The Gospel of Mark as Reaction and Allegory

 By - October 20, 2007


Detail from the Arch of Titus showing the sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE

Introduction

For most of Christian history the Gospel of Mark has been the least appreciated Gospel and viewed as the least significant. This is partly because the Gospel of Mark is the shortest Gospel, was not viewed as an eyewitness account, contains the least significant theological constructs, lacks any mention of the birth or origin of Jesus, paints the least flattering image of the disciples, and was believed to have been written after the Gospel of Matthew. This all changed, however, in the 18th century when the theory of Markan priority was first proposed. Since that time there has been a growing interest in the Gospel of Mark and its status has changed from being viewed as the least significant Gospel to far and away the most significant Gospel, if not the most significant Christian writing period.

The importance of the Gospel of Mark is elevated all the more not simply because it was certainly written before the others, but indeed because all of the other canonical Gospels are based on it. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are directly based on the Gospel of Mark, and this is now widely accepted among Biblical scholars. Because of this, these three Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, are collectively known as the Synoptic Gospels.

There is debate, however, as to whether or not the Gospel of John was influenced by the Synoptic Gospels. It was long accepted that it was, even before the Synoptic Problem was outlined, but some apologists have tried to argue that John is a fully independent work, which was not influenced by the Synoptics. This argument has gained favor among Christian apologists in an attempt to strengthen the Gospel tradition by asserting that the Gospels do still contain independent accounts of the life of Jesus, as was believed prior to the outlining of the Synoptic Problem, which showed that, unlike the traditional belief, at least the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were not independent accounts, and thus not eyewitness accounts. I will argue here, however, that the Gospel of John was also influenced by the Synoptic works as well.

Another significant realization of modern scholarship about the Gospel of Mark is that it was written during or shortly after the conquering of Judea and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. That the Gospel of Mark was written during or shortly after the war between the Jews and Romans that spanned from 67 to 73 CE is widely accepted by modern scholars and supported by internal evidence from within the work, based partly on the descriptions of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Mark 13.

What most Biblical scholars have failed to do, however, is fully recognize the significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in relation to the Gospel of Mark. Most Biblical scholars simply view the destruction of Jerusalem as a reference point in time in relation to which the Gospel of Mark can be dated, simply an event on a timeline, but few actually put the Gospel of Mark in the context of the Jewish War. This is because most Biblical scholars view all of the Gospels as being "about Jesus". For them Jesus is the subject, Jesus is the impetus, Jesus is the driving factor behind the writing of the Gospels. If you were to ask most Biblical scholars why the Gospels were written the answer would invariably be, "In order to record the life and teachings of Jesus Christ." The Gospel of Mark is viewed no differently than the other Gospels in this regard. Why was the Gospel of Mark written according to Christians? In order to record the life and teaching of Jesus of course...

Well, not so. At least, what I propose and hope to demonstrate is that this is not so. I will demonstrate that the Gospel of Mark was written in reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the destruction of Jerusalem is not simply an event which can be used to date the writing, but that the destruction of Jerusalem was the impetus for the writing of the Gospel of Mark, that it is central to understanding the Gospel of Mark, and that the narrative of the Gospel of Mark is rooted in symbolism about the destruction of Jerusalem. I will here argue that the author of the Gospel of Mark was writing a fictional story and that the author himself knew that Jesus was not a real person, but rather the author was using Jesus as a fictional character in an intentionally fictional and allegorical narrative.

I hope to demonstrate the following key points:

  • The Gospel of Mark was written in reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE
  • The Gospel of Mark was written as an allegorical fiction
  • The author of Mark was a Christian follower of a Pauline sect
  • The author of Mark was familiar with the letters of Paul
  • The Gospel of Mark is not based on any prior narratives about Jesus
  • Almost all the scenes in the Gospel of Mark are symbolic and/or literary allusions to the Hebrew scriptures
  • The author of Mark regarded the earlier Jewish oriented Christ movement as a failure

Throughout history many scholars have considered the Gospel of Mark a puzzling, and at times incoherent, work. This is yet another reason why this Gospel was so little regarded for so long, but what I hope to demonstrate here is that confusion over the Gospel of Mark stems from supposing that it is something which it is not, and that once you realize that the Gospel of Mark was not written as a foundational religious document at all, but that it was written as an allegorical story to portray the Judean Jews and the early Christian apostles as fools who brought destruction upon themselves, then the work makes perfect sense.

As a story that was written in reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem the Gospel of Mark is a story of absurdity and despair. This story of loss, despair, and destruction, was only later transformed into a story of hope and resurrection by the later Gospel writers, and by those who edited the Gospel of Mark and added the portions after Mark 16:8. Indeed, the Gospel of Mark may have been written by a disaffected ex-Christian who viewed the Christian movement in general as a failure. That such a bizarre and disaffected story would have become the basis for the other narratives which portray a life of Jesus (the other Gospels) can only indicate the sheer lack of other biographical material.

Sources and Materials

The majority of this article and analysis is based simply on the Biblical texts themselves. The primary Bible translation used for this analysis is the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version). As a secondary translation I also use the NIV (New International Version). For the "Old Testament" scriptures I also heavily use the Septuagint, specifically the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint). My primary Biblical reference is the Harper Collins NRSV Study Bible.

All Bible quotations presented in this article are from the NRSV unless otherwise specified. In addition, I make use of the translational notes and will often substitute the text from the notes in place of the text that is found within the body of the translation because the notes are often more accurate. What is typically presented in the body is either a more traditional reading (even though such a reading is not supported by the best or earliest manuscripts) or a reading that is altered in order to achieve a certain effect that is intended by the compliers of the translation. For example the NRSV often uses "brothers and sisters" in places where the real texts use only "brothers", or in some places they substitute the word "servant" for "slave", etc. In the quotations I present I use the text that is deemed more likely to be closer to the original based on what the notes say.

Deciding how to make comparisons between passages from the Gospel of Mark and the "Old Testament" can be difficult. This is because nobody knows exactly what translations the author of Mark may have had access to or used. Furthermore, it is impossible to know what variations of the texts could have been in the materials that the author of Mark used. Even, for example, if we know that the author of Mark used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, further variations from our known versions of the texts could have been present.  In addition, the author could have used a mix of both Greek and Aramaic or Hebrew translations. We simply don't know, and can't know, the exact wording of the Hebrew scriptures that the author of Mark used, and it has been proposed by several scholars that the author of Mark did use a combination of both Aramaic and Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures.

Most modern English versions of the Old Testament, such as the NRSV and NIV, minimize the use of Greek sources and maximize the use of Hebrew sources in an attempt to construct what is believed to be a "most accurate" version of the "Old Testament" texts. This may be a valid approach for trying to construct what is believed to be an accurate translation of "the word of God", but this is not useful for understanding the texts that the Gospel writers would have been familiar with since they were most likely using the Septuagint.

When comparing the text of Mark to the Old Testament I look first to the Septuagint, because this is most likely closest to the text that the author of Mark would have been using. However, since it is possible that he was also using Hebrew / Aramaic texts, and since we can't know for sure exactly what any of his texts said word-for-word, I do also refer to modern translations that use Hebrew sources, either the NRSV or the NIV. These modern translations use a mix of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin sources for their versions in attempts to use the best existing sources, or on occasion to preserve a specific reading. I quote from the Septuagint in this article only when it is important to the comparison however, primarily just because I have to hand write passages from the Septuagint but I can copy and paste passages from the other sources.

While the objective of this work is to address the entire Gospel of Mark, I do leave a few passage out of my analysis, primarily because these are passages that have little relevance to the story line, are passages in which not much happens, or are passages that simply repeat themes that have already been addressed.

Allusion and Symbolism in the Gospel of Mark

That the Gospel of Mark is about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 is not a supposition, it is a conclusion based on the study of literary allusions, metaphors, and symbolism within the writing. The Gospel of Mark is actually a very sophisticated and interesting story, that uses extensive literary allusion and symbolism to craft a witty and meaningful multilayered narrative. The work, however, has very little to do with the traditional Christian view of the work as a testament to the life of Jesus.

The most significant aspect of the Gospel of Mark, and what makes the Gospel of Mark capable of being analyzed and understood as clearly something other than history, is the extensive use of literary allusions to the Hebrew scriptures. It is the extensive use of literary allusion in the Gospel of Mark that set a standard for the other Gospels and later became interpreted as "prophecy fulfillment." What we will see as we compare the Gospel of Mark to the Hebrew scriptures, however, is that the parallels between the Gospel of Mark and the Hebrew scriptures are not instances of "prophecy fulfillment", they are instances of literary allusion.

It becomes apparent when looking at the references made to the Hebrew scriptures that there was not even an attempt on behalf of the writer of the Gospel of Mark to present the actions of Jesus as prophecy fulfillment. It was the writers of the Gospels of Matthew and John that specifically attempted from frame the actions of the Jesus figure as fulfillment of prophecies, but this is not a quality that we find in the Gospel of Mark at all. The author of the Gospel of Mark was trying to cleverly draw attention to passages in the Hebrew scriptures that discussed the destruction of Israel and the transfer of God's favor to the Gentiles.

This was a subject of Jewish preoccupation for hundreds of years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, for many reasons. The Gospel of Mark builds on a strong tradition of Jewish criticism within Jewish religion. Indeed one of the overarching topics of the later books of the so-called prophets in the Hebrew cannon is the lack of faith of the Jewish people and how their god's wrath would destroy the Jews because of their lack of faith. This is a theme that emerged from several aspects of Jewish life, most notably that the Jews were a relatively unsuccessful people who suffered subjugation and conquest by other civilizations on a regular basis. The Jews were surrounded by massive powerful empires, such as the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. There was also on-going internal conflict among the Jews over how to worship their god, and even which god to worship. In addition, Jewish culture was consonantly under pressure from outside to adopt the ways of surrounding cultures, which many Jews saw as successful and flourishing cultures while they were often oppressed or less successful. In some Old Testament writings the authors say that God will completely destroy the Jewish people and turn his favor over to the Gentiles. In other writings the author says that God will punish Israel to teach the Jews a lesson but will then come back and make the Jews greater than ever before. The exact sentiments differ from work to work, but the point is that there was an overwhelming theme of impending doom and destruction within the later Jewish scriptures and it is this theme that was picked up on by the author of Mark after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and used as the subtext for his story. As such, what we find is that many of the literary allusions make references to scriptures that talk about the destruction of Israel and/or the depravity of the Jews.

What emerges from the Gospel of Mark as we look into the subtext of the story is a statement that the Jews had it coming to them and that they brought destruction upon themselves. This subtext, then, makes sense of the Jesus narrative and makes the Jesus story more clear. The Gospel of Mark is not really about Jesus, it is a story that was written in reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem in which the fictional Jesus character plays an allegorical role in taking the reader through the absurdities and depravities of the Judeans to show the reader that the Jews got what they deserved and that they brought destruction upon themselves. The Gospel of Mark is a story that builds upon a Jewish tradition of self-criticism and seeks to make sense of the destruction and horror of the Jewish War with Rome.

It is, perhaps, still unclear whether the writer of the Gospel of Mark felt that the Jews were to be completely destroyed and abandoned by God or that the destruction of Jerusalem was only a temporary circumstance, a one-time lesson from God, after which God would then return his favor to the Jews and bring healing and prosperity to them.

I would first like to highlight four key passages that are significant in demonstrating the use of literary allusion by the author of the Gospel of Mark, then I will examine the entire Gospel in more detail.

Significant Examples of Literary Allusion

John the Baptist as Elijah:

The first allusion or implicit reference to the Hebrew scriptures comes early in the story in Mark 1, when the author introduces the character of John the Baptist, whom the author associates with the Jewish hero figure Elijah.

Mark 1:
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, 'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'

Mark 1:6 refers to 2 Kings 1:8, which provides a description of Elijah.

NIV

2 Kings 1:
8 They replied, "He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist."
The king said, "That was Elijah the Tishbite."

This is one of the first indications that the author of the Gospel of Mark uses implicit references to the Hebrew scriptures in his narrative, and this reference is significant because it is really the only way that the reader can figure out that John the Baptist represents Elijah, which is an important point in the story and is essential for understanding something that Jesus says in Mark 9.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree and the Disruption at the Temple:

The cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple in the Gospel of Mark are based on a passage from the Hebrew scriptures. This is a significant scene and use of literary allusion because the cursing of the fig tree seems very hard to explain or understand if one does not understand that the scene is actually a reference to another text. This is also significant because it undermines the historical credibility of the temple scenario.

Mark 11:
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:

"'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19 When evening came, they went out of the city.

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

This entire scene is based on Hosea 9, and refers to the destruction of Israel.

NIV

Hosea 9:
1 Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; ...
7 The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.
8 The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.
9 They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.
10 'When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim's glory will fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.
12 Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one. Woe to them when I turn away from them!
13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer."
14 Give them, O LORD—what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
15 "Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.'
17 My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him;

We can clearly see here that the author of Mark uses Hosea 9 for his motif, because in Mark 11 the fig tree is in leaf but not in season, meaning that it was early in the growing season. Then Jesus goes to the temple to drive the people "out of his house". After that they return to the fig tree where they see that it was withered "from the root." This makes the parallel between Mark and Hosea 9 very clear, and shows that Hosea 9 was the inspiration for all of these scenes. The author of Mark was also clearly making a reference to the meaning in the text of Hosea 9. Hosea 9 is talking about the destruction of Israel in no uncertain terms.

This is quite significant because it strongly undercuts the the temple disruption scene as a historical event, despite the fact that the temple scene is contained in all three of the other Gospels. The temple scenes in all three of the other Gospels are based on this scene in the Gospel of Mark, which is really a literary allusion.

The Betrayal of Jesus and the Fleeing of the Naked Man:

Another interesting instance of literary allusion involves the fleeing of a naked man after the arrest of Jesus. This scene only appears in the Gospel of Mark and has puzzled Bible readers for centuries.

Mark 14:
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
...
43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, 'The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.' 45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him. 46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47 But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 Then Jesus said to them, 'Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.' 50 All of them deserted him and fled.

51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

This scene from Mark 14 is based in part on Amos 2.

NETS

Amos 2:
4 Thus says the Lord; For three sins of the children of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away from him, because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept His ordinances, and their vain idols which they made, which their fathers followed, caused them to err.

5 And I will send a fire on Judah, and it shall devour the foundations of Jerusalem.

6 Thus says the Lord; for three sins of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away from him, because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for sandals,

7 in which to tread on the dust of the earth, and they have smitten upon the heads of the poor, and have perverted the way of the lowly; and a son and his father have gone into the same maid, that they might profane the name of their God.

8 And binding their clothes with cords, they have made them curtains near the altar, and they have drunk wine gained by extortion in the house of their God.

...

10 And I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you about in the desert forty years, that you should inherit the land of the Amorites.

11 And I took of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for consecration. Are not these things so, you sons of Israel? Says the Lord.

12 But you gave the consecrated ones wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

13 Therefore behold, I roll under you, as a wagon full of straw is rolled.

14 And flight shall perish from the runner, and the strong shall not hold fast his strength, and the warrior shall not save his life;

15 and the archer shall not withstand, and he that is swift of foot shall in by no means escape; and the horseman shall not save his life.

16 And the strong shall find no confidence in power: the naked shall flee away in that day, says the Lord.

In the Greek language Judah and Judas are spelled exactly the same, which no doubt would have added to the significance of this reference. Like Hosea 9, Amos 2 is also about the destruction of Israel. The line "let the scriptures be fulfilled" could have a dual meaning also referring to the scriptures of Amos 2, a reference of the coming destruction of Jerusalem.

The Crucifixion:

Of all the literary allusions in the Gospel of Mark those used in the crucifixion scene are perhaps the most striking and significant. This is not only because the literary references are quite clear, but also because of the implications of the use of an old scripture to define the details of the crucifixion, which of course significantly undermines the historical credibility of the details of the account.

Mark 15:
24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, 'The King of the Jews.' 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by mocked him, shaking their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!' 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, 'He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.' Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, 'Listen, he is calling for Elijah.' 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.' 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was the son of God!'

The crucifixion scene is based heavily on Psalm 22, among other scriptures.

Psalm 22:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 'Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!'

9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother's breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.

The literary allusions to Psalm 22 in Mark 15 are very significant because the use of Psalm 22 here is very clear and very certain and helps us to get a confident understanding of how the author of the Gospel of Mark used literary allusion. We can see in the crucifixion scene that the correlations between Mark 15 and Psalm 22 are not in the same order; in fact, the order is reversed. The first reference in Mark 15 to Psalm 22 is the latest referenced line in the Psalm and the last reference is the first line of the Psalm. Likewise, many lines in the Psalm are ignored. This demonstrates a very sophisticated use of literary allusion by the author. In other words, the types of references that the author makes to the underlying texts are not simple word for word quotation of contiguous blocks, rather the author uses a few key words or concepts and may refer to lines that are dispersed throughout a text. Understanding the use of Psalm 22 here really provides confidence that the author of Mark was indeed engaging in the use of extensive and elaborate literary allusions in the writing of his work.

Why Psalm 22? Well, as you can see by reading the entire Psalm, this is a Psalm of despair that ends in a triumphant message, which is no doubt what the author was alluding to. The Psalm is indeed a very fitting one for the author to have alluded to.

Psalm 22 is not the only text that is alluded to in the crucifixion scene however. Mark 15:33 refers to a passage in Amos 8, which again talks about the destruction of Israel:

Amos 8:
2 He said, 'Amos, what do you see?' And I said, 'A basket of summer fruit.'
Then the Lord said to me, 'The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.
3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings on that day,' says the Lord God;
'the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!'

...

9 On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.

The extensive, complex, and well selected use of literary allusion by the author of the Gospel of Mark certainly indicates that the author was intimately familiar with the Hebrew scriptures and was almost certainly therefore a Jew, despite the fact that the Gospel of Mark contains decidedly anti-Jewish elements.

Of all the Hebrew scriptures that were referred to by the author of the Gospel of Mark, by far the most commonly referred to text is that of the book of Isaiah. Indeed, the book of Isaiah can be seen as the basis for the Gospel of Mark. It is, in fact, impossible to understand the Gospel of Mark without having an understand of the book of Isaiah.

The book of Isaiah is a composite work that was produced by at least three different authors at different times, and was also heavily edited over the years. The book of Isaiah is generally thought to have been written between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, and deals largely with periods in which the Israelites were attacked and dominated by other civilizations. Below we see the beginning of the book of Isaiah, which would have no doubt seemed very relevant after Judea had been conquered and Jerusalem destroyed in 70 CE.

Isaiah 1:
2 Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib;
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.

4 Ah, sinful nation,
people laden with iniquity,
offspring who do evil,
children who deal corruptly,
who have forsaken the Lord,
who have despised the Holy One of Israel,
who are utterly estranged!

5 Why do you seek further beatings?
Why do you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and bleeding wounds;
they have not been drained, or bound up,
or softened with oil.

7 Your country lies desolate,
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
aliens devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
8 And daughter Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a shelter in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.
9 If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we would have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.

12 When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
13 bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Now that we have looked at some of the influential texts and significant examples of literary allusion in the Gospel of Mark we can examine the entire Gospel in more detail to understand the symbolism and the subtext.

Examining the Gospel of Mark in Detail

The Proclamation of John the Baptist

Mark 1:
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.

2 As it is written in the prophets,
'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way
;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight"
',

Mark 1:2 refers to Malachi 3:1.  Malachi is a short book and only contains four chapters. The theme of Malachi is the coming judgment of God on Israel. In Malachi the corruption of the priesthood is discussed and many different grievances are laid out against the Jewish people. The book of Malachi says that the Jewish god will curse the priests of Israel, and the people of Judah are accused of being faithless. Malachi 4:5 concludes by saying, " I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." In the Gospel of Mark John the Baptist is considered to be Elijah.

Mark 1:3 refers to Isaiah 40:3. Isaiah 39 talk about the Babylonians coming to plunder Jerusalem and then Isaiah 40 talks of this as having been a punishment for the sins of the people which has now been paid.

NETS

Isaiah 40:
1 Comfort; O comfort my people,
    says God.
2 O priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem;
    comfort her,
because her humiliation has been fulfilled,
    her sin has been done away with,
because she has received from the Lord's hand
    double that of her sins.

3 A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    "Prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight the paths of our God.

From this we see that the first two scriptural references made in Mark refer to passages that talk about destruction and judgment brought upon the Jews. Both also state that this destruction is a punishment sent by God upon the Jews for their corruption and sins. Both passages also describe this punishment as having been fulfilled and say that a time of healing will follow as the favor of the Lord returns to the Jews.

So, from the very beginning we have some indication that this is a story that is very much related to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 CE.

Mark 1:
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, 'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'

Mark 1:6 refers to 2 Kings 1:8, which provides a description of Elijah.

NIV

2 Kings 1:
8 They replied, "He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist."
The king said, "That was Elijah the Tishbite."

This implicit reference identifies John the Baptist as Elijah, but this is not obvious to the reader, for there is nothing in the passage that draws attention to the fact that this line is a paraphrase of 2 Kings 1:8, but nevertheless the identification of John the Baptist as Elijah is of critical importance to the storyline in Mark and comes into play later in the narrative. This is the first indication we have that the author of Mark is using both implicit and explicit references to the scriptures, and that elements of the narrative are built around the Hebrew scriptures.

The Baptism of Jesus

Mark 1:
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'

This passage is likely based on, or inspired by, passages from the Book of Isaiah, which describe the coming of a just servant of God.

NETS

Isaiah 11:
1 And a rod shall come out of the root of Jesse,
    and a blossom shall some up out of his root.
2 And the spirit of God shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and godliness.
3 The spirit of the fear of God will fill him.
    He shall not judge on the basis of repute
    or convict on the basis of report,
4 but he shall administer justice to a humble one
    and convict the humble ones of the earth,
and he shall strike the earth with the word of his mouth,
    and with breath through his lips he shall so away with the impious.

Isaiah 42:
1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

The Book of Isaiah is one of the most commonly referenced works in the Gospel of Mark.

The Temptation of Jesus

Mark 1:
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The temptation scene serves primarily to setup the next scene, which is the arrest of John the Baptist. The temptation scene simply gets Jesus out of the context and has him occupied so that John the Baptist can be gotten out of the way without any question of Jesus failing to help him. Jesus was driven out into the wilderness and occupied by Satan, so that's why he wasn't able to intervene on John's behalf, etc.

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

Mark 1:
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, 15 and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'

Here we have a bit of irony, because the "good news" is really a foreshadowing of destruction. The coming of the "kingdom of God" necessarily also indicates a coming of judgment and punishment and destruction.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Mark 1:
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fish for people.' 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

This passage likely refers to Jeremiah 16, which is again a passage about the destruction of Israel.

Jeremiah 16:
5 For this is what the LORD says: "Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people," declares the LORD. 6 "Both high and low will die in this land. They will not be buried or mourned, and no one will cut himself or shave his head for them. 7 No one will offer food to comfort those who mourn for the dead—not even for a father or a mother—nor will anyone give them a drink to console them.

8 "And do not enter a house where there is feasting and sit down to eat and drink. 9 For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Before your eyes and in your days I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place.

10 "When you tell these people all this and they ask you, 'Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?' 11 then say to them, 'It is because your fathers forsook me,' declares the LORD, 'and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. 12 But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. 13 So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.'

14 "However, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when men will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' 15 but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.' For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers.

16 "But now I will send for many fishermen," declares the LORD, "and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. 17 My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. 18 I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols."

This is the only passage in the Old Testament that talks about fishermen catching people. This is a passage that would have been seen as very relevant immediately after the war. More importantly, however, Mark 1:16-20 is also where we are introduced to Peter, James, and John. Peter, James, and John are also noted as significant people by the apostle Paul.

Galatians 2:
9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.

...

11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, 'If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'

In Paul's letters Peter, James, and John, along with any other people associated with the Jesus movement, are all called "apostles", not "disciples". Paul himself was an apostle, which is simply something like a missionary, and Paul said that Peter, James, and John, as well as the others, were all apostles like him, they were just apostles before him, but Paul never indicated that these people, or anyone else, ever actually met Jesus or were personal students of his, etc.

For reasons that will be further illuminated throughout this work, it appears that the author of Mark was a Pauline Christian, who had read many of the letters of Paul, which would have been in circulation for some time by this point. Indeed it appears that the author of Mark based the relationships between Jesus, Peter, James, and John, in his work on Paul's relationships with those same people.

As far as Paul was concerned, Peter, James, and John never fully understood Christ, and Paul denounced Peter, James, and John. This is also exactly what we see in the Gospel of Mark, with Peter, James, and John portrayed as disciples who never understand Jesus. Indeed the theology of the Gospel of Mark mirrors the theology of Paul.

The Man with an Unclean Spirit

Mark 1:
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, 'What have you to do with us, Jesus the Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.' 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be silent, and come out of him!' 26 And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, 'What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.' 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

In the entire Gospel of Mark only two beings recognize Jesus as the "Son of God" or "Holy One of God", demons (unclean spirits) and a Roman solider at the end. This follows themes that we also find in the books of the prophets of the Old Testament, as in the example below from Isaiah.

NETS

Isaiah 65:
1 I became visible to those who were not seeking me;
    I was found by those who were not inquiring about me.

I said, "Here I am",
    to the nation that did not call my name.
2 I stretched out my hands all day long
    to a disobedient and contrary people,
who did not walk in a true way.
    but after their own sins.
3 These are the people who provoke me
    to my face continually;

In the passage below, where Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law, the beginnings of a major plot element are established. Here Peter (Simon), James, and John all plainly witness Jesus healing a women that they know very well, as well as many other people. This is to establish that they have seen his abilities, which is important later in the story when they still doubt him and eventually deny him.

Jesus Heals Many at Simon's House

Mark 1:
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Jesus didn't allow the demons to speak because they "knew who he was" which furthers the plot with the disciples because they are never clearly told by anyone who Jesus is, but they are supposed to be able to figure this out on their own.

Jesus Cleanses a Leper

Mark 1:
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, 'If you choose, you can make me clean.' 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I do choose. Be made clean!' 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.' 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that he could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

In this case the author seeks to demonstrate the poor character of the Jews by having even those that Jesus helps fail to honor his requests. It also sets the stage for the conflict that grows between Jesus and the authorities throughout the story.

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

Mark 2:
1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then they came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 'Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?' 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, 'Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven", or to say, "Stand up and take your mat and walk"? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—he said to the paralytic— 11 'I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.' 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'

The difficulty of bringing the paralyzed man to Jesus is of course used to demonstrate the effort, or "faith", of the men involved.

All of the healing scenes involving Jesus recall the "Suffering Servant" passage from Isaiah 53, though they may not be direct literary allusions. For the most part, however, there are few stories in the Old Testament of individuals having the power to heal people. Indeed the extent of the healing stories in the New Testament is quite different from the Old Testament, but this scene does resemble the healing story in 2 Kings 5, where Elisha heals Naaman of his "leprosy" (at this time leprosy was a term applied to many diseases).

2 Kings 5:
8 Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.' 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha's house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, 'Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.' 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, 'I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?' He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, 'Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, "Wash, and be clean"?' 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, 'Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.' 16 But he said, 'As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!'

The precise point of the scene in Mark 2 is summed up with the ending of the scene, "We have never seen anything like this!" That Jesus is able to heal by simply issuing a command, and that none of the other prophets were said to have been able to do this, is the point of the passage, establishing that Jesus is the Messiah, not "merely" a prophet. The deeds of Jesus mirror the deeds of Elisha, but his deeds outdo those of Elisha.

Jesus Calls Levi

Mark 2:
13 Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he got up and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at dinner in his house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also reclined with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, 'Why does he eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?' 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.'

This is a significant diversion from the beliefs found in the Old Testament, but does reflect beliefs found in the works of Paul.

Romans 5:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 5:
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

This is all in stark contrast to the Old Testament, in which every passage that talks about sinners says that God despises sinners and will destroy them, for example:

Amos 9:
9 "For I will give the command,
and I will shake the house of Israel
among all the nations
as grain is shaken in a sieve,
and not a pebble will reach the ground.

10 All the sinners among my people
will die by the sword
,
all those who say,
'Disaster will not overtake or meet us.'

Isaiah 1:
28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
and those who forsake the LORD will perish.

Isaiah 13:
9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.

The passage from 2 Corinthians 5 is also of important note. Paul, like the author of the Gospel of Mark, does not consider Jesus Christ to be God, he considers Christ a separate being from God, through which God works. Paul says that it was "God", not Jesus, who gave them the message of reconciliation. Paul says that "we" are Christ's ambassadors, not that Christ was God's ambassador or that Christ was his own ambassador, etc. This again points to a theological Jesus, not a real human Jesus.

The Question about Fasting

Mark 2:
18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, 'Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' 19 Jesus said to them, 'The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

21 'No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.'

This passage seems to be addressing what the author considers to be impractical traditions, as he does in several places, where the comments suggest that holding to laws simply for the sake of holding to laws even while those laws interfere with a greater good is not a good thing. This would be seen as a comment on the backwardness of the tradition-holding Jews. Specifically, this passage, and the Gospel of Mark in general, takes on the sect known as the Pharisees. This is important to note, because the Pharisees rose to political power in the second half of the 1st century, they were not the dominant sect during the time of the setting of the Gospel story. The Pharisees rose to power leading up to the Jewish War with Rome, and then become the almost exclusive political and religious Jewish sect after the war. The Pharisees did exist during the time of the setting of the story, but the focus on the Pharisees is certainly much more relevant to the later half of the 1st century, and defiantly relevant to the political situation leading up to and following the Jewish War.

The comment about the wineskins seems to be inferring that the Jews are the old wineskins and that God is now interested in a new people.

Pronouncement about the Sabbath

Mark 2:
23 One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?' 25 And he said to them, 'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.' 27 Then he said to them, 'The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.'

This is a rather odd passage, because the quotation is not true. The quotation in Mark 2:25 refers to 1 Samuel 21, but differs substantially. For one thing, the priest being referred to was Ahimelech, not Abiathar, but perhaps there was an error in the text that the author of Mark was using. For another, however, there is no mention of David ever saying anything about the Sabbath, much less what is stated in Mark 2:27-28.

1 Samuel 21:
1 David came to Nob to the priest Ahimelech. Ahimelech came trembling to meet David, and said to him, 'Why are you alone, and no one with you?' 2 David said to the priest Ahimelech, 'The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, "No one must know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you." I have made an appointment  with the young men for such and such a place. 3 Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.' 4 The priest answered David, 'I have no ordinary bread at hand, only holy bread—provided that the young men have kept themselves from women.' 5 David answered the priest, 'Indeed, women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?' 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

So, there is no scriptural support for the statement that the Sabbath was made for mankind and not the other way around, but this fits with Pauline teaching.

Colossians 2:
16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

This fits an overall theme of both Pauline teaching and the Gospel of Mark, which is that faith and good works take precedence over the law.

The Man with a Withered Hand

Mark 3:
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Come forward.' 4 Then he said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?' But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

This again just goes back to the theme of faith and good works taking precedence over the law, which was a matter of controversy during this time in Jewish history. Much debate took place over whether following the religious law was a good in and of itself, or whether what was right should be judged by the value of the deed, not the letter of the law. Obviously the author of Mark felt that the traditional Jews were bad because they valued following the law over doing what was most beneficial. This would, of course, have been one of the major strikes against the Judeans in the mind of the author and is a major theme of the overall story.

This is also in contrast to Gospel of Matthew, which states that Jesus came to uphold the law and that everyone must follow the law as strongly as the Pharisees in order to get into heaven. The debate over the role of the law was such that it even spilled over into the Gospels, with different Gospel writers completely contradicting the others.

Jesus Appoints the Twelve

Mark 3:
13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons. 16 So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

The name Judas Iscariot may also be metaphorically significant in representing Judea itself, especially since Judah (the land of Judea) and Judas were really the same name and have only been translated differently since in order to distinguish the two uses of the name.

The number twelve was commonly used in Jewish scripture and in Jewish stories, typically associated with the supposed "Twelve Tribes of Israel". There is only one place in the Pauline letters where there is a reference to "twelve" apostles, and this one place is a certain interpolation. Paul never mentioned anything about there being a select group of twelve apostles. The use of a group of twelve followers here is certainly simply a mater of traditional Jewish storytelling. There are many examples of this in the Hebrew scriptures, such as the ones below.

Deuteronomy 1:
22 All of you came to me and said, 'Let us send men ahead of us to explore the land for us and bring back a report to us regarding the route by which we should go up and the cities we will come to.' 23 The plan seemed good to me, and I selected twelve of you, one from each tribe.

Joshua 3:
10 Joshua said, 'By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: 11the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. 12 So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.'

Joshua 4:
4 Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe.

The passages from Joshua are particularly interesting because the name Joshua is the same as Jesus in Hebrew.

Declaration about the Holy Spirit

Mark 3:
28 'Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin'— 30 for they had said, 'He has an unclean spirit.'

Not only does this imply that Jesus is the Holy Spirit, but importantly it is also a condemnation of the people the because it is saying that they will not be forgiven.

The True Kindred of Jesus

Mark 3:
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.' 33 And he replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'

This is likely a metaphor for the rejection of traditional Jewish ethnic ties, or indeed a metaphor for God's rejection of the Jews. The author of the Gospel of Mark's view was obviously that deeds were more important than blood relations and national identity. This is also a clue that the author of the Gospel of Mark was a Jew who had adopted and integrated into Roman society.

The Purpose of the Parables

Mark 4:
10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, 'To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that
"they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven."'

13 And he said to them, 'Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word.

This again contains parallels with the Pauline works, and in an interesting way. Not only does this passage reflect the same ideas that are found in the Pauline works, but it also quotes the same passage that is quoted in Romans. Paul also referred to the kingdom of God, and Jesus, as a mystery.

Colossians 1:
25 I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

There are many passages such as this one in the Pauline epistles that talk about secret revealed mysteries to a select group of people.

Mark 4:12 refers to Isaiah 6:9-10, which is also referenced by Paul in Romans 11.

Romans 11:
1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 'Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.' 4 But what is the divine reply to him? 'I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
'God gave them a sluggish spirit,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,

down to this very day.'
9 And David says,
'Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling-block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and keep their backs for ever bent.'

Here both the Gospel of Mark and the works of Paul are in agreement, that Israel is condemned, but that a few select Jews, "the elect", were on the right track. Both Paul and Gospel of Mark here refer to Isaiah 6, which talks about destruction coming to those who do not understand.

Isaiah 6:
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I; send me!' 9 And he said, 'Go and say to this people:
"Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand."

10 Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.'
11 Then I said, 'How long, O Lord?' And he said:
'Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;

The discussion of parables in the Gospel of Mark is similar to the discussion of mysteries in the Pauline teachings, and serves the same basic function. In addition, this passage in Mark refers to the same passage in Isaiah that Paul refers to in Romans, where Paul calls Israel a failure. In Mark 4:13 the author goes on to insinuate that the apostles themselves don't understand his parables either, which would again be in line with the Pauline sect, which held that all of the other apostles, especially Peter, James, and John, failed to understand the "true" nature and meaning of Christ. So again, the author of Mark looks very much like a Pauline follower who is weaving Pauline themes into his narrative.

The Use of Parables

Mark 4:
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

It may in fact be that the point of Jesus speaking in parables in the story was to fulfill the word of Isaiah 6 in making the minds of the people dull, so in fact Jesus would not have been, in this case, helping the people, but would rather have been alluding to the manner in which destruction would come upon Judea. Jesus and his parables, in this sense, are a harbinger of destruction.

Jesus is said then to explain the things to his disciples in private, because even they cannot understand the parables.

Jesus Stills a Storm

Mark 4:
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?' 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'

Control of the weather is associated with divinity in several passages in the Hebrew scriptures, such as Job 30:22, Isaiah 25:4, Zechariah 9:14, Psalm 89:9, Psalm 148:8, but this passage most closely resembles Psalm 107.

Psalm 107:
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits' end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.

The main point of this passage, however, is to present the disciples as still lacking true faith and understanding.

Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac

Mark 5:
1 They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, 'What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.' 8 For he had said to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' 9 Then he asked him, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'My name is Legion; for we are many.' 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, 'Send us into the swine; let us enter them.' 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.

14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17 Then they began to beg him to leave their neighborhood. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But he refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.' 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

This is the second of four exorcism scenes in the Gospel of Mark, all of which recall Isaiah 65. An interesting thing about this scene is that it is said to have taken place in Gerasenes, which is miles away from any water, and thus really makes no sense. This is one of the several geographical issues in the Gospel of Mark that are seen as errors indicating that the author of the story wasn't from the region of Galilee and perhaps had never been there. This would be consistent with the author or Mark being a Pauline follower living in Rome, which is the traditional place where it is believed that the Gospel of Mark was written.

Isaiah 65:
1 I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, 'Here I am, here I am',
to a nation that did not call on my name.
2 I held out my hands all day long
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and offering incense on bricks;
4 who sit inside tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat swine's flesh,
with broth of abominable things in their vessels;
5 who say, 'Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.'
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.
6 See, it is written before me:
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their laps
7 their iniquities and their ancestors' iniquities together,

The story of Legion does not appear to be a direct allusion to Isaiah 65, but does contain themes from Isaiah 65, whether this was intentional or not. This again builds on the Pauline theme of the role of Jesus as being a redeemer of sinners and a savior of the ungodly. That the unclean spirits would beg to enter the swine implies that the man they were occupying was more unclean than swine, which were seen by Jews as the most unclean animals. The scene is obviously full of symbolism and does not read like a historical account. Again, the general public is portrayed negatively, with them asking Jesus to leave, i.e. rejecting him. This scene does mark one change in the story, though, because in this scene Jesus tells the demoniac to tell others of what has happened to him, whereas in other cases he told those that he helped to keep it secret.

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

Mark 5:
21 When Jesus had crossed again to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, 'My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.' 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, 'If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.' 29 Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?' 31 And his disciples said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, "Who touched me?" ' 32 He looked all round to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, 'Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?' 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, 'Do not fear, only believe.' 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, 'Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.' 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha cum', which means, 'Little girl, get up!' 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

There are two issues to discuss with these scenes. These scenes follow the types of scenes used in the story of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, but they also portray Jesus as surpassing the abilities of Elijah and Elisha in his powers. The resuscitation of the child recalls 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:30-37.

1 Kings 17:
17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 She then said to Elijah, 'What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!' 19 But he said to her, 'Give me your son.' He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20 He cried out to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?' 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again.' 22 The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, 'See, your son is alive.' 24 So the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.'

2 Kings 4:
30 Then the mother of the child said, 'As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.' So he rose up and followed her. 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, 'The child has not awakened.'

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, 'Call the Shunammite woman.' So he called her. When she came to him, he said, 'Take your son.' 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.

Again we are met not with direct literary allusions, but with common themes, and it is certain that the author of the Gospel of Mark would have been very familiar with these stories since he also did directly allude to elements of these stories in other places. These are simply themes and a style of story that would have been very familiar to both the author as a Jew and to a Jewish audience. These are the types of acts that a Jewish hero figure would have been expected to perform in a story.

The Rejection of Jesus in his Hometown

Mark 6:
1 He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, 'Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offence at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, 'Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.' 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Again, Jesus' rejection of his family is a metaphor for God's general rejection of the Jews. This would be the author's way of saying that God had become powerless among his own people. It is also possible that calling Jesus a carpenter is an allusion to the idea that Jesus is a being who had been created by God at the beginning of the creation. This would be consistent with The Book of Enoch and several other apocalyptic and messianic works which considered the coming savior a being who had existed from the beginning of time. It would also be consistent with ways that "Wisdom" was described in Jewish writings of the time, though "Wisdom" was typically depicted as a female.

Proverbs 8:
12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly.
17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,
21 endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
32 'And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
34 Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord;
36 but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.'

This is one example of how Wisdom was described in Jewish writings of the time, here described as a "master worker", which is basically the same as a carpenter.

The Mission of the Twelve

Mark 6:
6 Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, 'Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.' 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

This passage again draws interesting parallels with the Pauline letters and how Paul described his ministry. Paul described his ministry as being performed in a pair with Barnabas (Galatians 2), and in other places he discussed the living conditions of apostles, for example in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 4:
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. 10 We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, 12 and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

Clearly if the author of the Gospel of Mark were a Pauline follower or had read the Pauline letters he would have been aware of the conditions by which Christian apostles lived, at least according to Paul.

Death of John the Baptist

Mark 6:
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, 'John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.' 15 But others said, 'It is Elijah.' And others said, 'It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.' 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, 'John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.'

This again recalls the story of Elijah and Elisha, where Elisha is filled with the spirit of Elijah after he dies.

2 Kings 2:
7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.' Elisha said, 'Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.' 10 He responded, 'You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.' 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, 'Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!' But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, 'Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?' When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

15 When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, 'The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.' They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

The transfer of the spirit of Elijah to Elisha as described here is what is being referred to in Mark 6:15.

Mark 6:
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.' 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, 'Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.' 23 And he solemnly swore to her, 'Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.' 24 She went out and said to her mother, 'What should I ask for?' She replied, 'The head of John the baptizer.' 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, 'I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.' 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

There are many things of interest to discuss in this passage. First of all, according to Josephus, Herodias was not married to Philip, but rather to another brother of Herod who was also named Herod. Perhaps the author of the Gospel of Mark simply made a mistake, or perhaps Josephus made a mistake. In addition, Josephus' account of the death of John the Baptist is quite different, claiming that Herod didn't like John and that he killed him for political reasons.

Likewise, the events of this scene recall the story of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel in 1 Kings 19 and 1 Kings 21, where Jezebel desires to have Elijah killed and  is manipulative of her husband king Ahab. This is all the more significant since John the Baptist is supposed to represent Elijah. It is perhaps important, however, that the death of John the Baptist is straight forward and without any miracles or incidents, as this would have drawn attention away from the character Jesus.

Feeding the Five Thousand

Mark 6:
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, 'This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.' 37 But he answered them, 'You give them something to eat.' They said to him, 'Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?' 38 And he said to them, 'How many loaves have you? Go and see.' When they had found out, they said, 'Five, and two fish.' 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

There are two scenes in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus feeds a large number of people with a small amount of food, and there is much significance to this. Both scenes appear to be fundamentally based on the scenes from the story of Elijah and Elisha where Elisha feeds 100 men from 20 loaves of barley.

2 Kings 4:
42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, 'Give it to the people and let them eat.' 43 But his servant said, 'How can I set this before a hundred people?' So he repeated, 'Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, "They shall eat and have some left." ' 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

This seems to be an actual literary allusion, as much of the wording is very similar. Of course in the Gospel of Mark the miracle of Jesus outdoes the miracle of Elisha, as is the case in all of the parallels between Elisha and Jesus. There is additional significance to this scene as well, dealing with the 12 baskets which are produced, but this will be addressed later in the story.

Jesus Walks on Water

Mark 6:
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

47 When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. 48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. 49 But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.' 51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

This is an interesting scene, and one of the most well known scenes of the Gospels. What exactly could be the basis for this scene, since there are no such similar scenes in the Old Testament? There are several things. First we can deal with the intention to "pass them by". This is believed to be based on Jewish theophanic tradition. A theophany is a appearance of God, and in the Hebrew scriptures when the Lord appears he is said to "pass by". This is one of the few allusions in the Gospel of Mark that seems to allude to Jesus actually being God, not just a servant of God.

1 Kings 19:
9 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' 10 He answered, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.'

11 He said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.' Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

Exodus 33:
17 The Lord said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.' 18 Moses said, 'Show me your glory, I pray.' 19 And he said, 'I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, "YHWH"; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But', he said, 'you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.' 21 And the Lord continued, 'See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.'

But why the lake scene and the walking on the water? This may be based on a passage from Isaiah 43, or it could have been based on The Odes of Solomon or a similar work, if indeed The Odes of Solomon pre-date the Gospel of Mark. The passage from Isaiah 43 reads:

Isaiah 43:
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

The passage in question from The Odes of Solomon reads:

ODE 39:
1 Great rivers are the power of the Lord: 2 And they carry headlong those who despise Him: and entangle their paths: 3 And they sweep away their fords, and catch their bodies and destroy their lives. 4 For they are more swift than lightning and more rapid, and those who cross them in faith are not moved; 5 And those who walk on them without blemish shall not be afraid. 6 For the sign in them is the Lord; and the sign is the way of those who cross in the name of the Lord; 7 Put on, therefore the name of the Most High, and know Him and you shall cross without danger, for the rivers will be subject to you. 8 The Lord has bridged them by His word; and He walked and crossed them on foot: 9 And His footsteps stand firm on the water, and are not injured; they are as firm as a tree that is truly set up. 10 And the waves were lifted up on this side and on that, but the footsteps of our Lord Messiah stand firm and are not obliterated and are not defaced. 11 And a way has been appointed for those who cross after Him and for those who adhere to the course of faith in Him and worship His name. Hallelujah.

The issue here is that no one has been able to positively date The Odes of Solomon and it is not known if the odes were written prior to the Gospel of Mark or after it.

While the passage from Isaiah 43 itself seems like a good fit, the entire content of Isaiah 43 seems out of place as a literary reference at this point in the story. Isaiah 43 talks about the restoration of Israel, which would not seem like an applicable reference, at least at this point in the story. This also recalls the calming of the storm and, like several scenes in the Gospel of Mark, may be a repetition of that scene while taking the level of the miracle up a notch. In several scenes Jesus performs a miracle, then in a later scene he performs the same type of miracle again but to a greater level.

The Tradition of the Elders

Mark 7:
1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?' 6 He said to them, 'Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
"This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines."
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.'

9 Then he said to them, 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, "Honour your father and your mother"; and, "Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die." 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, "Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban" (that is, an offering)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.'

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, 'Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.'

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, 'Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, 'It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'

This scene says quite a lot and gets to the heart of the sentiment in the story. This is essentially a polemic against the Judeans, and we notice here that "all Jews" are brought into the criticism, not just the Pharisees. The wording of the passage from Isaiah that is quoted in Mark 7:6-7 is found only in the Septuagint, all Hebrew copies of this passage use different wording. This is one of several indications that the author of the Gospel of Mark was using the Septuagint.

This passage is also, once again, in line with Pauline teaching and indeed sounds like a Pauline lecture.

Galatians 5:
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Keep in mind that the Gospel of Mark was written decades after the works of Paul had been written, that Paul's teachings are never presented as Jesus' teachings by Paul, that Paul claims not to have learned anything about Jesus from anyone else (though the truth of this is could be called in question), and Paul never claims to have any knowledge of Jesus other than from revelation. Paul's teachings are presented as his own teachings, which he typically explains using references to the Hebrew scriptures mixed with his own personal interpretations. His teachings were also acknowledged by himself to be in contradiction to the teachings of the apostles Peter, James, and John, whose teachings Paul considered too heavily based on Jewish tradition.

The Syrophoenician Woman's Faith

Mark 7:
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, 'Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.' 28 But she answered him, 'Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' 29 Then he said to her, 'For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.' 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

In line 27 the children are a metaphor for the Jews and the dogs are a metaphor for the Gentiles. The line is supposed to mean that Jesus was telling the Gentile woman that the Jews were to be helped before the Gentiles, but then Jesus decides to help the Gentiles. This is a turning point in the Gospel, where attention will now be paid to Gentiles.

Jesus Cures a Deaf Man

Mark 7:
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, 'Ephphatha', that is, 'Be opened.' 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then he ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, 'He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.'

This passage again shows the people whom Jesus is helping as now following his requests and not respecting his wishes. It also of course builds the level of the fervor growing around him. The healing of a deaf man, and the soon to come healing of a blind man, are common themes in Jewish scriptures, but primarily in the book of Isaiah, which contains several passages describing the healing of the deaf and blind as a sign of the coming of the day of the Lord.

Isaiah 29:
18 On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.

19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 35:
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

Isaiah 42:
1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

...

18 Listen, you that are deaf;
and you that are blind, look up and see!

19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf like my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind like my dedicated one,
or blind like the servant of the Lord?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.

21 The Lord was pleased, for the sake of his righteousness,
to magnify his teaching and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people robbed and plundered,
all of them are trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become a prey with no one to rescue,
a spoil with no one to say, 'Restore!'
23 Who among you will give heed to this,
who will attend and listen for the time to come?
24 Who gave up Jacob to the spoiler,
and Israel to the robbers?
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25 So he poured upon him the heat of his anger
and the fury of war;

It is not clear that the healing of the deaf and blind man (8:22-26) is a direct allusion to any of these specific passages, but this is clearly a theme that would have been familiar to the writer of the Gospel of Mark, as well as a Jewish audience.

Feeding the Four Thousand

Mark 8:
1 In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2 'I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.' 4 His disciples replied, 'How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?' 5 He asked them, 'How many loaves do you have?' They said, 'Seven.' 6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

This passage again recalls Elisha's miracle feeding of the 100 in 2 Kings 4. The exact significance of this scene will be addressed later in the story.

The Demand for  Sign

Mark 8:
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, 'Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.' 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

Here we have another example of what appears to be a Pauline influence. The passage in Mark is strange for several reasons. First of all, the miracles that Jesus has been performing could certainly be considered signs, but this scene is introduced to still make the statement that the Jews are demanding signs, but that they will not have one. This is also odd because throughout the Hebrew scriptures it is common for for people to demand signs and for God to grant them, it is also common for prophets of God to present signs as proof that they are indeed prophets of God. So here we have a passage that seems a bit strange, except for the fact that a similar statement is made in the letters of Paul.

1 Corinthians 1:
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

If indeed the author of Mark was a follower of a Pauline sect and familiar with the writings of Paul, then the inclusion of this passage would make perfect sense. This is all the more significant as well because of the next passage.

The Yeast of the Pharisees

Mark 8:
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, 'Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of the Herodians.' 16 They said to one another, 'It is because we have no bread.' 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?' They said to him, 'Twelve.' 20 'And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?' And they said to him, 'Seven.' 21 Then he said to them, 'Do you not yet understand?'

This short scene is actually very significant. There are three major subjects of interest here. The first issue is the phrase, "beware the yeast of the Pharisees," which is a peculiar phrase. This phrase resembles a similar phrase that also appears in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 5:
6 Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

This particular dialog in 1 Corinthians seems to have been written in relation to an actual observance of Passover, which is what colored Paul's language. This passage is also significant in that it is the only pre-Gospel association between Jesus and Passover. Though only in vague ways, Paul talks about the crucifixion of Jesus many times in his letters, and despite the obvious symbolic significance, Paul never says that Jesus was crucified on Passover. In this instance in 1 Corinthians 5 he actually only associated Jesus with the paschal lamb because he happens to be talking about Passover. Likewise, the Book of Hebrews, also probably written before the Gospels, goes into a heavy discussion of the symbolic significance of the sacrifice of Christ, yet never mentions that he was crucified during Passover, indeed describing him as more of a Yom Kippur sacrifice. This would all be very peculiar if Jesus were a real person who had actually been killed during Passover (which would have been against Jewish law as well), however if the author of the Gospel of Mark were familiar with this passage it may have been what inspired him to place the crucifixion of Jesus during the Passover festival in his story.

Aside from all that, we still have other issues with deal with in this scene from Mark. The second issue to deal with is the meaning of lines 19 and 20. The numbers "Twelve" and "Seven" are being highlighted here a second time after their individual mentions during the feeding scenes.  Obviously these numbers have some significance, but what could they mean? Christian scholars are generally at a loss to explain the symbolism, if any, of these numbers. It should be noted that twelve and seven are both common "divine numbers" in Jewish literature, appearing often in the Hebrew scriptures.

What I think these numbers could represent are Israel and Rome, because twelve was a number that represented Israel (the Twelve Tribes of Israel) and seven was a number that represented Rome (the Seven Hills of Rome). These are both numbers that were heavily associated with their respective nations, they wouldn't have been vague references. If these numbers represent Israel and Rome then the two feeding scenes may be a metaphor for the Jewish god embracing the Gentiles, perhaps even, as alluded to in Mark 7 where Jesus heals a Gentile woman's child, the ordering also reflects his comment there, of feeding the Jews first, then the Gentiles. It is also of note that the first feeding scene took place before the scene with the Gentile woman, whereas the second feeding scene takes place shortly after the scene with the Gentile woman. Due to all of these things I think that the symbolic meaning of the two feeding scenes relates to God offering his sustenance to both the Jews and the Gentiles, with the twelve baskets alluding to Israel and the seven baskets alluding to Rome. This again would have been in line with Pauline teaching.

Lastly, the third issue to address with the passage from Mark is line 21, which again presents the apostles in a poor light and represents them as not understanding.

Jesus Cures a Blind Man at Bethesda

Mark 8:
22 They came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, 'Can you see anything?' 24 And the man looked up and said, 'I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.' 25 Then he laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, 'Do not even go into the village.'

This scene just seems to be paired with the healing of the deaf man from Mark 7:31-37, and again recalls the passages from Isaiah which talk about the healing of the deaf and blind before the day of the coming of the Lord.

Peter's Declaration about Jesus

Mark 8:
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that I am?' 28 And they answered him, 'John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.' 29 He asked them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered him, 'You are the Christ.' 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

This scene simply establishes that the apostles know who Jesus is. It is of interest that the author of the Gospel of Mark has Peter in the more prominent role, because Peter is who is mentioned most often in the letters of Paul, however, based on the letters of Paul and other early Christian works it appears that James was actually the more important of the early Christian leaders. That Peter is the "star disciple" in the Gospel of Mark may be due to the fact that Peter was the primary apostle discussed in the letters of Paul.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Mark 8:
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.'

This calls to mind Paul's account of his rebuking of Peter in Galatians.

Galatians 2:
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

It seems very much that the author of the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus' relationship with his disciples in the story as a parallel of Paul's relationships with the other apostles as reflected in his letters.

Line 31 from the passage likely refers to Isaiah 53, as well as Pauline teaching.

Isaiah 53:
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Other messianic writings, such as some from the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran, also show that there was some existing expectation for, or some existing concept of, a Messiah who would be despised, rejected, and killed.

5 [...for]ever a throne of power in the angelic council. No king of yore will sit therein, neither will their nobles. [...Who can be compared to]
6 [me?] None can compare to my glory, and none has been exalted save myself, and none can accompany me. I sit in heaven, and none
7 [...] I shall be reckoned with the angels, my dwelling is the holy council. My desi[re] is not of the flesh, [for] everything precious to me is in glory of
8 the holy [hab]itation. [W]ho has been accounted despicable like me, yet who is like me in my glory? Who is [...]
9 [...] Who has born[e all] afflictions like me? Who compares to me [in enduri]ng evil? No one is like me and no teaching compares [to my teaching]
- Dead Sea Scrolls; Qumran cave 4, 491 fragment II, Hymn I, Version 2

These types of ideas may have been related to a time of martyrdom and cultural conflict among the Jews, as reflected in a number of 2nd BCE through 1st century CE writings.

Call to Take up the Cross and Follow Jesus

Mark 8:
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.'

Again we find many parallels with the letters of Paul. Paul frequently remarked in his letters that he was risking his life, giving up everything, and putting himself in danger in order to spread the gospel. He also gave a speech similar to this one in Philippians.

Philippians 1:
20 It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Philippians 2:
14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

More importantly, perhaps, the condemnation of the "sinful generation" again produces a justification for retribution, which would have been very relevant during or shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Proclamation of the Coming Kingdom of God

Mark 9:
1 And he said to them, 'Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.'

This again could be an reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, as that event would have happened within the generation of the setting of the author of Mark's story. This also would have been in line with the teachings of Paul, who believed that Jesus would come to earth during his generation, as indicated in 1 Thessalonians 4. This line from Mark also recalls several passages from the Book of Daniel and others. Similar things were written by other Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE as well, as shown in 2 Esdras below.

2 Esdras 6:
25 'It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. 26 And they shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death; and the heart of the earth's inhabitants shall be changed and converted to a different spirit. 27 For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched; 28 faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome, and the truth, which has been so long without fruit, shall be revealed.'

The above was written by a non-Christian Jewish author in the 1st century and reflects similar ideas to those found in the Gospels, a line of ideas that had been developing in Jewish scripture for centuries.

The Transfiguration

Mark 9:
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my beloved son listen to him!' 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

Peter, James, and John are again the three apostles listed as the "pillars of the church" by Paul. This scene recalls several scenes from Hebrew mythology and beliefs.

Exodus 24:
15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain.

Daniel 12:
2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

2 Esdras 7:
88 'Now this is the order of those who have kept the ways of the Most High, when they shall be separated from their mortal body.
...
97 The sixth order, when it is shown them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on.

The passage from 2 Esdras is talking about seven levels of being that one can achieve after they die, the seventh being the highest level and one in which one comes face to face with God. 2 Esdras was probably written after the Gospel of Mark by a Jewish author, but 2 Esdras reflects a similar set of ideas that was common in Jewish society.

The transfiguration scene from Mark may have been alluding to the passage from Daniel 12 however, as this scene is alluded to as a part of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and thus alluding to the passage from Daniel 12 in the transfiguration scene would be a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus as well.

The Coming of Elijah

Mark 9:
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11 Then they asked him, 'Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' 12 He said to them, 'Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.'

It is here that the literary allusion from Mark 1:6 becomes important, because one has to realize from that literary allusion to 2 Kings 1:8 that John the Baptist is Elijah in order for this scene to make sense.

Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Mark 9:
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, 'The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.' 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

This passage again just highlights the idea of the lack of understanding of the apostles, which would again be in line with Pauline ideas, which held that Peter, James, and John were misguided in their views.

Another Exorcist

Mark 9:
38 John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.' 39 But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

This passage is also in line with Pauline teaching.

Philippians 1:
15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

While Paul did warn against "false gospels", he embraced any means of spreading the gospel. This is probably also another slight against the main apostles as well, stating that they are not the sole authorities on the religion.

Temptations to Sin

Mark 9:
42 'If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to Gehenna, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into Gehenna. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 'For everyone will be salted with salt. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you restore its saltiness? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.'

Elements of this passage don't have any particular president, though they do draw on various exiting Jewish admonishments against, for example, masturbation (sin caused by the hand). Line 48, however, likely refers to Isaiah 66, which reads:

Isaiah 66:
22 For as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
so shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
and from sabbath to sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
says the Lord.

24 And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

The meaning of lines 49 and 50 is unclear and does not seem to refer to any specific Old Testament or Pauline text. Salt was considered an element of purification and preservation, and was used in Jewish religious practices, but the exact meaning of the saying is unclear.

Teaching about Divorce

Mark 10:
1 He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' 3 He answered them, 'What did Moses command you?' 4 They said, 'Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.' 5 But Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, "God made them male and female." 7 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh." So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'

This rule on divorce is unknown in the Old Testament but was a part of Pauline teaching. In all of the Hebrew scriptures divorce is allowed under certain guidelines, but Paul forbade divorce and remarriage of any kind.

1 Corinthians 7:
10 To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. 16 Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

The embrace of religiously mixed marriages in early Christianity is one of the traits that many historians believe was responsible for allowing the religion to flourish.

Jesus Blesses Little Children

Mark 10:
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, 'Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.' 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Here we see the disciples depicted poorly again, and we are also presented with Pauline ideas. One example, from a verse we have already seen, is given below.

Philippians 2:
14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.

Paul called his followers children and asked them to be like children on several occasions.

The Rich Man

Mark 10:
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 18 Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother."' 20 He said to him, 'Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.' 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!' 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, 'Then who can be saved?' 27 Jesus looked at them and said, 'For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.'

28 Peter began to say to him, 'Look, we have left everything and followed you.' 29 Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.'

The Hebrew scriptures are filled with praise for the poor and condemnations of the rich. It is indeed one of the most consistent messages of the Old Testament - that God cares for the poor and opposes the rich. There are dozens of passages to this effect in the Old Testament. Lines 28 - 31 may be a reference to Paul and the conflicts between Peter and Paul. Paul called himself the least, or last in rank, of the apostles, while James, John, and Peter were considered the first in rank of the apostles. Paul also often talked about his sacrifices and what he gave up to preach the gospel, so this passage may well be an homage to Paul while at the same time a slight against Peter and the other known leaders.

Again Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Mark 10:
32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, 'See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.'

This is simply the third repetition of a theme that has been addressed before, which is the expectation of a savior who will be rejected and despised, which, as already addressed, was a common theme in the messianic and apocalyptic writings of the time, as well as in passages from what we now call the Old Testament.

The Request of James and John

Mark 10:
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' 36 And he said to them, 'What is it you want me to do for you?' 37 And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' 38 But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?' 39 They replied, 'We are able.' Then Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.'

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, 'You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.'

Here James and John are portrayed poorly and again depicted as though they do not really understand Jesus. Like others, this passage likely alludes to Paul and the conflicts between Paul and the other key apostles.

1 Corinthians 9:
19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.

This could be the author of Mark indicating that he considered Paul greatest of the apostles.

Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Mark 11:
1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, 'Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, "Why are you doing this?" just say this, "The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately." ' 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, 'What are you doing, untying the colt?' 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
'Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!'

11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

This is one of only two passage in the Gospel of Mark where "the Lord" is used to directly refer to Jesus. This passage contains three references to the Hebrew scriptures. The authors of Matthew and John picked up on the implicit references and made more overt references to the same scriptures.

Zechariah 14:
3 Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east;

Zechariah 9:
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Psalm 118:
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

These references seem to signify that Jesus is "the Messiah", the one who would lead the Jews to military victory over their enemies. This would seem to symbolize in the storyline that the Jews were the cause of their own demise, by allegorically killing their own savior, thus undermining their own future conflict with the Romans. This scene is important in that it ties the destruction of Jerusalem to the death of Jesus in the storyline. This is the scene that basically says, in the storyline, "this is the guy who would have led you to victory."

In terms of real history the scene is unlikely at best however, and actually unbelievable. That the colt had never been ridden recalls Jewish traditions regarding animals fit for service to the Lord, either via sacrifice or, as described in other stories, where animals used for sacrificial purposes are ones that had never been previously "used" by man. That such a young and unbroken colt could have been ridden, however, is unlikely.

That the actions and words of the people would also fall in line with an obscure Hebrew scripture is also historically unbelievable, and again indicates that this scene is based on the scriptures, not real events. Some of the more historically minded apologists, such as J.D. Crossan, argue that Jesus could have read the scriptures and thus decided to act out these scenes from the scriptures by riding into Jerusalem on a colt, but this would also require other people to spontaneously fall in line with passages from the scriptures as well, which is clearly beyond the scope of reason.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree and Clears the Temple

Mark 11:
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples heard it.

15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and saying, 'Is it not written,

"My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"?
But you have made it a den of robbers.'

18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.' 22 Jesus answered them, 'Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, "Be taken up and thrown into the sea", and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

25 'Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.'

As already mentioned, this passage contains literary allusions to Hosea 9, but it contains additional references as well.

NIV

Hosea 9:
1 Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; ...
7 The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.
8 The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.
9 They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.
10 'When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim's glory will fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.
12 Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one. Woe to them when I turn away from them!
13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer."
14 Give them, O LORD—what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
15 "Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.'
17 My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him;

NETS

Isaiah 56:
5 I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

6 And to the foreigners who cling to the Lord,
to serve him, to love the name of the Lord,
so that they may be his male and female slaves,
and as all who keep my sabbaths so as not not profane them,
and hold fast my covenant—
7 I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all nations.

8 said the Lord, who gathers the dispersed of Israel,
for I will gather to him a gathering

9 All you wild animals that live in the fields,
all you wild animals of the forest, come here; eat!
10 Observe that all have become totally blind,
they have not learned how to think;
they are all silent dogs;
they will not able to bark;
dreaming in bed,loving to slumber.
11 The dogs are shameless in their soul;
not knowing satisfaction.
They are evil, not knowing understanding,
The have followed their own ways,
each in the same manner.

Jeremiah 7:
8 Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are safe!'—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. 12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.

Here we can see that the temple and cursing of the fig tree scenes are constructed from several literary references to the Hebrew scriptures, all of which are condemning of the Jewish people. The reference to Isaiah 56 also includes praise for "Gentiles".

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Mark 12:
1 Then he began to speak to them in parables. 'A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5 Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, "They will respect my son." 7 But those tenants said to one another, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." 8 So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this scripture:
"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes"?'

12 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

I typically don't bother addressing the parables, but this one is particularly important and is also a direct literary allusion. The meaning of the parable is fairly basic and self-explanatory. The vineyard represents Israel or Jerusalem and the man who planted it represents God. The tenants are the Jews and the people that the man sends to collect from the tenants are supposed to represent various prophets. The "beloved son" whom the man eventually sends of course represents Jesus. The conclusion of the parable is that the "owner" will come and destroy the tenants and the vineyard, of coursing meaning that God will come and destroy Jerusalem.

I highlight this parable for obvious reasons. The parable lays out the basic course of events that essentially explains the entire Gospel of Mark. The Jews kill Jesus, therefore God destroys the Jews. This is the summary of the entire allegorical story. The subtext and deeper meaning behind it deals not with "Jesus", but with the perceived corruption of the Jewish people, whom the authors of both Isaiah and the Gospel of Mark believe have brought destruction upon themselves.

In addition to that, we also find scriptural references within the parable. In fact, in all of the instances where Israel or Judea, etc. are compared to a vineyard in the Hebrew scriptures it is within a discussion of the destruction of Jerusalem or Israel. This parable from Mark 12 is an allusion to Isaiah 5, in which God calls for the destruction of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 5:
1 Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?

5 And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
righteousness,
but heard a cry!

...

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will become rotten,
and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of hosts,
and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them;
the mountains quaked,
and their corpses were like refuse
in the streets.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

26 He will raise a signal for a nation far away,
and whistle for a people at the ends of the earth;
Here they come, swiftly, speedily!
27 None of them is weary, none stumbles,
none slumbers or sleeps,
not a loincloth is loose,
not a sandal-thong broken;
28 their arrows are sharp,
all their bows bent,
their horses' hoofs seem like flint,
and their wheels like the whirlwind.
29 Their roaring is like a lion,
like young lions they roar;
they growl and seize their prey,
they carry it off, and no one can rescue.
30 They will roar over it on that day,
like the roaring of the sea.
And if one looks to the land—
only darkness and distress;
and the light grows dark with clouds.

As with so many of the literary allusions in this portion of the Gospel of Mark, this one alludes to the destruction of Israel.

The Question about Paying Taxes

Mark 12:
13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?' But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, 'Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.' 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, 'Whose head is this, and whose title?' They answered, 'The emperor's.' 17 Jesus said to them, 'Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they were utterly amazed at him.

With this passage the author of Mark was most likely addressing one of the grievances that played a role in the Jewish rebellion against Rome that led to the war. In addition, this passage also follows Pauline teachings, as outlined in Paul's letter to the Romans.

Romans 13:
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Once again we find parallel teachings between the letters of Paul and the Gospel of Mark which are not attributed to Jesus in Paul's letters.

The Question about Resurrection

Mark 12:
18 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, 19 'Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; 21 and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22 none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23 In the resurrection when they rise whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.'

24 Jesus said to them, 'Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? 27 He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.'

As with the prior scene, this one also reflects Pauline teachings about resurrection. Although there are some contradictory passages about resurrection in the Pauline epistles, Paul generally regarded the resurrection as spiritual, not physical. On a side note, this passage from the Gospel of Mark poses an interesting contradiction to the Mormon belief in "celestial marriage".

1 Corinthians 15:
35 But someone will ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 What I am saying, brothers, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

While this same scene was copied in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, those Gospels also went on to affirm the idea of bodily resurrection, which the Gospel of Mark never does.

While both the Pauline letters and the Gospel of Mark are in doctrinal agreement as to the nature of resurrection, the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, as well as other later writings, do lay out specific doctrinal claims that there is bodily resurrection of the physical flesh, which became a major doctrinal belief of the Catholics and is considered a major tenant of most forms of Christianity, primarily based on the idea that Jesus was raised "in the flesh", which neither the Pauline letters nor the Gospel of Mark claim, but which the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John do claim.

The First Commandment

Mark 12:
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, 'Which commandment is the first of all?' 29 Jesus answered, 'The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." 31 The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' 32 Then the scribe said to him, 'You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that "he is one, and besides him there is no other"; 33 and "to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength", and "to love one's neighbor as oneself",—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.' 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' After that no one dared to ask him any question.

This scene both reflects Pauline teaching and contains a literary allusion to a Hebrew scripture that denounces Israel as sinful.

Romans 13:
9 The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet'; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Hosea 6:
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,
I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.

7 But at Adam they transgressed the covenant;
there they dealt faithlessly with me.
8 Gilead is a city of evildoers,
tracked with blood.
9 As robbers lie in wait for someone,
so the priests are banded together;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
they commit a monstrous crime.
10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;
Ephraim's whoredom is there, Israel is defiled.

11 For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed.

This scene from Mark 12 goes back to the same Pauline text of Romans 13 that Mark 12:18-27 addresses, referring to the lines in Romans 13 that follow the lines that Mark 12:18-27 addresses, so it does seem that this section of Mark 12 is being based off of Pauline writings. All three of the last questions appear to have been addressed to Pauline texts.

This is followed then by Mark 12:33, which refers to Hosea 6, which returns to the pattern of "Old Testament" passages denouncing Israel.

The Question about David's Son

Mark 12:
35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, 'How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
"The Lord said to my Lord,
'Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.'"
37 David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?' And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

While Paul never explicitly addressed a relationship between Jesus and David, it is obvious that the Pauline concept of Christ, or Messiah, had nothing to do with a human king in the line of David. This was part of a larger diversity of messianic ideas that had been developing for about 200 years within Jewish culture, in which a wide variety ideas about a "Messiah" developed. The "traditional" view was that a messiah was a human ruler in the line of David, but other concepts of Messiah developed as well, including ideas that explicitly stated that the Messiah would not be of royalty at all and of spiritual messianic concepts as well. Arguably Paul's "Messiah" was a spiritual one, but certainly Paul's Messiah had no relationship to David. Likewise, this passage in Mark also addresses the issue, once again arguing that the "traditional" views of the Jews are wrong, and that the Messiah is not in the line of David. This, of course, is contradicted by the later Gospels, all of which return to the more traditional view and claim that Jesus is descended from David.

Jesus Denounces the Scribes

Mark 12:
38 As he taught, he said, 'Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.'

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.'

These passages are basically just a summary of each of the previous "teaching scenes", all of which basically were designed to condemn the views and practices of the ruling classes in Judea.

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

Mark 13:
1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!' 2 Then Jesus asked him, 'Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.'

3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 'Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?' 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, 'Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, "I am!" and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The "predictions" of war and the destruction of the temple are some of the things, among others, that are used to date the Gospel of Mark to after the war between Judea and Rome and the destruction of the Temple. The destruction of Jerusalem was also "predicted" or described in other Hebrew scriptures as well, so the theme was not uncommon.

Micah 3:
9 Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
and pervert all equity,
10 who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with wrong!
11 Its rulers give judgement for a bribe,
its priests teach for a price,
its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
'Surely the Lord is with us!
No harm shall come upon us.'
12 Therefore because of you
Zion shall be ploughed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

In addition to the destruction of Jerusalem a total "end time" was also described in several "Old Testament" passages, especially in the book of Isaiah. The passage in Mark 13 draws on these common themes.

Isaiah 13:
6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty!
7 Therefore all hands will be feeble,
and every human heart will fail,
8 and they will be dismayed.
Pangs and agony will seize them;
they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at one another;
their faces will be aflame.
9 See, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the earth a desolation,
and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
and lay low the insolence of tyrants.
12 I will make mortals more rare than fine gold,
and humans than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken out of its place,

at the wrath of the Lord of hosts
on the day of his fierce anger.
14 Like a hunted gazelle,
or like sheep with no one to gather them,
all will turn to their own people,
and all will flee to their own lands.
15 Whoever is found will be thrust through,
and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces
before their eyes;
their houses will be plundered,
and their wives ravished.
[And on and on it goes...]
22 Hyenas will cry in its towers,
and jackals in the pleasant palaces;
its time is close at hand,
and its days will not be prolonged.

Isaiah 14:
29 Do not rejoice, all you Philistines,
that the rod that struck you is broken,
for from the root of the snake will come forth an adder,
and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.
30 The firstborn of the poor will graze,
and the needy lie down in safety;
but I will make your root die of famine,
and your remnant I will kill.

Isaiah 19:
1 See, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
2 I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, one against the other,
neighbor against neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom;

The passage in Mark 13 may not have been intended as a direct allusion to these passages, but it does draw on general themes that we see were common in the Hebrew scriptures.

Persecution Foretold

Mark 13:
9 'As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

By the time that the author of Mark was writing this work the persecution of "Christian" (this word may not yet have existed) apostles would have been well known. Paul himself described his own persecutions in several of his letters.

2 Corinthians 11:
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?

The description of brother fighting brother, etc., also draws on common themes from Hebrew scriptures, similar to those just previously presented from Isaiah.

The Desolating Sacrilege

Mark 13:
14 'But when you see the desolating abomination set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15 someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16 someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21 And if anyone says to you at that time, "Look! Here is the Messiah!" or "Look! There he is!"—do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything.

The Jewish chronicler Josephus recorded that during the time leading up to the Jewish revolt and the war with the Romans there were a plethora of would-be prophets and doomsayers, including a man named Jesus, son of Ananus, whom Josephus recorded as having been killed during the siege of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the term "desolating abomination" is used several times in the book of Daniel in passages that also refer to doom and destruction.

Daniel 9:
24 'Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.'

Daniel 11:
29 'At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but this time it shall not be as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall lose heart and withdraw. He shall be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay heed to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces sent by him shall occupy and profane the temple and fortress. They shall abolish the regular burnt-offering and set up the abomination that makes desolate.

Daniel 12:
None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. 11 From the time that the regular burnt-offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.

The "desolating abomination" makes references to passages in the book of Daniel, though it is unclear as to whether there was an intention to refer to specific passages in Daniel or whether this was simply a well known apocalyptic term that evoked general apocalyptic imagery. The passages in Daniel, however, do talk of war and destruction.

The Coming of the Son of Man

Mark 13:
24 'But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in clouds" with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

With this passage we go back to Isaiah 13, and also Daniel 7.

Isaiah 13:
6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty!

...

10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.

11 I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
and lay low the insolence of tyrants.

....

its time is close at hand,
and its days will not be prolonged.

Daniel 7:
11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13 As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven.

And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.

This is one of several interesting cases where the Hebrew scriptures are paraphrased and arguably misinterpreted, or reinterpreted, within not only the Gospel of Mark but the New Testament works in general. The term "son of man" in the Book of Daniel means "human", and one "like a son of man" would mean someone in human form, however this is not how the term is used in the Gospel of Mark, nor in any of the Gospels that followed Mark, all of which followed its lead.

"The elect" as the term appears in the Gospel of Mark does not occur in the Old Testament and is only briefly mentioned in the Pauline letters, but was a term that was commonly used in the messianic and apocalyptic stories of the 2nd century BCE through the 1st century CE, such as The Book of Enoch.

3 Upon their account I spoke and conversed with him, who will go forth from his habitation, the Holy and Mighty One, the God of the world:
4 Who will hereafter tread upon Mount Sinai; appear with his hosts; and be manifested in the strength of his power from heaven.
5 All shall be afraid, and the Watchers be terrified.
6 Great fear and trembling shall seize them, even to the ends of the earth. The lofty mountains shall be troubled, and the exalted hills depressed, melting like a honeycomb in the flame. The earth shall be immerged, and all things which are in it perish; while judgment shall come upon all, even upon all the righteous:
7 But to them shall he give peace: he shall preserve the elect, and towards them exercise clemency.
- The Book of Enoch; 2nd century BCE

This is just one of many references to "the elect" in the Book of Enoch, a 2nd century BCE Jewish apocalyptic and messianic work that is not a part of the Old Testament canon. The term was used in other such works as well.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Mark 13:
28 'From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 'But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.'

This passage again reflects Pauline teaching, as Paul himself believed that he would be among the generation of those who would experience the end of the world and the coming of Christ (Paul never said that he expected a "return" of Christ).

1 Thessalonians 4:
5 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5:
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, 'There is peace and security', then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.

The theme of keeping awake, as well as the expectation of an eminent end, are all particularly close in nature to the writings of Paul, and thus appear to be dependent on or inspired by the Pauline letter.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Mark 14:
1 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest him by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, 'Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.'

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are actually two separate festivals which became combined. To a large extent these two festivals are now, and for a long time have been, collectively called simply the Passover festival, even though they originated separately.

What is interesting about the idea that Jesus was killed during the Passover festival is that none of the pre-Gospel writings claim that he was killed at this time, indeed none of them provide any details about his death, they simply talk about his death in abstract and metaphorical ways. What is all the more peculiar about this is that the symbolism of the death of Jesus is heavily focused on in these works, yet despite there being numerous discussions of the symbolism of the death of Jesus in pre-Gospel writings, none of them make any mention of Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is particularly significant because of the symbolism of this festival, which is when a specific "sin offering" is made - the sacrifice of a special lamb for the forgiveness of sins.

The significance of Jesus being killed during a festival for the forgiveness of sins, during which a sacrifice is made for the forgiveness of sins, is hardly something that people talking about the death of Jesus would have left out had this actually been the case. Paul discusses the crucifixion of Jesus at least seven times in his letters, and the Book of Hebrews spends several pages discussing the symbolic meaning of the sacrifice of Christ in specifically Jewish terms, yet in none of these cases do either of them mention Passover.

The one exception to this is a passage from 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul is talking about the celebration of the Passover festival (Feast of Unleavened Bread).

1 Corinthians 5:
3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

6 Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Notice here that this really is not a discussion of the crucifixion of Christ, its a discussion of the festival, in which Paul associated Jesus with the sacrificial Passover lamb, but this is the only pre-Gospel instance of such an association and it is only made while Paul is already talking about the Passover festival. He never makes this association when simply talking about the crucifixion of Jesus, for example, in the most detailed description of the crucifixion that Paul provides:

1 Corinthians 2:
6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" — 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?

This is generally viewed as the most potentially historical of all of Paul's discussions of crucifixion, yet as is discussed in the Jesus Myth article, even this passage is likely talking about heavenly rulers and is not describing an earthly event. Notice that Paul talks about God having revealed his plan through the Spirit, which wouldn't make any sense to say if Jesus were a real live person and were the one who had revealed God's plan.

When we look at the Book of Hebrews, also called the Letter to the Hebrews, what we find is thirteen chapters of in depth discussion of the symbolic and theological meaning of Jesus, addressed to a Jewish audience, focusing on his death as a sacrifice, and yet there is no mention of Passover, indeed the letter frames his death as a Yom Kippur sacrifice, Yom Kippur being the other Jewish holiday that is related to atonement for sins.

Hebrews 9:
11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. 16 Where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, 20 saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.' 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when he came into the world, he said,
'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
6 in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, "See, God, I have come to do your will, O God"
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).'

8 When he said above, 'You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings' (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, 'See, I have come to do your will.' He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by that will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when this one had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, 'he sat down at the right hand of God', 13 and since then has been waiting 'until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.' 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16 'This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds',
17 he also adds,
'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.'
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Some of the many interesting things about the book of Hebrews are that it is the only New Testament work that calls Jesus a "high priest", and, as in the quotation above, in every instance that it purports to "quote Christ" it quotes from what we call the Old Testament. Hebrews does describe Jesus as a real being that came to earth and spent time here, but again it has no real details of that life, and in every instance that it purposes to quote things that he said it does so by quoting older scriptures.

The main point, however, is that despite the fact that this work goes to great lengths to discuss the meaning of the death of Christ, and the fact that it does this in highly Jewish terms, it never mentions anything about Passover, which seems highly unusual for such a work if indeed Jesus were a real person who really was killed during the Passover festival, or even if the death of Christ were widely associated with Passover at this time. What the Letter to the Hebrews indicates is that not everyone at this time associated the "redeeming sacrifice of Christ" with Passover. In fact, we find no real association between Jesus and Passover anywhere prior to the Gospels, other than the one passage from Paul in 1 Corinthians 5.

This again points to the likelihood that the writer of the Gospel of Mark got the idea for staging the crucifixion of Jesus during the Passover festival from the Pauline work itself.

The Anointing at Bethany

Mark 14:
3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, 'Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.' And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, 'Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.'

This scene invokes the ritual of anointing a Jewish king, as is also described in other scriptures.

2 Kings 9:
6 So Jehu got up and went inside; the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, 'Thus says the Lord the God of Israel: I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel.

1 Samuel 10:
1 Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, 'The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel.

This scene is perhaps poorly written, as it certainly makes Jesus appear to be an inconsiderate jerk, but the point of the scene seems to be to invoke the imagery of anointing a king while the apostles themselves fail to understand what is taking place or to recognize the significance, once again attempting to make the apostles look like fools, though in this case it actually seems to work the other way around.

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

Mark 14:
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Here we seem to have the beginning of a literary allusion to Amos 2, which extends through to the arrest of Jesus.

NETS

Amos 2:
4 Thus says the Lord; For three sins of the children of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away from him, because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept His ordinances, and their vain idols which they made, which their fathers followed, caused them to err.

5 And I will send a fire on Judah, and it shall devour the foundations of Jerusalem.

6 Thus says the Lord; for three sins of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away from him, because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for sandals,

7 in which to tread on the dust of the earth, and they have smitten upon the heads of the poor, and have perverted the way of the lowly; and a son and his father have gone into the same maid, that they might profane the name of their God.

8 And binding their clothes with cords, they have made them curtains near the altar, and they have drunk wine gained by extortion in the house of their God.

9 But I removed the Amorite from before them, whose height was the height of a cedar, and who was as strong as an oak, and I removed his fruit above and his root beneath.

10 And I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you about in the desert forty years, that you should inherit the land of the Amorites.

11 And I took of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for consecration. Are not these things so, you sons of Israel? Says the Lord.

12 But you gave the consecrated ones wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

13 Therefore behold, I roll under you, as a wagon full of straw is rolled.

14 And flight shall perish from the runner, and the strong shall not hold fast his strength, and the warrior shall not save his life;

15 and the archer shall not withstand, and he that is swift of foot shall in by no means escape; and the horseman shall not save his life.

16 And the strong shall find no confidence in power: the naked shall flee away in that day, says the Lord.

As we shall see in following passages, this allusion to Amos 2 goes a long way towards explaining several complex passages in Mark 14.

The Passover with the Disciples

Mark 14:
12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, 'Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?' 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, "The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.' 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

This again recalls 1 Samuel 10, picking-up right after the anointing scene.

1 Samuel 10:
2 When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, "The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you, saying: What shall I do about my son?" 3 Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor; three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from them. 5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. 6 Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you. 8And you shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me; then I will come down to you to present burnt-offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. For seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.'

Similarities between 1 Samuel 10 and Mark continue on through the declaration of Saul as king and the mocking of Jesus as a king.

Mark 14:
17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.' 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, 'Surely, not I?' 20 He said to them, 'It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.'

This is likely an allusion to Psalm 41.

Psalm 41:
8 They think that a deadly thing has fastened on me,
that I will not rise again from where I lie.
9 Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted,
who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
10 But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them.

This allusion would make sense of the declaration of woe to the one who betrayed "the Son of Man", "raise me up, that I may repay them." Interestingly, however, the psalm does not provide an image of life after death or of being raised from the dead. The psalm is simply talking about someone who has been struck down and is injured, and is then praying to the Lord to rise back to his feet in fighting condition. This is typical of the ways in which the ancient psalms were re-interpreted by those within the Christian movement.

The Institution of the Lord's Supper

Mark 14:
22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, 'Take; this is my body.' 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, 'This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.'

This passage is perhaps one of the most important passages of all the New Testament writings and one of the most complex to address. This is because this is the only passage that appears in both the Gospels and the Pauline letters and purports to represent words that Jesus spoke. The questions raised by this passage are many. Is the instance of this passage in the Pauline letters a later interpolation that was added after the writing of the Gospels? If Paul did originally write the version in his letters, then where did he get his information from? What exactly is the meaning of the Pauline version? If Paul wrote his version first did the author of the Gospel of Mark derive his version from the Pauline letters? Below is the Pauline version of the Eucharist description, from 1 Corinthians, as it appears in the NRSV:

1 Corinthians 11:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

A precise understanding of the wording here is critical. The first issue is the phrase "For I received from the Lord," which is an indicator of "revelation". That doesn't mean that Paul couldn't have received this information from some other oral tradition or from James or Peter, etc., and then here be passing it off as something that was known originally only to him, but the claim that he makes here is basically that this is information that is unique to him, which he received from "divine revelation", which would mean his imagination. That this would in fact be the case is uncertain, because this type of ritual is exactly what one would expect to be the basis of an emerging cult, and thus it would not be unusual for a ritual such as this to be one of the first emerging parts of a tradition, around which other religious elements and imagery would coalesce, meaning that it would not be surprising, even if Jesus never really existed, if something like this ritual were not one of the first and oldest elements of the cult, existing even before Paul.

Nevertheless, Paul does not claim here to be passing on a tradition or something that was told to him by others, but rather he claims to be passing on something that was "revealed" to him by "the Lord", which appears to mean God in the first instance.

The second issue here is the word "betrayed". The word "betrayed" ties in to the narrative that we find in the Gospels, but more importantly it would seem to indicate some type of interaction that makes little sense outside of the Gospel narrative. But, however, "betrayed" is not actually an accurate translation here. Most English translations use the word "betrayed" in line 23 because of the fact that this word ties the passage back to the Gospel narrative, but a more accurate translation would be "delivered up", and this point is important, because Paul used the phrase "delivered up" in another instance to describe the act of God sacrificing his own son in Romans 8.

Romans 8:
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect?

In order to get a better understanding of this we can look at the Young's Literal Translation version of the passages in question.

YLT

Romans 8:
32 He who indeed His own Son did not spare, but for us all did deliver him up, how shall He not also with him the all things grant to us?

1 Corinthians 11:
23 For I -- I received from the Lord that which also I did deliver to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was delivered up, took bread,

As we can see, a more accurate reading of the passage from 1 Corinthians 11 does not actually imply a betrayal, but is rather talking about a more theological and abstract sacrificial concept. Again, if Paul were discussing a real event that took place during Passover it seems that he would have mentioned Passover here instead of simply saying "on the night".

There are other important clues to consider in the version of the Eucharist that is in the Gospel of Mark as well. Line 25, which reads, "Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.'," appears to be either part of a literary allusion to Amos 2, or a foreshadowing of events that will be depicted during the crucifixion, or, most likely, a combination of both. Line 12 from Amos 2, which is part of a larger literary allusion involving all of Mark 14, reads:

NETS

Amos 2:
12 But you gave the consecrated ones wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

Jesus obviously drinks wine of his own volition in lines 23-24, however if indeed the author is using Amos 2 as the subtext for Mark 14 then there is some need to show Jesus as having been given wine in an inappropriate manner. This actually happens during the crucifixion scene, but what line 25 in Mark 14 does is draw that event into the proper context for a literary allusion to Amos 2, as Jesus declares in the proper location in the Gospel text that "he will no longer drink wine," because he is now "consecrated." Yet, shortly after this, in Mark 15, he is given wine to drink.

All of this leads me to believe that the Eucharist passage in 1 Corinthians 11 was originally written by Paul, and that the author of Mark included it in his story because he copied it from the Pauline work, especially given the other references to 1 Corinthians within this section of the Gospel of Mark. If the Eucharist passage did not exist in 1 Corinthians then I think it would be very unlikely that the author of Mark would have invented it, especially in this context, where he is trying to make an allusion to Amos 2, in which case it would make more sense for Jesus not to have drunk wine at all than for him to have drunk it. However, that the author of Mark was trying to both fit in the Pauline passage and make a reference to Amos 2 at the same time explains line 25 of Mark 14. The Pauline passage "forced his hand" into having Jesus drink wine here, which required the addition of line 25, which you notice is not present in the Pauline Eucharist passage, in order to redeem the literary allusion to Amos 2.

To reiterate, the continuity between the Gospels and the Pauline description of the Eucharist ritual exists because the author of the Gospel of Mark derived his "Last Supper" ritual from Paul's Eucharist ritual and each of the other Gospel writers derived their Last Supper scenes from the Gospel of Mark.

Peter's Denial Foretold

Mark 14:
26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, 'You will all become deserters; for it is written,
"I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered."

28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.' 29 Peter said to him, 'Even though all become deserters, I will not.' 30 Jesus said to him, 'Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.' 31 But he said vehemently, 'Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.' And all of them said the same.

The quotation that is presented here comes from Zechariah 13. As with many of the scriptural quotations in the Gospels, the meaning is slightly twisted from it's original meaning.

Zechariah 13:
7 'Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is my associate,'
says the Lord of hosts.
Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
8 In the whole land, says the Lord,
two-thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one-third shall be left alive.

This passage is used in the Gospel context to refer to the Lord "striking" Jesus and causing "his sheep" to become scattered. Again, the passage refers to destruction and wrath being brought upon the Jewish people.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

Mark 14:
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, 'I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.' 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, 'Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.' 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, 'Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.' 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.'

This passage again depicts the apostles as failures and may also be based on Romans 8, which reads:

Romans 8:
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' 16 it is that very spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

The scene in Mark 14 depicts Peter and the other apostles as giving in to the weaknesses of "the flesh", and failing to set their minds on "the things of the spirit".  Again, the author of the Gospel of Mark held a negative view of the apostles and sought to portray them as failures, as he does here. Interestingly, the author of the Gospel of Mark also has Jesus say, "Abba, Father, " which is also found in Romans 8, but this is quite odd unless this is in fact an allusion to Romans 8, because "Abba" is simply the Aramaic word for father. When Paul uses the phrase "Abba! Father!" he does so as a clarification. It's not that people would have actually said "Abba, Father", what Paul is doing is translating an exclamation that Jews used. Jews would simply say "Abba!", which Paul then goes on to clarify for his Greek speaking audience as "Father!". As people often do, Paul simply uses the Aramaic first for emphasis because its an emotional statement that he states first in his native tongue, the way that he would really say it. He then repeats it in translation for his audience.

However, in Mark 14 the author has Jesus simply say "Abba, Father," in a prayer which would be like saying "Father, Father", but supposedly Jesus wouldn't have been speaking Greek anyway, so this whole business makes no sense. The entire use of "Abba, Father," makes no sense in the manner that it is used in the Gospel of Mark. The only reasonable explanations are either that this was a commonly used double phrase among Greek speaking Jews, thus the author, himself a Greek speaking Jew, used it out of familiarity, perhaps something like a Spanish speaking American saying "Ay! Oh!", (Ay being the Spanish for the English word Oh, as in "Oh my goodness"), or the author of Mark used the phrase here because this scene is based on Romans 8.

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

Mark 14:
43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, 'The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.' 45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him. 46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47 But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 Then Jesus said to them, 'Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.' 50 All of them deserted him and fled.

51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

There are two likely allusions highlighted here. The first is to what may actually at that time have been a commonly known phrase, which is also recorded in Proverbs 27, as shown below. The use of this imagery may not actually be an allusion to Proverbs 27, but more likely it just reflects the use of a common truism of the time. The second highlighted passage, lines 51-52, is more certainly a direct literary allusion to Amos 2.

Proverbs 27:
6 Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

NETS

Amos 2:
12 But you gave the consecrated ones wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

13 Therefore behold, I roll under you, as a wagon full of straw is rolled.

14 And flight shall perish from the runner, and the strong shall not hold fast his strength, and the warrior shall not save his life;

15 and the archer shall not withstand, and he that is swift of foot shall in by no means escape; and the horseman shall not save his life.

16 And the strong shall find no confidence in power: the naked shall flee away in that day, says the Lord.

The reference to the last line of Amos 2 completes the allusion that is begun in Mark 14:10-11, which starts with Judas betraying Jesus for money, a reference to Amos 2 where it talks about the Jews betraying the righteous for silver. (A reference that the author of the Gospel of Matthew did pickup on, evidenced by the fact that he changed the word "money" to "silver" when he copied from Mark to create his version of the story.)

As with many of the more obscure references in the Gospel of Mark, however, the line about the man fleeing naked was dropped from the other Gospels because outside of serving as a literary allusion the passage seems to make no sense.

Jesus before the Council

Mark 14:
53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 'We heard him say, "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands." ' 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, 'Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?' 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?' 62 Jesus said, 'I am; and
"you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power",
and "coming with the clouds of heaven."'

63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?' All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65 Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, 'Prophesy!' The guards also took him over and beat him.

The trail scene contains several scriptural references as well as general themes common to the scriptures.

Isaiah 53:
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.

Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.

Psalm 35:
11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me about things I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is forlorn.
13 But as for me, when they were sick,
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting.
I prayed with head bowed on my bosom,
14 as though I grieved for a friend or a brother;
I went about as one who laments for a mother,
bowed down and in mourning.

15 But at my stumbling they gathered in glee,
they gathered together against me;
ruffians whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16 they impiously mocked more and more,
gnashing at me with their teeth.

Psalm 110:
1 The Lord says to my lord,
'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.'

Daniel 7:
13 I saw one like a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven.

And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.

A core element of the "trial" of Jesus is the framing of it as a gross injustice. The arrest and trial of the Jesus in the story violates all of the rules that governed trails of the time, with the arrest coming in the night, during a religious festival, the trial being a brief one-day trail, and him being immediately sentenced to death all violated the rules of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish body of judges. In addition to the other imagery, this framed the trial as a gross injustice and presented the Jewish characters as engaging in inappropriate and corrupt misconduct, violating their own laws.

The Jesus character then makes additional references to the apocalyptic book of Daniel.

Peter Denies Jesus

Mark 14:
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, 'You also were with Jesus, the Nazarene.' 68 But he denied it, saying, 'I do not know or understand what you are talking about.' And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, 'This man is one of them.' 70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, 'Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.' 71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, 'I do not know this man you are talking about.' 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, 'Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.' And he broke down and wept.

The point of this passage is quite simple, which is to portray Peter as a failure or as someone who is not an appropriate apostle of Christ. Again, this likely had to do with an on-going conflict within the early Christian community over the apostleship of the faith. What we see in the Gospel of Mark is a reflection of the conflict that is discussed in the letters of Paul, and its likely that this would have been a well known conflict that would have been known in even grater detail among the early Christian community than the few details that we have from the Pauline letters, as shown below.

Galatians 2:
11 But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas [Peter] before them all, 'If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'

While the passage from Mark 14 above may not be based on this passage from Galatians, this Galatians passage is indicative of the tensions and conflicts between the various early movements and apostles.

Jesus before Pilate

Mark 15:
1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' He answered him, 'You say so.' 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, 'Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.' 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

We see references to Isaiah 53 here again, with Jesus being silent in the face of injustice against him.

Pilate Hands Jesus over to be Crucified

Mark 15:
6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, 'Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?' 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, 'Then what do you wish me to do with the the King of the Jews?' 13 They shouted back, 'Crucify him!' 14 Pilate asked them, 'Why, what evil has he done?' But they shouted all the more, 'Crucify him!' 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

This passage is quite interesting, because it is here that many threads of the story are drawn together. Here Pilate is portrayed as a just and caring ruler, while the Jews are portrayed as an unjust, bloodthirsty, mob. All of the elements of the story so far that have presented various failings of Jews are put into a direct comparison here between Jews and Gentiles, and the story clearly depicts the Gentiles as the good and just ones and the Jews as the unjust transgressors.

There are other elements of interest as well. Line 6 talks about a tradition of releasing a prisoner during the Passover festival, but such a practice is not recorded anywhere else and is highly unlikely, because even holding executions during the holy festival would have been against Jewish law, so they would not have had occasion to release prisoners prior to an execution during the Passover festival because they didn't hold executions during the Passover festival in the first place.

The point of the story-element, however, is not lost on the reader.  It is interesting to note that Barabbas literally means "son of the Father". As we have discussed, "Abba" means Father in Aramaic, and bar means "son of".  In fact, the original text of Mark may have called Barabbas "Jesus Barabbas", not simply Barabbas. Thus, the two men on trial were not Jesus and Barabbas, but two men, both known as "Jesus Barabbas". Such a reading is not preserved in any of the extant Gospel texts, but there are several 2nd and 3rd century third-party references to the use of "Jesus Barabbas" in this context, and this is, in part, where the tradition developed which claimed that Jesus wasn't crucified, but instead a different man was crucified in his place. This is something that was expounded upon in later stories and is a belief of Muslims today. It all stems from this story element, where the author of Mark has the freed man named "Barabbas" or "Jesus Barabbas", thus some readers later believed that "Barabbas" was actually "Jesus Christ" and this developed into a rationalization for how someone could seemingly come back to life. The rationale went that Barabbas was actually Jesus and that the man crucified was someone else, and that really the man who people saw after the crucifixion was Barabbas, who was really Jesus all along, etc. The silly thing about all of this is that the entire rationalization is built on a fictional story line in the first place. At any rate, that is the history behind this alternate belief.

The intent of the author, however, was to construct a parable and introduce irony.  It is also important to note that Barabbas was not a normal name and is not attested to in other sources. The name is only found here in the Gospels, and it is thus highly unlikely that this was a real name at all and it is all the more likely that this entire scene is fabricated with symbolic intent.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

Mark 15:
16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the praetorium); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Mocking people as false kings was apparently not an uncommon practice during this time. Several instances of the practice are recorded in a variety of sources. One source that is strikingly similar to the passage in the Gospel comes from the Jewish philosopher Philo, who was also a highly regarded thinker by the early Christians, whose ideas, in many ways, foreshadowed Christianity.

(36) There was a certain madman named Carabbas ... and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a scepter they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the way side and gave to him; (38) and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others making as though they wished to plead their causes before him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state. (39) Then from the multitude of those who were standing around there arose a wonderful shout of men calling out Maris!; and this is the name by which it is said that they call the kings among the Syrians; for they knew that Agrippa [King Herod of the Jews] was by birth a Syrian, and also that he was possessed of a great district of Syria of which he was the sovereign;
- Flaccus IV; Philo, 1st century CE

The similarities here may simply be a coincidence due to the fact that this was a common practice, or the author of the Gospel of Mark could actually have been basing his story on this account if he were familiar with Philo's works, which is not impossible.

There are other items of interest in this passage from Mark 15 as well though. Lines 19 and 20 may be allusions to Mica 5 and/or Isaiah 50, but what is perhaps even more interesting is that the author of Matthew may have gotten the idea for placing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem from Mica 5 via his perceived link between Mica 5 and Mark 15:19. It is very apparent that the author of Matthew looked for and found some of the relationships between the Gospel of Mark and the Hebrew scriptures when he was writing his version (by copying from some version of the Gospel of Mark). This is obvious because in several places, especially in the crucifixion scene, the author of Matthew directly calls out references to the scriptures that are only subtly made in the Gospel of Mark. Invariably, the author of Matthew highlights the same passages that the author of Mark was using, he just makes the references more plain or quotes the scriptures directly.

Mica 5:
1 Now you are walled around with a wall;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel
upon the cheek.

2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.

Isaiah 50:
4 The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
5 The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
6 I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

7 The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
8 he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
9 It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

The author of Matthew, or some other predecessor or predecessors, may have been led to Mica 5 by the passages about striking the ruler of Israel, and then seen that as a prophecy, thereby leading to the claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This is of interest because neither Bethlehem nor a birthplace of Jesus are mentioned at all in the Gospel of Mark or any other earlier texts.

Simon Carries the Cross

Mark 15:
21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).

Line 21 is peculiar because of the detail with which it identifies a person in the narrative. Given that Alexander and Rufus are both highly Gentile names, and Cyrene was a Gentile city, though Jews did also live there, the symbolism  the author was trying to evoke was likely that a Gentile carried the cross, not a Jew. This line may also tie back to Mark 8:31-38, where Jesus rebukes Peter (also known as Simon) and says that those who wish be his followers must take-up their cross and follow him. The irony here would be that a Gentile Simon unwittingly becomes the true follower of Jesus, not the Jewish apostle, something very much in keeping with the themes of the Gospel of Mark.

Given that Cyrene is also known as the location of one of the first Gentile churches, it could also be that Simon of Cyrene was a specific known person who was a church leader in Cyrene, perhaps whom the author of the Gospel of Mark knew of and was thus writing into the narrative, as a sort of cameo appearance.

Line 22 is also peculiar because no one knows where Golgotha really was, or if such a place even existed. The name Golgotha is unknown outside of the Gospels. Golgotha could have been an Aramaic colloquialism for places of execution, or it could have been a symbolic play on words by the author, or it could have had some symbolic significance which has been lost and is now unknown.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Mark 15:
23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, 'The King of the Jews.' 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by mocked him, shaking their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!' 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, 'He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.' Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole earth until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, 'Listen, he is calling for Elijah.' 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.' 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

There are number of compelling literary allusions in this scene. Firstly, line 23 ties back to Mark 14 and completes the allusion to Amos 2, as was discussed earlier. Interestingly, you notice that in the Gospel of Mark the author says that Jesus was given wine mixed with myrrh, which is an expensive spice that was seen as a luxury. The symbolism here is that they were making the wine extra enticing, which makes sense drawing on the allusion to Amos 2. The author of the Gospel of Matthew, however, apparently missed this symbolism because in the Gospel of Matthew the author changed it to wine mixed with gall, which is a poison, completely changing the meaning of the act and effectively losing the tie to Amos 2.

Amos 2:
12 But you gave the consecrated ones wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

The bulk of the crucifixion scene draws from Psalm 22. It is interesting that the references are made in reverse order. The first line in Psalm 22 is the last line of the allusion in Mark 15, etc. This was addressed in more detail earlier in the article. It appears that the author of the Gospel of John was aware of the relationship between Psalm 22 and the crucifixion scene. The author of the Gospel of John expanded the references to Psalm 22 by introducing the scene where Jesus' side is pierced and blood and water pour out of him, drawing a reference to line 14 of Palm 22.

Psalm 22:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

...

6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 'Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!'

...

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

The darkening of the earth at noon is certainly based on Amos 8, where the Lord is said to pledge destruction to the people of Israel. The sign that is mentioned for the day of the beginning of the destruction of the people of Israel, according to this passage, is the darkening of the earth at noon.

Amos 8:
1 This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2 He said, 'Amos, what do you see?' And I said, 'A basket of summer fruit.' Then the Lord said to me,
'The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.
3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings on that day,' says the Lord God;
'the dead bodies shall be many,
cast out in every place. Be silent!'

...

7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8 Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

9 On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.

This reference is very significant because it ties the whole symbolism of the story together. This reference, to the darkening of the world at noon, is what solidifies the symbolic tie between the killing of Jesus in the narrative and the destruction of Jerusalem. Within the story the execution of the Son of God by the Jews symbolizes the beginning of the end for them, which is of course concluded with the actual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, after which the author then wrote this story.

The story of the Gospel of Mark is about blaming the Jews for bringing the destruction of 70 CE upon themselves.

In this case the author of Matthew did correctly identify the scriptural reference to Amos 8, which led him to include a passage about an earthquake also occurring during the death of Jesus, of course referring to lines 7 and 8 of Amos 8.

Mark 15:
38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was God's Son!'

The tearing of the curtain of the temple from top to bottom would indicate that God is the one doing the tearing, and of course it symbolizes God severing his ties to the Jewish people. Following this a Roman solider is the first person in the whole story to truly recognize Jesus, and of course this is highly symbolic. The Romans triumphed over the Jews in the war and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. God was now on the side of the Romans according to the author.

Mark 15:
40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

The mention of the women here introduces them for their role later in the narrative. By this point all of the apostles have abandoned the scene, so other characters have to be pulled in at the end to finalize the story.

The Burial of Jesus

Mark 15:
42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then he bought a linen cloth, and taking it down, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where it was laid.

The discussion of Pilate being surprised that Jesus was already dead and checking on him seems to be simply a matter of tying up loose ends. It would of course have been well known that people didn't normally die so quickly from crucifixion, but the crucifixion narrative is more dramatic and fits the purpose of the story better, as well as the scriptural references, as a quick and immediate event. Thus, this scene with Pilate ties up the loose ends of the short execution scene.

Like Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea is another unknown figure around whom much speculation has swirled, but even the earliest accounts from the 2nd and 3rd century writers provide no real information on who this figure was. Like Simon, this could have been a purely fictional character or it could have been a real person cast in a pseudo-historical role, perhaps a person of repute in the early Christian community.

Regardless, the narrative returns to the scriptures for inspiration, back to the common scripture of Isaiah 53, the passage of the "Suffering Servant".

Isaiah 53:
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

A tomb carved out of rock, provided by a councilman, would have been easily recognized as a tomb of the rich to readers, but even this was too subtle for the author of the Gospel of Matthew, who changed the passage when he copied it to make it even more closely follow its scriptural basis. In Matthew's version the tomb is that of Joseph of Arimathea himself, who was clearly wealthy according to the narrative.

Mark 16:
1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?' 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.' 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The ending of the Gospel of Mark is abrupt and seemingly confusing, and for this reason several additional endings were later added on to it. The ending presented above is widely agreed upon by Biblical scholars, both Christian and secular, to be the most likely original ending, though even it may not be a truly original ending either.

The first bit of confusion is over the duration of Jesus' supposed burial. Earlier in the story the Jesus character clearly states, in Mark 8:31, that the "Son of Man" will be killed and after "three days" rise again, but in this ending Jesus dies on Friday afternoon, is buried on Friday evening, remains buried on Saturday, the sabbath, and is then gone, "raised", on Sunday. This really only provides a "burial" of one day, especially by Jewish standards of the time, which measured a day by sunrise and sunset. At best, according to the story, Jesus would have been buried for about 36 hours.

Either this was simply an oversight of the author, who himself basically considered this to have been a legitimate three days, or the author intentionally didn't fulfill the "prophesy" from 8:31, though this would seem odd given the other details of the ending, or the ending has been altered, thus it doesn't exactly make sense anymore, or there is some other symbolism that has been lost on later readers.

Regardless of the peculiarity of the timing, seemingly not fulfilling the three day claim, other elements of the ending make some sense. A white robe was common apocalyptic symbolism representing angels or otherwise divine messengers or beings.

Daniel 7:
9 As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.

The Book of Enoch:
1 Afterwards my spirit was concealed, ascending into the heavens. I beheld the sons of the holy angels treading on flaming fire, whose garments and robes were white, and whose countenances were transparent as crystal.

Of the greatest interest, however, are the last few lines of the Gospel of Mark, "terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

Unlike the endings of the other canonical Gospels, and the other endings that were later appended to this Gospel, this ending is not triumphant or inspiring. There is no ascension, there is no meeting with the disciples, there is no issuance of a decree to spread the gospel, there is only terror and fear and failure on behalf of the followers.

This ending, in fact, makes perfect sense for the original message of the story, which is about despair and failure and loss, the despair and failure and loss of the war between the Jews and the Romans. Once again, this story is about justifying the loss of the Jews to the Romans and the utter destruction of their civilization. This story is about rationalizing the loss of the Jews as a failure of their own making and of their own character.

One way to read the ending, and perhaps the way that was intended by the author, is that Christ triumphed over death but the Jews and the early apostles of the Christ movement utterly failed. God is now on the side of the Gentiles, not the Jews.

That is, I believe, the intended message of the author of this story, whom I believe was himself a man of Jewish ancestry that had integrated into "Gentile" Roman society, seeing the Judean Jews as corrupt, backwards, too conservative, out of touch with the expanding and integrating Roman world, and out of touch with Paul's message of unity between Jews and Gentiles.

Peter, James, and all of the rest of the apostles outside of the Pauline ministry were left behind. They lost out and missed the whole point of the religion according to the author of the Gospel of Mark.

Analysis of the Analysis

What one should notice from this analysis is that the majority of references that I have outlined are made to only a few books from the Hebrew scriptures and Pauline letters. Additionally, all of the references to Pauline letters fall within the letters that are thought to have been authentic, not letters that are believed to have been written later by a different author.

A listing of the provided references, and what the referenced text relates to, is as follows:

Book Subject of passage
Malachi Destruction of Israel
Isaiah Destruction of Israel
2 Kings Identification of Elijah
Isaiah Identification of servant of God
Jeremiah Destruction of Israel
Isaiah Identification of servant of God, admonishment of Jewish people
2 Kings Parallel of Elijah/Elisha miracles
Romans/2 Corinthians Pauline teaching
1 Samuel Incorrect reference to Davidic deed, follows Pauline teaching
Colossians Pauline teaching
Isaiah/Romans Admonishment of Jewish people
Psalm 107 Identification of the work of the Lord by his deeds
Isaiah Identification of servant of God, admonishment of Jewish people
2 Kings Parallel of Elijah/Elisha miracles
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
2 Kings Parallel of Elijah/Elisha miracles
2 Kings Parallel of Elijah/Elisha miracles
Isaiah Identification of the Lord and Savior
Galatians Pauline teaching
Isaiah Identification of the Holy One, admonishment of the Jewish people
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
Galatians Pauline teaching
Isaiah Identification of servant of God
Philippians Pauline teaching
Isaiah Destruction of Israel
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
Philippians Pauline teaching
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
Zechariah Identification of the king / messiah
Psalm 118 Identification of the blessed one
Hosea Destruction of Israel
Isaiah Destruction of Israel, pro-Gentile
Jeremiah Destruction of Israel, admonishment of Jewish people
Isaiah Destruction of Israel, admonishment of Jewish people
Romans Pauline teaching
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
Romans Pauline teaching
Hosea Admonishment of Jewish people
Isaiah Destruction of the world, signs of the end times
2 Corinthians Pauline teaching
Daniel Destruction of Israel, signs of the end times
Isaiah Destruction of the world, signs of the end times
Daniel Signs of the end times
1 Thessalonians Pauline teaching
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
1 Samuel Anointing of king
Amos Destruction of Israel, admonishment of Jewish people
1 Samuel Events leading up to crowing of king
Psalm 41 Destruction of friends who have betrayed
1 Corinthians Pauline teaching
Amos Destruction of Israel, admonishment of Jewish people
Zechariah Destruction of Israel
Romans Pauline teaching
Amos Destruction of Israel, admonishment of Jewish people
Isaiah Injustice against God's servant
Psalm 35, 110 Injustice
Daniel Signs of the end of times
Mica Mocking and striking the ruler of Israel
Isaiah Injustice against the servant of the Lord, the servant as a sacrifice
Psalm 22 Agony in the hands of tormentors, hope in the Lord
Amos Sign that will signal the day the Lord will begin to destroy Israel
Isaiah Identification of the servant of the Lord

Definite patterns emerge from the listed references. Firstly, almost all of the scriptural references come from either the book of Isaiah or from the books of the prophets, in addition to 2 Kings, 1 Samuel, and some Psalms. This supports the case that all of these are direct and intentional parallels, they aren't just coincidences that occur from random similarities throughout the Old Testament. Additionally, the subject matter of the passages in which the references are found also conforms neatly to a distinct pattern. The overwhelming majority of references are to passages about either the destruction of Israel (or Judah or Judea or the Jewish people) or are admonishments of the Jewish people. The only real exceptions to this are passages that serve to identify the Jesus character as a servant of God, or passages that are relevant to the formation of specific narrative elements, such as the Elijah/Elisha passages.

I've also highlighted a number of passages as being based on Pauline letters. This is a much more controversial issue. Christians and scholars both widely recognize that there is some relationship between the Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark, and the Hebrew scriptures, but the idea that the author of the Gospel of Mark got his ideas from, and based his story on, the writings of Paul is not generally acknowledged. The typical view is that the writings of Paul and the Gospels are completely separate and have no relationship with one another. Indeed the three other canonical Gospels are at odds with many elements of Pauline teaching, thus contributing to a common view that the teachings of Paul diverged from "the teachings of Jesus".

What I am attempting to show here is that there is a relationship between the Pauline letters and the Gospel of Mark, and that indeed the Pauline letters are one of the sources for the Markan narrative. If this is the case then it can be shown that basically the entirety of the Gospel of Mark was written based on sources that either existed long before the supposed time of Jesus and from a source which had no personal knowledge of Jesus and who did not convey any details of a life a Jesus.

The result being the acknowledgement that none of the story elements of the Gospel of Mark are based on reality, they are all based on other writings, which were themselves not based on any "life of Jesus".

Additionally, the subject matter of the scriptural references that are made within the Gospel of Mark make perfect sense in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The story itself would have been a timely and relevant story. I view the Gospel of Mark as being very similar to Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Huckleberry Finn was written in 1884, and in many ways is a reaction to the American Civil War. The Civil War was widely acknowledged as a devastating level of destruction brought down upon the American South, with what many saw as a continuing degree of harsh treatment being brought to bear on the Southerners for some years after the war as well.

Huckleberry Finn, written after the Civil War, is set in the American South prior to the Civil War. White Southerners are portrayed as overwhelmingly despicable no-good bumpkins in Huckleberry Finn, while Jim, the runaway slave, who is constantly denigrated by the people that they run into in their adventures and is even called a "nigger" by Huck himself, is shown as the one truly honorable and upstanding person in the whole story.

The resulting message from Huckleberry Finn is that the white Southerners had it coming and they brought the destruction of the Civil War upon themselves. The story justifies the treatment of the South in the Civil War by portraying the white Southerners as wretched no-good people that deserved any level of punishment that would be brought upon them.

The Gospel of Mark is essentially the same. It depicts the Judean Jews as people who brought the destruction of 70 CE upon themselves. It portrays them as people who would deserve the destruction that the readers of the story would have known was brought upon them. Likewise, the Gospel of Mark portrays the early "Christian" movement as a failure, and it was a failure in the writer's eyes precisely because it failed to stop the war and destruction. In the eyes of the writer, a Pauline follower, the problem with the early movement was its failure to embrace the Gentiles. That is the conflict that we see in the Pauline letters, the conflict between a primarily Jewish oriented movement among James, John, Peter, and the other apostles, and Paul's seemingly lone embrace of non-Jews.

The Gospel of Mark is a polemic against the Jews and the early Christian movement, denouncing both of them as failures, evidenced in the eyes of the author by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Development of the Other Gospels

Understanding the underlying subtext of the Gospel of Mark helps us understand the development of the other Gospels as well. I have already mentioned some instances where the author of later Gospels built upon the subtext of the Markan Gospel, but now we can take a closer look at some of these examples. What is also interesting, however, are cases in which the later writers didn't recognize the scriptural references in the Gospel of Mark and thus changed the story or left out parts that didn't seem to make sense, for example the scenes involving the cursing of the fig tree.

There are many examples of cases where later authors recognized a scriptural reference and then either explicitly quoted that reference in their own work, or they used additional adjacent passages to further develop their own narratives. There are many cases of this, but we will look at just a few examples. One example comes from the "Triumphal Entry" scene.

Mark 11:
6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,...

This scene makes references to Zachariah 9 and Psalm 118. When the author of the Gospel of Matthew wrote his version he explicitly quoted the passage from Zachariah 9.

Matthew 21:
3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, "The Lord needs them." And he will send them immediately.' 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 'Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Another example from Matthew comes from the crucifixion scene, where the author of Matthew adds the claim of an earthquake to the events that occurred during the death of Jesus.

Mark 15:
33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole earth until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, 'Listen, he is calling for Elijah.' 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.' 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was God's Son!'

The claim of darkness coming over the earth is a reference to Amos 8. When the author of Matthew wrote his death scene he added additional detail from Amos 8, which reads:

Amos 8:
7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8 Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again
, like the Nile of Egypt?

9 On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

We see the author of Matthew's addition below:

Matthew 27:
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, 'This man is calling for Elijah.' 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.' 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

We find similar cases in all of the Gospels. The crucifixion scene in the Gospel of John has several instances of note.

John 19:
So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.' 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, 'Do not write, "The King of the Jews", but, "This man said, I am King of the Jews." ' 22 Pilate answered, 'What I have written I have written.' 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.' This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
'They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.'
25 And that is what the soldiers did.

...

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), 'I am thirsty.' 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 'It is finished.' Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, 'None of his bones shall be broken.' 37 And again another passage of scripture says, 'They will look on the one whom they have pierced.'

There are several elements of this scene which indicate that the writer of this scene was familiar with the Markan narrative in some fashion, whether he had read some form of it directly, had a copy of some form of it himself, or had heard an oral version of it. The first indication of this is actually not a scriptural reference, but the claim in line 17 that Jesus had carried the cross himself. In the Markan narrative it is claimed that Simon of Cyrene carried the cross. The explicit statement that Jesus carried the cross himself is a clear statement of contradiction, which is made in opposition to the other narrative. There are several theological differences between the Gospels, cases where different claims are made for intentional theological purposes. This appears to be one of those cases. For some reason this author felt it important to have Jesus carry the cross himself, but such a plain statement is clearly reactionary, it is stated in such a way to explicitly contradict the other narrative, which of course means that the author was aware of, and dissatisfied with, the other narrative.

Moving on to the scriptural references we see some typical traits of the Gospel of John. The author of the Gospel of John takes the scriptural references that are made in the Markan narrative and then builds scenarios around them, instead of just plainly stating them like the author of the Gospel of Mark did. For example, the Gospel of Mark reads:

Mark 15:
23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

The author of John, instead of simply paraphrasing the scripture from Psalm 22 as the author of Mark did, describes a scenario where the guards divide up the clothing, and then he explicitly calls out the reference to the scripture saying,  "This was to fulfill what the scripture says, 'They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.' And that is what the soldiers did."

Obviously at this point we know that the author of the Gospel of John was aware of the relationship between Psalm 22 and the crucifixion narrative, and that provides us with an understanding of where additional elements of his narrative come from, providing the details for the "piercing" scene, which is unique to the Gospel of John. If we look at Psalm 22 we see that it is the inspiration for John's pouring out of water scenario from the body of Jesus. Nested between the other passages that the author of Mark referenced in his scene is a line that describes the tormented individual being "poured out like water".

Psalm 22:
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;

15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

The passage from the scripture that is later quoted in line 37 also comes from Zachariah 12, adjacent to other passages that are referenced in the Gospel of Mark.

Interestingly, the notes in the Harper Collins Study Bible say that it is not certain why a soldier would pierce the side of a crucifixion victim, and that the significance of the water and blood pouring out of Jesus is not clear. In fact the scene is actually perfectly clear. It is a fabricated scene that is constructed from scriptural references, none of this ever happened.

But fully explaining the development of the other Gospels is more difficult than simply pointing out how the other authors expanded upon the scriptural references made in the Gospel of Mark, though that is a part of the explanation. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both share a large quantity of text with the Gospel of Mark, but they also share text among themselves that is not found in the canonical Gospel of Mark. This is the source of the so-called Synoptic Problem and has given rise to the theory of an additional document known as "Q". "Q" is a theoretical document that is constructed by looking at the text that is shared between Matthew and Luke but is not shared with Mark. Anything that Matthew and Luke have in common, but is not a part of Mark, is considered a part of the theoretical Q document.

To date there simply is no satisfactory accepted answer for this phenomenon, but there are a wide range of claimed solutions, many of which involve the idea that the "Q" material is the direct and most authentic material, which was recorded by followers during the lifetime of Jesus or shortly thereafter. This idea of course appeals to Christians looking for validation and looking for something that can be considered close to what "He really said".

I favor another, and I think simpler, explanation. It seems quite likely that neither Matthew nor Luke copied their version directly from what we now call the Gospel of Mark, rather there was an additional expanded narrative based on Mark that is intermediary between what we call the Gospel of Mark and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Alternatively, what we call the Gospel of Mark could simply be a shortened version of the original, which was longer, and which is what the authors of Matthew and Luke copied from.

In any event, what we are dealing with is simply another version of the Gospel of Mark. That there would be another version is very likely, since we already have at least three known versions (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), and arguably the Gospel of John is just another, albeit more widely changed, version of the same story as well. In addition to that, there are several different endings to the Gospel of Mark which exist in a variety of early manuscripts, which many people count as different versions also. On top of that there is another possible version of Mark known as "Secret Mark", discovered in 1958, which is discussed in an ancient letter that is commonly attributed to Clement of Alexandria. In this letter additional passages that are not in the canonical Mark are discussed and the writer of the letter discusses the meaning and authenticity of these passages, though much of this discussion is lost. There is some debate over the authenticity of this letter, but since 2003 additional evidence has come fourth supporting the authenticity of the letter. This suggests yet another version of the Gospel Mark.

That no such complete version has been found is really no more of an issue than that no such version of a "Q" document has been found, and actually there is no evidence at all for an additional and separate Q source document, while there is abundant evidence for multiple versions of Mark.

As for the Gospel of John, the main text of this Gospel (not counting the last chapter which was obviously added at a later date by a completely different author) contains three basic elements: A Gnostic theological element, the Markan narrative, and an expanded "miraculous signs" narrative.

When looking at the Gospel of John it is easy to recognize these three main sources. The Markan narrative interestingly states that "no signs shall be given to this generation", yet in the Gospel of John there are a number of scenes that include the phrase "miraculous sign" as part of a narrative element where Jesus performs a miraculous sign.  We can see the passages in question below.

Mark 8:12
He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."

Matthew 12:39
He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."

Luke 11:29
As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."

John 2:11
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him

John 2:23
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.

John 3:2
He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

John 4:48
"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe."

John 4:54
This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

John 6:2
and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.

John 6:14
After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world."

John 6:26
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

John 6:30
So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?

John 7:31
Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"

John 9:16
Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.

John 11:48
"What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

John 12:18
Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.

John 12:37
Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

John 20:30
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

The contradiction between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John on the issue of "miraculous signs" is interesting, but more interesting is that the scenes that include mentions of miraculous signs are distinct from the synoptic sources. The raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John, for example, is a part of the "miraculous signs" narrative.

The Gospel of John, a narrative written much later than the other Gospels, integrates additional elements that are not present in the synoptic Gospels and presents a more mature and developed story and theology. The Gospel of John is also more strongly anti-Jewish than any of the other Gospels as well, indicating further division and evolution of the religion by that point. The use of the "miraculous signs" in the Gospel of John serves to further condemn the Jews, making a case that Jesus had done everything that they asked, and more, yet even with this they still didn't believe. The "miraculous signs" narratives can be seen as a further development of building a case against the Jews. Again, however, what we are involved with here is fictional story telling, not history.

So how exactly did all of these Gospels come to be then, and why were they written? We can only speculate, but I have put together what I think is a plausible scenario based on the evidence from the scriptures and non-canonical sources.

I think that an apocalyptic Christ cult or movement developed among some Jewish subgroup and that at some point someone named James became the head of this group in Jerusalem. This group was primarily a Jewish group at this point. James, John, and Peter were all prominent Jewish members of this group. The primary belief held by this group, and what set it apart, was the belief in a heavenly messiah, in contradiction to the more traditional belief in an earthly messiah, or king.

The more traditional belief, though still not universal among Jews, was that a person known as the messiah would come along and unite and strengthen the Jews and be their god's representative on earth, and that this king would usher in a time of universal peace and justice and perfection, either by leading the Jews to military victory over everyone else in the world or by simply being accepted as the ruler of everyone else in the world, or some variation of this. The important part is that this would be a human being and that perfection would be reached on earth.

In contrast to this the apocalyptic and messianic movement that is associated with Jesus believed that the earth and the entire material world was hopelessly corrupt and that the material world must be destroyed in order to make way for a new paradise. They believed in a heavenly messiah, who would come to destroy the world in order to re-create a new perfect spiritual world.

Somewhere along the line this cult began spreading out and being adopted by non-Jews as well. The extent to which this happened before Paul is impossible to know. At any rate, Paul came along at some point and began vigorously evangelizing to non-Jews and developing his own theology, much of which denounced or did away with traditional Jewish practices (this was also part of a larger movement among Jews who were integrating into non-Jewish cultures).

This created conflict within the movement between a Jewish oriented group led by James, and a "Gentile" oriented group led by Paul.

The core of the early followers, however, were followers of the Jewish oriented group led by James. Peter seems not to have been a leader of any group, but rather more of a public relations figure. Peter seems to have been a high level person who interacted with others, such as Paul, more than James because James was the head of the group. The result being that Paul had more contact and interaction with Peter, even though Peter was not as high-level of a figure as James.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, however, this group was decimated and the Pauline group had grown larger outside the boundaries of the narrowly defined and geographically constricted Jewish oriented group.

Someone who was a follower of the Pauline sect, probably a Jew living in Rome, but its impossible to say, then wrote what we now call "The Gospel of Mark" during or after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The story was itself a parable and an allegory about the folly of the Jamesean/Peterine branch of the group and about the Judean Jews who contributed to the conflict with Rome. The writer of the Gospel of Mark, whether a Jew or not (probably a Jew), held a universalistic view that integrated the "Gentiles", just as Paul did. The writer of this story cast Peter as the main apostle because Peter figures more prominently in Paul's letters.

The Markan story must have become popular and perhaps even believed as reality due to its relevance to the current events of the time, which was the destruction of Jerusalem.

The the author of Matthew wrote his own version of the story, based either on what we call the Gospel of Mark plus some additional source or sources, or on a different and longer version of the Gospel that we call Mark (which is more likely). The author of Matthew was from the Jamesean sect and put a more traditional Jewish spin on the story, adding in defenses of traditional Judaism and the Judean Jews. The author of Matthew focused on developing the Jesus character as a fulfiller of traditional Jewish prophecies, including the Davidic lineage, etc.

The writer of the Gospel of Luke then came along and created his version of the story by attempting to reconcile other historical sources with the Markan narrative, no doubt believing himself that the Markan narrative was a literally true story. The author of the Gospel of Luke may have relied on works such as the writings of Josephus, the Epistles of Paul, and other early Epistles, as well as other notes and writings that remain unknown to us, and also perhaps the same longer version of Mark that the author of Matthew may have used. What this author tried to do is fit all of these sources into a single cohesive historical narrative.

Then the writer of the Gospel of John came along and this writer decided to completely re-tell the story, though sticking to the well known central core, and turn the story into a true religious document. The writer of the Gospel of John was writing a document that was intended to be a foundational religious scripture, which plainly put theology at the forefront, supported by a narrative. The writer of the Gospel of John was from neither the Pauline school nor the Jamesean school, as this person probably came along long after this point and had no involvement in either of those movements. This writer was no doubt not a Jew, and he developed his Gospel in an overtly anti-Jewish fashion, going so far as to exclude James and John, the two primary leaders of the Jewish sect of the movement, completely from his version of the narrative. Ironically, by leaving James and John out of the narrative, the work was later attributed to the very John that the author intentionally left out.

Somewhere along the line the Gospel of Thomas was written. It is impossible to know where it fits in the timeline, but it appears to have originated from the pro-Jewish Jamesean sect (no doubt after James was dead). The Gospel of Thomas could be a Jamesean teaching document which includes extracts from other Gospels, putting a Jamesean spin on the material.

In addition to this, of course, other documents relating to the Jesus story were being written, and would continued to be written, by a variety of other authors, most of which are also unknown.

What this speculation describes is a scenario that conforms to the evidence, by which the first narrative account of a life of Jesus is a clear work of fiction that was based on recent events (the destruction of Jerusalem), the letters of Paul (who never discloses historical details about Jesus and makes no claims of having knowledge of any), and the Hebrew scriptures. The first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is not based on the life of anyone. All of the other canonical Gospels then build on the story of the Gospel of Mark, expanding upon its scriptural references, adding their own theological elements, and including other sources which also have no relationship to a life of the main character. The variety of Gospels that were produced is largely a product of sectarian conflict.

That the other writers all relied so heavily on a single fictional work indicates that there was no other biographical material to draw from.

Summary and Conclusion

The extent to which what we call the Gospel of Mark was based on existing writings significantly undermines the idea that this is a story based on reality. Many additional elements further undermine such as notion, from the supernatural phenomena to historically inconceivable scenes, such as the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus during a religious festival (which just happens to bolster the symbolism of the event).

In analyzing the Gospel of Mark we also find that the Gospel of Mark is the most in line with Pauline theology of all Gospels. In fact, it is the only Gospel that is really in line with Pauline theology. The Gospel of Matthew, while clearly copied from the Gospel of Mark, is also clearly intent on completely changing the theology of the story and attempting to bring the story more in line with traditional Judaism.

All three of the later Gospels are clearly attempts at producing an authoritative document of some kind, while the Gospel of Mark is not. The other Gospels all struggle to produce a foundational document out of a story that was not intended for such a purpose. Why then would these other writers work so hard at taking a story that is so pessimistic, hostile, and unfit to found a religion upon, and use it as the basis for their religious narratives? The only answer can be simply because there was so little else to go on. The Gospel of Mark must have become somewhat popular in its own time, and this is why it became so influential and why other writers built off of it and felt some need to be true to it, even while they clearly disagreed with its theology and sought to radically change aspects of it.

What is so peculiar is that this story must have been, at the same time, both popular and yet mysteriously unknown, because none of even the earliest apologists and church fathers gave any indication that either they or anyone else suspected that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were copied in any way from the Gospel of Mark, nor did any of them believe that the Gospel of Mark was the oldest of the Gospels. Within 100 years of its writing not only had the true author become completely unknown, but the understanding of the story had become lost and the knowledge that it had been written before the other Gospels had become lost. In addition, the dependency of the other Gospels upon it had become unknown as well.

It is probably very significant that the people who adopted these works as sacred texts were not from the cultures that produced them. The Greek and Roman "Gentiles" who became enamored with these works and with this religion were complete outsiders looking in on something that they really had no understanding of. The Jewish scriptures were foreign and exotic to them, and in them they saw all kinds of correlations and "predictions" and truths that were, in fact, merely a product of the writing style of the Jewish story tellers. The Jewish scriptures have a few themes which they repeat over and over and over again, and they had a relatively small set of important stories, which they made allusions to repeatedly in new stories. Often, new stories in the ancient Jewish tradition were re-castings of old stories and old scriptures in ways that fit the present situations. Because old stories were the basis of new stories, the new stories often "fulfilled" the prophecies of the old stories.

The Jewish scriptures were preoccupied with destruction and punishment from their god because the Jewish people were surrounded by superpower civilizations. The Jews were often conquered and were often the subjects of others. The result is that there are many tales and predictions of destruction in the Jewish scriptures because Jewish people were frequently being conquered and having their cities destroyed. Not only did this result in many scriptures dealing with destruction, but it also led to a sense among the Jewish people that they, or some elements among them, were causing their god to be angry at them.

What had been a self-critical tendency within Jewish religion and scripture was turned into a weapon in the hands of the Romans. Many Jewish scriptures, and the Gospels themselves, are critical of Jewish society and the Jewish priesthood in ways that were, to some extent, healthy and fostered vigilance against corruption. However, these same scriptures became the very testimony that was used against the Jews by their enemies, essentially condemning them with their own words.

What better way to condemn a people (an insurrectionist group that made up about 10% of the population of the Roman Empire) than to point at their own scriptures and point out that they themselves had predicted their own demise and brought it upon themselves (according to the Gospels) just as they themselves had predicted. The Jewish scriptures themselves became one of the ultimate justifications for the condemnation and suppression of the Jewish population.

What Christians have pointed to as "prophecy fulfillment" in the Gospels ever since they first began analyzing and writing about the Gospels is nothing of the sort. Instead, the parallels between the Gospels and the Hebrew scriptures are the core evidences which demonstrate that the Gospel stories are "fabricated".  It is important to note that there was nothing intentionally subversive in this fabrication, it was simply a style of writing. The author of the Gospel of Mark was no-doubt writing a fictional story with no intention that the story become a foundational religious document or be passed off as a historically true. The symbolism of the Gospel of Mark is lost upon anyone who takes the story is literal history, and thus the whole point of the story would be lost on anyone who didn't acknowledge it as an allegorical fiction, certainly not something that the author would intend.

The motives and intentions of the other Gospel writers is harder to discern, and some or all of those writers may have believed that Jesus was a real person, though at least the authors of Matthew and John had to have also known that they were embellishing portions of the story with their own additions, though they themselves, in a religious mindset, may have seen these additions as legitimate and "true". They may also have believed that the story they were copying from was literally true.

Regardless, what we find upon close inspection is that the Gospels are in no way historically believable, every single detail from them is best explained as fabricated fiction.

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