Feb 17, 2010

Markan puzzles

I have a few more homework questions about the Gospel of Mark. I can't go into as much detail since I need to answer them all by tomorrow, so here's a more straight-forward homework-style question-answer format.

How could Jesus have been asleep during the treacherous storm in Mk 4:35-41? What is going on here?

My textbook doesn't mention anything about Jesus sleeping. Instead he points out that the storm, like the demons are "bound" by the authority of Jesus. In the context of the other parables, this story shows that faith in Jesus is the understanding that Jesus is demanding from his followers in the previous parables.
In other research, I came across the answer I think is most accurate. Looking at Psalms, Jesus is aspiring to the ideal of 'sleep' as found in Psalm 4:9 - faith in the LORD alone makes Him secure. While looking at the Psalms I also discovered the disciples' reaction is nearly a perfect reproduction of Psalm 44.
How could they "cross the lake" to the Gerasenes in 5:1 if they already went "over to the other side" (4:35) from Galilee (3:7)?

I didn't know that this is apparently a scholarly academic controversy. Religious critics apparently discount Mark authorship of the Gospel on the grounds of geographical errors. I like the common sense response of this blogger, as well as the traditional responses to which he refers. My NAB renders 35 as "On that day as evening drew on, he said to them, "Let us cross to the other side." and renders 5:1 as "They came to the other side of the sea." I don't really see any conflict at all. And additional note in my NAB references Mt. 8:28 in which "Gadarenes" is used from the Codex Vaticanus (Catholic Bible y'know! ;) In any case, my answer would be that Mark mentioned only the "region" and could have made a small geographical generalization.
Why, when Jesus was saying, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" was the spirit still there entreating, "don't torture me"?

What does it mean in 6:52, "they had not understood about the loaves"?

My NAB footnote says "The revelatory character of this sign and that of walking on the sea completely escaped the disciples." The loaves (here and in other Gospels) in the Jewish mind allude to the sign of God's provision of bread (manna) in Ex 16. And Mark 6:50 literally says "I am." which is the revelatory formula in the OT for God. Mark is showing that the disciples are missing these revelatory signs of Jesus's messiahship. This is a theme all thru Mark - the disciples (with whom the reader strongly identifies) continuously fail to properly see the nature of Jesus's messiahship.

Feb 9, 2010

Messianic Secret

This is the first homework post for my New Testament class. The instructor is giving us specific study questions on the Gospel of Mark to answer in the form of blog posts. My normal theological research process when I learn something new is to Wikipedia and Google the crap out of it to get all kinds of opinions on it. I can't easily do that with most of these homework questions, but here is one I can:

  • Why does Jesus in the Gospel of Mark regularly entreat people that he heals "not to tell," except in one instance (1:44; 3:12; 7:36; 8:26; 9:9). The exception is 5:19. What is going on with this so-called "Messianic Secret"?

With a term like that I can make my usual start - the Wikipedia article on Messianic Secret (sadly there's no Catholic Encyclopedia article). Oh ... before that, I should check out the verses themselves. I'm still getting used to Scripture studying.

The only thing I noticed was that Jesus himself gives a reason for his secrecy in Mark 9 - "As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead." This goes along with some scholars' historical and theological explanations that Jesus didn't want the Jewish people to perceive his messiahship as military or political in nature; that his role as messiah could only be rightly understood in the meaning of his death.

There are other more literary explanations. Perhaps The Messianic Secret was not in the original Aramaic text of Mark at all, or maybe Mark used the Messianic Secret as a literary device to associate Jesus to Odysseus - a hero appeal to his gentile audience. I'm not convinced either of those are likely causes.

I'm glad to have done the research, but I'm far from having a concrete answer. And I have 4 more questions to answer in the next week and a half, so I better close this one off here. What do you all think about this whole "Messianic Secret"?

Feb 3, 2010


I know I haven't been blogging much. I never wanted to blog here about my daily "secular" activities - that's what I do on facebook and twitter. I try to blog only about personal experiences that deepen my faith, teach me more about Christianity, and/or spiritually boost me. And with those, I usually spend a few hours - researching related theological topics, crafting my thoughts, and relating it all with my experience.

Sadly, I haven't really had the desire and willpower to do the research and contemplation - I'm afraid if I do I might end up back in a dark place again or something. So, I've been filling my time with both work and play. While I've been doing that, the world around me has actually been going along with experiences full of spiritual merit - good and bad alike! Each of these deserves its own blog post really but since I'm too scared to go too deeply into any of them I'll just give the survey here:

  • My brother Mark went to Haiti as part of a medical relief team. I am as proud of him as any brother could ever be, and I seriously tear up every time I write those words. Mark is a champion of the corporeal works of mercy and I've always been a little jealous of how great he is in that. But I take some peace in the possibility that I may be called to spiritual works of mercy; or at least I might have an aptitude in them the way Mark has in the corporeal.

  • Another brother, John, told me he completed his reception into the Catholic Church! He didn't go thru RCIA because he has attended Mass at a local parish with his wife (my RCIA sponsor) for nearly 20 years already. So, he did a short personal catechism with the priest there. His journey unfortunately began when he lost his job - did some serious soul-searching. He has since found a new job, but I can tell his transformation is continuing and it's inspiring.

  • One of my best friends had surgery to remove thyroid cancer. I tear up again when I write that he is one of the strongest and most joyous people I've ever known. I heard the news of his cancer while I was taking anti-depressants and I think that may have been the only thing that kept me from losing myself in sorrow over the situation. We are actually going to New Orleans to hang out and help during his recovery. Will even watch the Saints in the super-bowl at a party there - should give some much-needed and much-deserved joy.

  • iMonk was also diagnosed with, and treated for, cancer. I haven't kept up with blogs as much recently (obviously) so I don't know too much. I think it is a brain cancer and he is doing chemo now. The way he is able to fight and at the same time surrender himself to the will of God is amazing and encouraging to me.

  • One of my instructors at PSI, Joey, started his own blog! I'm still behind on reading my Catholic blogs, but I added him to the list and will probably be linking to his stuff in the future. And this semester my New Testament instructor has asked all (i.e., both) students to start blogs so we can use them during our course-work. I think he's going to start one too so things could get interesting.

For some actual theological meat, I'll include this quote by Thomas Merton that inspires me in taking comfort from good and honest labor.
The requirements of a work to be done can be understood as the will of God. If I am supposed to hoe a garden or make a table, then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task I am performing. To do the work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and with due attention to its purpose, is to unite myself to God's will in my work. In this way I become His instrument. He works through me. When I act as His instrument my labor cannot become an obstacle to contemplation, even thought it may temporarily so occupy my mind that I cannot engage in it while I am actually doing my job. Yet my work itself will purify and pacify my mind and dispose me for contemplation.

I hope and pray that my recent indulgence in my work is purifying and pacifying my mind. If I were in a more ambitious blogging mood, I might try to express a similar meaningful justification for playing Xbox so much; but that's probably way beyond my ability.