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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of Mark’


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The following excerpt is from James L. Resseguie‘s book, “Narrative Criticism of the New Testament”, p. 58-60.  The excerpt is part of the book’s explanation for  “Chiasm (Chiasmus)”.

The book can be found here at Google Books, and here at Amazon.

The examples are short, but I enjoyed them.  I particularly liked his treatment of Luke 22:42 and Ephesians 1:2; 6:23-24.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as well.  🙂

The word chiasm is derived from the Greek letter chi (written X), which symbolizes the crossover pattern of words, phrases, clauses, or ideas that are repeated in reverse order.  The simplest type of chiasm is A B B’ A’ – a structure that comes full circle by highlighting key concepts in reverse order.  A chiastic pattern in Mark 2:27, for instance, keeps the reader’s or hearer’s attention focused on the main concepts.

A  The sabbath was made

B  for humankind

B’  not humankind

A’  for the sabbath.

Chiasms may draw attention to a theological or ideological perspective.  Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is an example of literary artistry at its best.  The literary form reinforces the theological perspective.  In Luke 22:42, for example:

A  Father, if you are willing.

B  remove this cup from me;

B’  yet not my will

A’  but yours be done.

The first person singular (me, my) is placed within the second person singular (you, yours), which visually underscores that Jesus’ will is completely enclosed within the will of the Father.  This becomes a model prayer for all: our will needs to be conformed to God’s will, not the other way around.

Paul uses chiasms to wrap together an entire book with key theological concepts.  In the Letter to the Ephesians he brackets his correspondence with the words “grace” and “peace” (also in 2 Thess. 1:2 and 3:16, 18).

A    Grace to you

B  and peace

B’  Peace be to the whole community. …

A’  Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ

(Eph. 1:2; 6:23, 24)

Paul comes full circle, underscoring an important theological perspective: where there is grace, there is peace, and where there is peace, there is evidence of God’s grace.  Paul also uses interlocking chiasms to highlight the mystery of the Christian faith.  In 1 Tim. 3:16, for example, an interlocking pattern  explains “the mystery of our religion.”

[Jesus] was revealed in flesh,

vindicated in spirit,

seen by angels,

proclaimed among Gentiles,

believed in throughout the world,

taken up in glory.

Two sets of overlapping chiasms bring two separate worlds together – this world and the world above.  One set – flesh (A), spirit (B), angels (B’), Gentiles (A’) – is joined by a second set – angels (A) Gentiles (B), world (B’), glory (A’).  The interlocking pattern suggests that Jesus brings together in balanced harmony two worlds that were separated or at odds with each other.

Nice!

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This post looks briefly at the tendency of both Homer  (author of the Illiad and Odyssey) and Mark (the Gospel of Mark) to answer questions – or comments – chiastically …

First, Homer, from here (note the nice clear matches 🙂 ):

… both Illiad and Odyssey contain a series of questions which is answered in exactly reversed order: Antinous’ three questions to Noemon (Od. 4.642-56); Hecabe’s several questions to Hector (Il. 6. 254-85); and, in the most elaborate example of this device, Odysseus’ seven questions to his mother Anticleia in Hades (Od. 11. 170-203). Here is an example quoted in diagrammatic form from Steve Reece:

Od. 11. 170-203:

A.  What killed you?  (171)

B.  A long sickness?  (172)

C.  Or Artemis with her arrows?  (172-73)

D.  How is my father?  (174)

E.  How is my son?  (174)

F.  Are my possessions safe?  (175-76)

G.  Has my wife been faithful?  (177-79)

G’.  Your wife has been faithful.  (181-83)

F’.  Your possessions are safe.  (184)

E’.  Your son is thriving.  (184-87)

D’.  Your father is alive but in poor condition.  (187-96)

C’.  Artemis did not kill me with her arrows.  (198-99)

B’.  Nor did a sickness kill me.  (200-201)

A’.  But my longing for you killed me.  (202-3)

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Mark also liked to answer questions or comments chiastically.  Following are two examples:

Mark 3:22-30:

A    22  And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”

B    and “He casts out the demons  /  by the ruler of the demons.”

B’   23  And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan  /  cast out  /  Satan?  24  “And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  25  “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  26  “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!  27  “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. 

A’   28  “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;  29  but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”  —  30  because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

And, Mark 13:1-37:

1  And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said^ to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
2  And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
3  And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,

A    4  “Tell us, when will these things be,

B    and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

B’   [Me:  a list of signs:]    5  And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.  6  “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.  7  “And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.  8  “For nation will arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.  9  “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.  10  “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.  11  “And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.  12  “And brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.  13  “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.  14  “But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  15  “And let him who is on the housetop not go down, or enter in, to get anything out of his house;  16  and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak.  17  “But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days!  18  “But pray that it may not happen in the winter.  19  “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall.  20  “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days.  21  “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him;  22  for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.  23  “But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.  /// 24  “But in those days, after that tribulation, 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 that are in the heavens will be shaken.  26  “And then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory.  27  “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven.

A’   [Me:  The ‘when question’ is answered:]   28  “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  29  “Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.  30  “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  31  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.  32  “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  33  “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.  34  “It is like a man, away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.  35  “Therefore, be on the alert– for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrowing, or in the morning  —  36  lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  37  “And what I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!'”

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I thought it a bit interesting. 

In our modern western culture, we have a tendency to answer questions in the order they’re asked.

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If you’re interested, Mark 3:22-30 (the first Markan example above) is part of a larger chiasmus containing a number of smaller chiasmi:

 https://biblicalchiasmus.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/mark-320-35/

Mark 13:5-23 (part of the second Markan example above) is also a chiasmus:

 https://biblicalchiasmus.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/mark-134-23-the-little-apocalypse/

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 1    12:28-34:

 

A    28  And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing,

B    and recognizing that He had answered them well,  /  asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”   [Me:  A compliment]

C    29  Jesus answered,  /  “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;  30  AND 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.

D    32  And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher    [Me:  Positive acknowledgment]

C’     You have truly stated  /  that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM;  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 HIMSELF,  /  is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

B’    34  And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently,  /  He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  [Me:  A compliment]

A’    And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.

 

2   12:35-37:

 

A    35  And Jesus 

B    answering began to say, as He taught in the temple,

C    “How is it that the scribes say  /  that the Christ is the son of David  /  ?

D    36  “David himself said in the Holy Spirit,  /  ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,

E    “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT THINE ENEMIES BENEATH THY FEET.”

D’   37  “David himself  /  calls Him ‘Lord‘;

C’   and so in what sense  /  is He his son  /  ?

B’   And the great crowd enjoyed listening

A’    to Him.

 

3   12:38-40:

 

38  And in His teaching He was saying:

A    “Beware

B    of the scribes

   who like to walk around in long robes,

   and like respectful greetings in the market places,

   39  and chief seats in the synagogues,

E’   and places of honor at banquets,

D’   40  who devour widows’ houses,

C’   and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers;

B’   these

A’    will receive greater condemnation.”

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Comments:

Here’s 3 chiasmi in a row from Mark 12. 

All 3 involve scribe(s).  The first chiasmus presents a lone scribe rather positively.  The scribe compliments Jesus and Jesus compliments him.  The second chiasmus presents Jesus as highly exalted, “sitting at the right hand of God”, victorious over his enemies.  The third chiasmus condemns the scribes for their sin and desire for status. 

Personally, I think the pattern presents a choice.  The center chiasmus describes who Jesus is (exalted).  The outside 2 chiasmi represents 2 types of scribes.  One represents a positive encounter.  The other represents ‘the negative’.  …  A little like the 2 crucified on either side of Jesus.  One positive.  The other negaive.  …  The first scribe is “not far from the kingdom of God” while the latter scribes “will recieve … condemnation”.  Quite the contrast.  It shows both the positive and the negative regarding Jesus and his Markan arch-enemies, the scribes. 

Personally, I think the negative/positive equation also extends to us – the attuitive and attentive reader.  Who, or which are we?  How do we treat/view Jesus?  Are we on the positive or negative side of the ledger?  Are we the good scribe or the ‘evil’ scribes?  Are we on this side of Jesus or that side of Jesus?  What is our choice?  Who do we say Jesus is? 

???

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A few additional comments:

1)  I really like the contrast between the centers of the 2nd and 3rd chiasmi.  The center of 2nd chiasmus has Jesus in his rightful exalted position at the right hand of God, while the center of the 3rd chiasmus has the scribes wrongly seeking “chief seats” and “places of honor”.   Interesting contrast.  One is deserved (Jesus’ exalted position).  The other condemned (the scribes’s desire for ‘exalted’ position(s)).  …  In reality, I think there’s a little humor here.  In comparison to Jesus being seated at the right hand of God – in heaven, the scribes’s seeking positions in earthly synagogues and at earth-bound banquets seems, well, rather miniscule – relatively unimportant.  …  There really is no comparison.  One easily – EASILY (right hand of God in heaven vs. the best spot to sit at an earthly banquet) trumps the other. 

Wow.  Nice contrast.

2)  I like that the center of the center chiasmus describes Jesus the way it does:  (THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,)  “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT THINE ENEMIES BENEATH THY FEET.”‘  Overall, it’s the most powerful statement in all 3 chiasmi.  It’s worthy of the CENTRAL-central position.

3)  It’s also interesting to note how the centers of each chiasmus ‘match’ with their outsides.  

Nice chiasmi.  Interesting overall arrangement(s).

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A    35  And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him,

B    saying

C    to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”  36  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 

D    37  And they said to Him, “Grant

E    that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.”

F    38  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

G    39  And they said to Him, “We are able.”

F’   And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.

E’   40  “But to sit on My right or on My left,

D’    this is not Mine to give;

C’    but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

B’   41  And hearing this,

A’    the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

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The following chiasmus was developed by Joanna Dewey.  Her own full explanation is here.

The skinny is this:

“The five pericopae appear to be combined in a chiastic pattern according to content:  A, the healing of a paralytic, contains a healing of the resurrection type; B, the eating with tax-collectors and sinners, concerns eating; C, the question about fasting, fasting; B’, plucking grain on the Sabbath, eating again; and A’, the man with the withered hand, contains another miracles of the resurrection type.  The chiastic pattern is also to be seen in details of form and language.” 

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“1  And when He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.  2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.

A    [A healing story:  legs]    3  And they came^, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.  4  And being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.  5  And Jesus seeing their faith said^ to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”  6  But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,  7  “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”  8  And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said^ to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?  9  “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say,’ Arise, and take up your pallet and walk’?  10  “But in order 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, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”  12  And he rose and immediately took up the pallet and went out in the sight of all; so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

B    [Eating wrong:  with tax-gatherers and sinners]    13  And He went out again by the seashore; and all the multitude were coming to Him, and He was teaching them.  14  And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax office, and He said^ to him, “Follow Me!” And he rose and followed Him.  15  And it came about that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax-gatherers and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.  16  And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers, they began saying to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?”  17  And hearing this, Jesus said^ to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

   [On not eating at all:  fasting]    18  And John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came^ and said^ to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 

a    19  And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom do not fast, do they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 

b    20  “But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day

a’   21  “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.  22  “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” 

B’   [Eating wrong:  on the Sabbath]    23  And it came about that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain.  24  And the Pharisees were saying to Him, “See here, 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 was in need and became hungry, he and his companions:  26  how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he gave it also to those who were with him?”  27  And He was saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  28  “Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

A’   [A healing story: a hand]    3:1  And He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a withered hand.  2  And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him.  3  And He said^ to the man with the withered hand, “Rise and come forward!”  4  And He said^ to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.  5  And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said^ to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 

And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

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Comments:

A few comments.

1)  Mark probably started off this chiasmus with the 2 healing stories in A/A’ because they give Jesus ‘authority’ right at the start (authority via displays of supernatural power).  Mark enjoys starting off with material that ‘gives’ Jesus authority.  It’s a trade-mark of his. 

2)  Mark likes 5-part chiasmi.  4 out of the first 5 sub-sections in Mark are 5-part chiasmi.

3)  Mark likes placing future-related teachings in the center of his structures.  Hence, Jesus’ statement in C:  “But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” 

(In case you’re interested, the above statement is written chiastically:    a    But the days will come    b    when the bridegroom is taken away from them,    b’    and then they will fast    a’    in that day.  By doing so, ‘being taken away’ and ‘fasting’ recieve a stronger structural connection.  It receives a greater emphasis.

4)  The center and end of the chiasmus share a similar ominous note.  In C, you have “But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day”, and in A’, you have “And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him”.  Matching the center with the end is a common chiastic strategy.

5)  The controversies pit Jesus against his opponents.  The implication here – both explicityly, and in terms of Mark’s story structure –  is that these controversies contributed to Jesus’ eventual demise. 

6)  This is the first of 2 controversy sections in Mark.  The second controversy section (Mark 11:27-12:37) also has 5 parts, or controversies.  It also may be chiastic, though, if it is, it is a weaker chiasmus.

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1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

A    2  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,    a    “BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER  [agellos]  BEFORE YOUR FACE,    b    WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;

B

a’    3  THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,    b’    ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'”
a”   4  John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness    b”    preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

C    (1)    5  And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River,    (2)    confessing their sins.

D    [Me:  John and his teaching:]    6  And John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.  7  And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.     [Me: Last line in center = important:]    8  “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

C’   (1′)    9  And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.    (~2′)    10  And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;  11  and a voice came out of the heavens: “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.”

B’  12  And immediately the  a  a  Spirit impelled^ Him to go out into the  b  wilderness.  13  And He was in the  b’  wilderness forty days being tempted by  a’  b  Satan; and He was with the  b’  wild beasts,

A’   and the  a’  angels  [agellos]  were ministering to Him.

 

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This is Mark in chiastic overdrive:

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A    20  And He came home, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.

B    21  And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”

   22  And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying,

       a    “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”

       b    and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

       b’   23  And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables,

              a    “How can Satan cast out Satan?

              b    i    24  “And if a kingdom is divided against itself,

                     ii    that kingdom cannot stand.

              b’   i’    25  “And if a house is divided against itself,

                     ii’    that house will not be able to stand.

              a’   26  “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finish!

[ further explanation … ]   i    27  “But no one can enter the strong man’s house  ii  and plunder his property   i’  unless he first binds the strong man,   ii’  and then he will plunder his house.

       a’   28  “Truly I say to you,

              a    all sins

              b    shall be forgiven the sons of men,

              c    and whatever blasphemies they utter; 

              c’   29  but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit

              b’   never has forgiveness,

              a’   but is guilty of an eternal sin”

[further explanation … ]  —  30  because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

B’   31  And His mother and His brothers arrived^, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him.

A’   32  And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”  33  And  answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  34  And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said,

       a    “Behold, My mother

       b    and My brothers

       c    35  “For whoever does the will of God,

       b’   he is My brother and sister

       a’   and mother.”

Comments:

The largest chiastic structure is in red.  It works as follows:

A:  Jesus with the multitudes.

B:  Jesus’ family questions Jesus’ sanity

C:  Jesus and the scribes.

B’:  Jesus’ family comes to get Jesus.

A’:  Jesus with the multitudes.

This, I would say, is a fairly well known chiastic structure.  The B, C, B’ center of the chiasmus is all about what’s percieved to be wrong with Jesus.  His family thinks he’s lost his senses, while in C, the scribes accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. 

A’ ends with a chiasmus (3:34b-35).  It’s a fairly obvious one:  a, b, c, b’, a’.  (It’s nice when a chiasmus ends with a chiasmus.  It’s artful.  Aesthetically pleasing.)  The main point at the center of this little chiasmus is the ‘doing of God’s will”.  Those doing God’s will are Jesus’ new family. 

The really interesting section here is the center C section where Jesus and the scribes interact.  This interaction is arranged chiastically.  The scribes accuse Jesus of 2 things (a, b) and Jesus answers those accusations in reverse order (b’, a’), creating a chiasmus.  Going even further, Jesus’ 2 answers (b’, a’) are also arranged chiastically (a, b, b’, a’  and a, b, c, c’, b’, a’).  In other words, we have chiasmi, within a chiasmus, within a chiasmus.  It’s Mark/Jesus in chiastic overdrive.

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One interesting thing about Jesus’ answer to the scribes second question is His use of illustrations involving ‘kingdom’ and ‘house’ (b, b’).  It’s fitting since the overall chiasmus involves Jesus’ family (house) and the scribes (leaders within the kingdom of Israel) thinking that there’s something wrong with Jesus.  Jesus’ answer seems aimed not only at the issue of whether or not Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Satan, but also at his own family and the scribes who seem to be opposing Jesus and His ministry.  A divided house and kingdom cannot stand. 

Those who do the will of God are Jesus’ true family! 

In this chiasmus, society is being turned upside down.  Family and religious leadership takes some knocks.  Those doing the will of God (presumably Jesus’ followers) are raised up.  There’s a re-evaluation going on here.

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