to Mark, by Julie M. Smith. He writes:

Each commentary volume includes a substantial introduction, followed by the King James Version translation, a fresh “New Rendition” from the original Greek in a parallel column, and detailed notes drawing on both mainstream modern biblical scholarship and uniquely Latter-day Saint sources.

Smith’s newly published commentary on Mark’s gospel weighs in at nearly 1,000 pages, with extensive explanations covering the entire text. Although it cannot be dismissed as a work of merely feminist scholarship, one of its welcome contributions is to provide a woman’s perspective on Mark and, thereby, on Jesus.

A case in point comes in a section titled “Jesus Heals a Woman and Raises a Girl” (pages 336-370) where Smith gives insightful and sensitive attention to the famous account in Mark 5:25-34 of the woman with “an issue of blood,” a story that, as she points out, “requires male audience members to relate to and sympathize with uniquely female concerns” and “suggests that Jesus shared these concerns.” Moreover, she says, “The intertwined stories of the bleeding woman and Jairus’s daughter may be Mark’s most intricately plotted and symbolically rich text.”

According to Jewish law, the bleeding woman’s touch should have made Jesus ritually unclean. However, it doesn’t. Or, if it does, he appears not to care. This, says Smith, “is a commentary about Jesus’ relationship to the law of Moses.” Moreover, discussing Jesus’ question about who had touched his clothes, Smith remarks that “A Jewish audience may have thought that Jesus wanted to know who had touched him so that she could be rebuked for transmitting impurity.” But “the story plays out very differently.”

“Mark,” Smith observes, “had introduced the woman by calling her a woman with ‘an issue of blood.’” She had no name, no relationships, no geographical location; her disease is the sole marker of her identity. But in this verse (5:34), Jesus gives her a new identity marker: she is his daughter.

I cannot begin to summarize or even outline the richness of Smith’s discussion of this episode, which includes fascinating parallels and contrasts with Zechariah 8:23, 1 Samuel 1, Jeremiah 8 and, intriguingly, Genesis 3.

And space permits me only to hint at the intriguing suggestions that Smith offers about the women witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection and the possible role of women in the transmission of Mark’s gospel itself. Read the book! Or its e-book!

For an earlier example of Smith’s approach to the story of the bleeding woman that is accessible at no charge online, see her article “A Redemptive Reading of Mark 5:25-34,” in “Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship” 14 (2015): 95-105; online at mormoninterpreter.com/a-redemptive-reading-of-mark-525-34/.

News: January 2019

Our conference “In the Beginning Were the Words: A Closer Look at Key New Testament Terms” is January 26 at BYU. Information here. 

Julie Smith’s commentary on Mark has finally arrived! It is for purchase at BYU Studies. 

Our commentaries contains our “New Rendition,” which is a new version of the New Testament text. We’re offering it free as ebooks via Kindle and Deseret Bookshelf. So far we have Mark, Luke, First Corinthians, and Revelation. Here are the links. 

Readings from the New Testament Commentary to accompany LDS Come, Follow Me, for Individuals and Families are listed by our publisher, BYU Studies. Have a look! 

Julie Smith’s interview about her Mark book is available from Interpreter Radio. Follow the link here.  

The Gospel of Mark: What does the Gospel indicate about its author?

Sea of Galilee

Excerpted from The Gospel according to Mark, by Julie M. Smith.

The Gospel of Mark is formally anonymous, meaning that the name of the author does not occur within the text (contrast Rev. 1:1). The writer may not have felt any need to include his or her name, being well known to the community or may have omitted a name for rhetorical reasons, perhaps to focus the text on Jesus Christ instead.[1] The author does not claim to be a follower of Jesus, an eyewitness to his ministry, or to have any specific personal connection to the people in the Gospel.[2] Nothing indicates how the author learned the stories that are in the Gospel. Apparently, the author did not think that the reader needed to know his or her name or connection to Jesus’ life. This has not stopped scholars from trying to figure out as much as possible about who wrote the Gospel.

The first clue is the title. The Gospel was likely originally without title since “in ancient book production and publication, the title belonged more to the stage of reception than to that of production.”[3] Perhaps the Gospels were initially without titles because the titles would have been obvious to all readers, because the authors hoped to avoid persecution from having their names associated with Christian writings, or because they did not consider the text their unique creation but rather a communal project. It may have been that a title was only added after other Gospels were written and it became necessary to distinguish them. Or a title may not have been necessary until the Gospel circulated beyond its original location.[4]

The title of Mark’s Gospel is very old, but it is not attached to all ancient manuscripts. It was most likely added in the late first century or early second century, although there were some copies even in the fourth century that did not have a title.[5] The oldest manuscript of the second Gospel does not have a title, although many other manuscripts from that era do contain titles.[6] The title is likely to date from before the mid-second century because by then Gospels were normally attributed to apostles to increase their authority and prestige. Presumably, had a title-less Gospel of Mark been circulating and someone had decided to give it a title at that point, it would have been given the name of an apostle.

Because the title appears at the beginning, the end, the side, or both the beginning and the end, depending on the manuscript, it seems that the title was not there originally but was added later and thus placed in a variety of locations. The fact that the only author associated with this text is Mark is an indication of the accuracy of the attribution; by contrast, Galen, a second-century physician, had an untitled work that was later given more than one title, which is precisely what one would expect to happen if many different hands were generating a title for a book.

There is a curious situation regarding the title of this Gospel in the Joseph Smith Translation: while Latter-day Saint Bibles indicate in the footnotes that the JST titles the book “The Testimony of St. Mark,” this is apparently an error; the JST does change the titles of Matthew and John from “The Gospel of ” to “The Testimony of,” but apparently the titles of Mark and Luke were not changed. Some Latter-day Saint scholars conclude that the title change, limited to Matthew and John, reflects their apostolic status.[7]

So there is very good—but not airtight—evidence that the author of this Gospel was named Mark. Unfortunately, “Mark” was one of the most common male names in the Roman Empire.[8] (It was, however, rare for Jews.[9]) What else can be known about him? Some characteristics of the author can be deduced from the text, although most of these conclusions are not without counterpoint:

  1. Latinisms. Mark’s use of Latin terms[10] suggests that (some of) the audience was more familiar with Latin than Greek, especially since there are two occasions when Greek words are explained in Latin terms.[11]
  2. Aramaic Words and Phrases. Mark’s Gospel contains a surprisingly high number of Aramaic terms[12] for a text of its length. In all cases, these are translated into Greek, leading to the conclusion that the author, but not (all of ) the audience, knew Aramaic.
  3. Geographical Descriptions. Some scholars find errors in Mark’s descriptions of geography,[13] which might indicate a lack of familiarity with Palestine. (Other scholars point out that ancient people would not have known their own geography nearly as well as those who have access to maps.[14]) On the other hand, it is likely that Mark is more concerned with theology than geography and therefore adapts the physical setting to fit the rhetorical needs.
  4. Understanding of Judaism. Mark explains some Jewish customs. Traditionally, it was assumed that this was because Mark (but not the audience) was familiar with them.[15] Alternatively, some scholars feel that these descriptions show a limited understanding of Judaism,[16] perhaps implying that Mark was not Jewish, but this is disputed,[17] especially since Mark contains many biblical allusions. It is also possible that these descriptions are provided for dramatic effect and not because they provide new information to the audience.[18]
  5. System of Timekeeping. In 6:48 and 13:35, Mark uses the Roman system of four watches per night, instead of the Jewish reckoning of three watches per night, to delineate time, perhaps serving as further evidence for a Roman setting of the Gospel. But it is also possible that Mark used Roman time either in order to make the text understandable to gentile audience members, or because he or she was not being precise, or perhaps because Jews used the Roman system as well.
  6. Writing Style. Mark’s Gospel is written in very poor Greek.[19] For example, in 16:6, the word “behold” is in the singular form despite the fact that more than one person is being addressed. It can be difficult to evaluate what some of this evidence implies about Mark, and scholars draw opposite conclusions from it. Perhaps it is safe to say that the data suggests that the author knew (at least some) Aramaic, knew Greek (but wrote it poorly), was likely to have been a Jew, and is associated with Rome.

[1] It is theoretically possible that the author of Mark was female, but given the extremely low rates of female literacy in the ancient world, this is unlikely.

[2] Older scholarship often associated the author of the Gospel with the young man who flees when Jesus is arrested in 14:51, but this is unlikely. The association probably stemmed from a desire to explain the function of the young man in the narrative, but there are now better readings of this enigmatic character. See the Notes on that verse for more information.

[3] Collins, Mark, 129.

[4] For a general discussion of Gospel authorship from a Latter-day Saint perspective, see Frank F. Judd Jr., “Who Really Wrote the Gospels? A Study of Traditional Authorship,” in How the New Testament Came To Be: The Thirty-fifth Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd Jr. (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 129–30.

[5] Marcus, Mark 1–8, 17.

[6] Collins, Mark, 3.

[7] Barney, “Joseph Smith Translation,” 88.

[8] Marcus, Mark 1–8, 17.

[9] David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, ed. Andreas J. Köstenberger (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2015), 50.

[10] Latinisms in Mark’s Gospel include legion (5:9, 15), speculator (KJV: “executioner”; 6:27), denarius (KJV: “penny”; 6:37; 12:15; 14:5), quadrans (KJV: “mite”; 12:42), flagellare (KJV: “scourge”; 15:15), praetorium (15:16), and centurion (15:39, 44, 45). See also Stein, Mark, 11–12.

[11] “Two mites, which make a farthing” (12:42); “the hall, called Praetorium” (15:16).

[12] “Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder” (3:17), “Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise” (5:41), “Corban, that is to say, a gift” (7:11), “Ephphatha, that is, Be opened” (7:34), “hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (9:43), “Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus” (10:46), “Abba, Father” (14:36), “Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull” (15:22), “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (15:34).

[13] In 5:1, the earliest texts of the Gospel have the pigs running 35 miles (!) to “Gerasa.” Later texts read “Gadara,” but that area has no cliffs (Stein, Mark, 250). In 7:31, the journey from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee by way of Sidon is an unnecessary detour (Stein, Mark, 357). In 11:1, a similar “detour” is described (Stein, Mark, 503).

[14] Collins, Mark, 8.

[15] For example, washing customs of Pharisees (7:3), explanation of the Passover (14:12), and preparation for the Sabbath (15:42).

[16] Mark 15:42 can be read to suggest that Mark did not understand that the Sabbath began at sundown, therefore preparation for the Sabbath would not have occurred during the evening as that would have already been considered the Sabbath; Luke 23:56 may be a commentary on this (see Marcus, Mark 1–8, 20). Mark 1:2 (which ascribes quotations from Isaiah and Malachi to Isaiah only) and 2:26 (which names Abiathar as the high priest when the high priest was Ahimelech [see 1 Sam. 21]) may show a lack of familiarity with Jewish scripture (although there are other explanations for these “mistakes”; see the Notes on each verse).

[17] For example, 7:3–4 (washing customs of the Pharisees) is widely regarded to be erroneous, but some disagree with this assessment. Marcus, Mark 1–8, 20.

[18] For example, the description of Judas as one of the Twelve in 14:10 does not provide the audience with new information but rather serves to emphasize Judas’ treachery. Similarly, the description of Jewish custom in 7:3–4 may not be new information to the audience but rather serve to emphasize the reliance on the tradition on the elders and the absurdity of washing dining couches.

[19] To the extent that the KJV translation sounds refined and elegant to modern ears, it does not represent Mark’s writing style.

Interview with Julie Smith on “The Gospel according to Mark” on Interpreter Radio

On December 9, Julie Smith was interviewed regarding her new publication, The Gospel according to Mark. The book will be available from BYU Studies in early January 2019.

Here is the link to the broadcast: https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreter-radio-show-december-9-2018/

The interview starts at 15:40 and continues to 46:15. Thanks to Terry Hutchinson, Dan Peterson, John Gee, and Kevin Christiansen and to Interpreter Radio for this interview!