Sie sind auf Seite 1von 50

Lesson

#3
The Prologue
(1: 1-15)

In Lesson #2 we examined the historical and cultural


context from which the Gospel according to Mark
emerged, learning that it was an extraordinarily
tumultuous and dangerous :me.
The Roman Emperor Nero had launched the rst state-
sponsored persecu:on against the Church in Rome (A.D. 64-68);
Nero commiLed suicide in A.D. 68, followed by a quick
succession of four emperors, three of whom were murdered or
commiLed suicide; and
the Great Jewish Revolt blazed across Pales:ne (A.D. 66-73),
resul:ng in the destruc:on of the Temple in Jerusalem and
much of the city, along with the death of 1.2 million Jews.

We learned that Mark addressed his gospel to the Chris:ans in


Rome during this :me of great persecu:on, and that his gospel
is a drama:c call to ac:on.
We learned that Mark designed his gospel as a 2-part structure
that pivots on Peters confession of faith, and that a Prologue
and Epilogue frames the 2-part structure.
We also learned that Mark employed a unique prose style that
creates an intense sense of urgency, speeding the narra:ve
forward at a blistering pace and bringing it to an abrupt halt in
its nal verse.

In Lesson #3 we will closely examine Marks


Prologue, 1: 1-15.
In these rst 15 verses Mark sets the narra:ve pace,
creates spring-:ght tension and begins building an
urgency that reaches fever-pitch by the gospels end.
This is dazzling technique, bathing Jesus and the gospel
message in a white-hot light, incandescentand
dangerous.

Few things are more


important to a story than
how it begins!

In the rst few pages of a


story the author sets the
stage for what will follow:
he introduces the major
characters;
he lays the groundwork for their
rela:onships with one another;
he plants seeds of conict; and
he creates a mood that will
shadow the rest of the story.

In the rst few pages the


author also establishes his
own rela:onship with those
who par:cipate in the story:
the author
(the person who actually writes the story);
the narrator
(the person who tells the story);
the characters
(the people who are in the story); and
the reader
(the people who read the story).

In the rst 15 verses of Mark


the narrator:
roots his story in history and
prophecy;
iden:es John the Bap:st as the
forerunner of the Messiah; and
he establishes Jesus Christ as the
Son of God.

This is cri:cal informa:on to the


story, and the narrator provides
it to us (his readers), but he
withholds it from the main
characters: as the story opens
we become privy to informa:on
that the main characters will
have to discover.
Providing us with such cri:cal
informa:on while withholding
it from the main characters
creates a tension that builds
throughout the Gospel
according to Mark.

I realize that all of this is literary


stuthe mechanics of how a
story is told. But if were to
become educated readers of
Scripture it is important to
understand what Mark had in
mind when he wrote his gospel,
how he constructed it and why
he constructed it as he did.
Only then can we truly
understand Marks gospel, and
only then can we begin to probe
its spiritual meaning and its
applica:on in our own lives.

Studying Scripture is much like studying


musicor any other art. Anyone can
appreciate the Gospel according to
Mark, just as anyone can appreciate
Mozarts famous String Quartet #19 in C
Major, K. 465.
But knowing that Mozarts string quartet
is nicknamed Dissonance; that it was
composed in 1785; that it was
stylis:cally modeled aker Joseph
Haydns Opus 33 series; and that it is the
last in a set of 6 string quartets
dedicated to Haydn, Mozarts friend and
colleague, deepens our understanding of
what we hear.

Further, once we know that Mozarts


string quartet was composed in four
movementsas are most of his later
quartetswe understand how it is built:
its architecture.
Then, knowing that the 1st movement
opens with ominous quiet Cs in the
cello, joined successively by the viola
(on Amoving to G), 2nd violin (on E)
and 1st violin (on A), thus crea:ng the
dissonance, which nally resolves into
a bright C major of the 1st movements
Allegro sec:on, deepens our
understandingas well as our
apprecia:onof what we hear.
And so it is with the Gospel according to
Mark.

So, turn with me to


Mark 1: 1-15, and lets have
a look at this extraordinary
gospel!

Kurt Aland, et al., editors. The Greek New Testament, 4th


edi:on. London: United Bible Socie:es, 2001.

I have translated the


Greek text as closely
as possible to
highlight Marks prose
style and rhetorical
devices, capturing as
best I can the eect
that Marks gospel
produces on his
readers.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God, as it has been wriLen in
Isaiah the prophet:

Look! I send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way;
a voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord; make
straight paths for him.

John, the one bap:zing in the desert, appeared proclaiming a bap:sm of


repentance toward the forgiveness of sins, and the en:re Judean countryside
and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they were being
bap:zed by him in the Jordan river confessing their sins and John was clothed
with camels hair and had a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and
wild honey and he spoke out saying: Aker me comes one who is migh:er than
I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy of stooping down to loosen; I
have bap:zed you in water, but he will bap:ze you in the Holy Spirit.

The Prologue, cont.


And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in
Galilee and was bap:zed in the Jordan by John, and immediately
coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn apart and
the Spirit like a dove descending into him, and there was a voice out of
the heavens: You are my Son, the Beloved; in you I am well-pleased.
And immediately the Spirit drives him out into the desert, and he was in
the desert forty days being tempted by Satan, and he was with the wild
beasts, and the angels were ministering to him. Aker John had been
arrested Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God and
saying: The appointed :me has been fullled, and the kingdom of God
is fast approaching; repent and believe in the gospel.

Beginning of the gospel of Jesus


Christ, Son of God . . .
The Greek text is:
=Arch; tou eujaggelivou =Ihsou Cristou
uiou qeou . . .
The rst word Arche = Beginning (as
in archeology, the study of beginnings),
and it lacks the denite ar:cle one would
expect: The beginning . . .
This is very deliberate, although most
transla:ons wrongly supply The: in
Greek grammar this lack of an expected
denite ar:cle is called an anarthrous
construc:on, and it emphasizes the
quality or character of the noun that
follows.

When Mark omits the


expected The, and
begins his gospel
gramma:cally with an
anarthrous construc:on,
it is a proclamaSon, a
sudden trumpet blast on
a quiet akernoon:
Beginning of the gospel
of Jesus Christ, Son of
God!

As readers we know precisely


who Jesus is at the outset of our
story, for we are told in the
gospels opening seven words
that he is the Son of God, and
by telling us in the form of a
proclama:on, there is no room
for doubt.
Consider the eect on Marks
persecuted audience in Rome in
the 2nd half of the 1st century . . .

Nero may be the Emperor of the Roman Empire,


but Christ is the Son of God.
Romes Chris:ans may seem puny and helpless
in the face of the greatest empire on the face of
the earth, but Rome is aLacking heaven itself,
and Nero is aLacking God.
In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus Christ,
Son of God, enters history drama:cally as King of
kings and Lord of lords, and Nero is no match for
him!

For Marks audience


the persecuted
Chris:ans in the Church
at Romethis is good
news, indeed.

As a herald, Mark proclaims Gods


entrance into history, and he calls it the
gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.
Gospel is the key word in Marks
Prologue: it is his theme, the very
substance and message of his narra:ve.
In Mark, the word gospel embodies the
enSre Chris:an messagethe person,
works and words of Jesus Christ.
So important is the gospel in Mark that
it frames his en:re Prologue, and it
provides the launching pad for the story
proper: Beginning of the gospel of Jesus
Christ, Son of God . . . repent and believe
in the gospel (1: 1, 15).

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God, as it has
been wriLen in Isaiah the prophet:
Look! I send my messenger before your face who will
prepare your way; a voice of one calling: In the desert
prepare the way of the Lord; make straight paths for
him.
Not only has Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered dramaScally onto the
stage of history, but Isaiah the prophet had foretold the event 700 years
earlier, validaSng Marks claim!

It is this gospel, which is rooted


back in the Old Testament and
that bursts forth in the New, that
so frightens the characters who
people Marks story.
The intrusion of the gospel into
daily life shocks and disorients
those it touches: they draw back,
frozen with fear, bewildered. Like
a vector shot from eternity into
history, the gospel intersects
reality at precisely Marks
moment in :me.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
John, the one bap:zing in the desert, appeared
proclaiming a bap:sm of repentance toward the
forgiveness of sins, and the en:re Judean countryside and
all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they
were being bap:zed by him in the Jordan river confessing
their sins and John was clothed with camels hair and had a
leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild
honey and he spoke out saying: Aker me comes one who
is migh:er than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not
worthy of stooping down to loosen; I have bap:zed you in
water, but he will bap:ze you in the Holy Spirit.

Juan de Juanes. St. John the BapSst (oil on


canvas), c. 1560. Joan J. Gavara CollecSon,
Valencia, Spain.

A desert landscape sets the


opening scene. The rst half of
the prologue moves the storys
ac:on from the desert to the
fringes of civiliza:on. We hear a
voice of one calling: In the
desert prepare the way of the
Lord . . ., and John appears from
deep within the desert, clad as
the prophet Elijah, and bap:zing
the whole Judean countryside
and all the people of Jerusalem
in the Jordan River.

The second half of the Prologue then


moves the story back from the edge of
civiliza:on to the desert: Jesus is bap:zed
in the Jordan River and he is immediately
driven deep into the desert with the wild
beasts, where he confronts Satanand
defeats him.
As Israel passes through the Red Sea in
Exodus and faces conict in the desert for
forty years before entering the Promised
Land, so does Jesus reverse the movement
in Mark, leaving the Promised Land and
passing through the Jordan River to face
conict in the desert for forty days.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
John, the one bapSzing in the desert, appeared proclaiming a bapSsm
of repentance toward the forgiveness of sins, and the enSre Judean
countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him . . .
As we begin verse 4, John the Bap:st enters the story as abruptly as our
narrator begins it. In the original Greek, the verse starts with a strong
verb, appeared. In Mark we know nothing of Johns history: he
simply walks out of the Old Testament and appears on the pages of the
New, proclaiming a bap:sm of repentance toward the forgiveness of
sins. Placing a strong verb at the head of the sentence intensies the
ac:on and the suddenness of Johns appearance. A literal transla:on
would render the verse: Appeared John, the one bap:zing in the
desert . . ..

Johns mission is dis:nct and well-dened:


he prepares the way of the Lord making
straight paths for him, and he does so by
proclaiming a bapSsm of repentance
toward the forgiveness of sins.
The phrase is rich in meaning. Bap:sm is
an act signifying repentance, or metanoia,
a deliberate turning away from sin and
toward God. It is not a casual move but a
deliberate one, accompanied by a cleansing
with water. First one repents; then one is
bap:zed. Together, bap:sm and repentance
point toward the forgiveness of sins.
In Mark, repentance and bap:sm precede
the forgiveness of sins and point toward
it; they do not accompany it or cause it.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
John, the one bap:zing in the desert, appeared proclaiming a bap:sm
of repentance toward the forgiveness of sins, and the en:re Judean
countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and
they were being bap:zed by him in the Jordan river confessing their
sins . . .
Johns message at the Jordan is so compelling that the enSre Judean
countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him.
Again, the verb sits at the head of the verse in the Greek, stressing
acSon: a literal transla:on reads, and were going out to him the en:re
Judean countryside . . .. The imperfect tense (were going out)
stresses the con:nuous stream of people owing out to hear John.
The enSre Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem is
striking in its sheer boldness. Johns preaching does not draw a curious
few, but thousands ock to him.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
John, the one bap:zing in the desert, appeared proclaiming a bap:sm
of repentance toward the forgiveness of sins, and the en:re Judean
countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and
they were being bap:zed by him in the Jordan river confessing their sins
and John was clothed with camels hair and had a leather belt around
his waist and ate locusts and wild honey . . .
Dressed in camels hair with a leather belt around his waist and ea:ng
locusts and wild honey, John presents a striking prophe:c gure, vividly
recalling Elijah in 2 Kings 1: 5-8:
The king [Ahaziah] asked them [the messengers], What kind of
man was it who came to meet you and told you this? 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.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
and John was clothed with camels hair and had a leather belt around
his waist and ate locusts and wild honey and he spoke out saying:
Aker me comes one who is migh:er than I, the thong of whose sandals
I am not worthy of stooping down to loosen; I have bap:zed you in
water, but he will bap:ze you in the Holy Spirit.
When John says, Ader me comes one who is mighSer than I . . .. I have
bapSzed you in water, but he will bapSze you in the Holy Spirit, he
supports the sequence of his bap:sm of repentance preceding Jesus
forgiveness of sins. Johns bap:sm in water precedes Jesus bap:sm in
the Holy Spirit; it prepares the way, and it ushers on stage Jesus Christ,
the Son of God.

Verse nine then moves us into the


second half of the prologue. John and
Jesus move from opposite direc:ons
and meet in the Jordan River.
In the waters of bap:sm the
messenger meets the Lord. The scene
is striking:

. . . and immediately coming up out of


the water he saw the heavens being
torn apart and the Spirit like a dove
descending into him and there was a
voice out of the heavens: You are my
Son, the Beloved; in you I am well-
pleased.

Piero della Francesca. The BapSsm of Christ


(egg on poplar), c. 1450. Na:onal Gallery,
London.

Picture a horizontal plane: all


human history leads into this
moment, to the coming of the
Messiah; all future history ows
out of this moment, a :me of
redemp:on for all people on
earth. On the ver:cal plane, Jesus
comes up out of the water, and
the Spirit goes down out of the
heavens. As the horizontal and
ver:cal intersect, God announces,
You are my Son, the Beloved; in
you I am well-pleased.

This is a dazzling
moment!

C.S. Mann remarks that when God


declares: You are my Son, the
Beloved; in you I am well-pleased
its importance can hardly be
exaggerated.
As readers we have now been told
of Jesus iden:ty twice in eleven
verses: once by the narrator and
once by God.

Jesus, having been acknowledged


and his authority proclaimed, the
Spirit then drives Jesus into the
desert where he engages Satan, is
with the wild beasts, and the angels
minister to him.
The Greek word translated drives
is ejkbavllei (ekballei), a
compound of the preposi:on ek
(out of) and the verb ballo (to
throw). It is a very aggressive
word, unlike MaLhew and Lukes
more passive was led.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
You are my Son, the Beloved; in you I am well-pleased. And
immediately the Spirit drives him out into the desert, and he was in the
desert forty days being tempted by Satan, and he was with the wild
beasts, and the angels were ministering to him.
No:ce that in verse thirteen we have a sequence of three events, just as
we have in the bap:sm, anoin:ng and proclama:on of verses nine
through eleven. The symmetry of the two events, linked together as
they are with and immediately in verse twelve, suggests an in:mate
connec:on between the two.

Indeed, we may visualize the events as a :ghtly


kniLed chias:c unit:
A

John bap:zes Jesus in the Jordan (v. 9)


B The Spirit descends into him (v. 10)

C God proclaims Jesus as Son (v. 11)



D And immediately the Spirit




drives him into the desert (v. 12)

C Satan tempts Jesus (v. 13a)
B The wild beasts are with him (v. 13b)
A Angels minister to Jesus in the desert (v. 13c)

The three events of verses nine through eleven are


mirrored by their opposites in verse thirteen. The
whole structure turns on verse twelve, moving
Jesus from commission to acSon.

The tempta:on scene in


Mark is lean, lacking the
details given in MaLhew and
Luke. Nevertheless, it
presents a powerful picture.
In a very real sense, Mark
portrays Jesus tempta:on as
the opening salvo in a war.
The scene is set in the desert
with the wild beasts, and it is
fraught with danger.

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
. . . and the angels were ministering to him. Aker John had been
arrested Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God and
saying: The appointed :me has been fullled, and the kingdom of God
is fast approaching; repent and believe in the gospel.
When we reach verses fourteen and keen, Jesus moves back into
Galilee, Proclaiming the gospel of God and saying: the appointed
Sme has been fullled and the kingdom of God is fast approaching:
repent and believe in the gospel. Our narrator prefaces Jesus
movement by no:ng that John had been arrested . . ..a clear
foreshadowing that the ensuing life and death eschatological conict
will not be without heavy casual:es.

Jesus message picks up where Johns


lek o. John came in from the desert
proclaiming a bap:sm of repentance
toward the forgiveness of sins; Jesus
comes in from the
d esert proclaiming
the gospel of God. There is a sharp
dis:nc:on between the two: Johns
proclama:on lays the groundwork for
Jesus proclama:on.
The gospel of God is the gospel that
proceeds from God; Jesus is the
messenger who both announces the
gospel and who embodies it.

In the rst keen verses of his gospel


what I have called the Prologue
Marks narrator accomplishes three
things:
1. he drama:cally proclaims the

beginning of a new era in


history;

2. he creates dramaSc tension by


providing us with important
informa:on that the rest of the
characters in the story lack; and
3. he presents a dangerous terrain,
and we move through it at break-
neck speed.

To produce the speed and the drama:c forward


movement, Mark employs an unusual set of
stylis:c devices, not only in his Prologue, but
throughout his gospel:
The repe::ve use of the connec:ve and;
in Mark, 1,084 are
(of the 11,022 w ords
and)
The repe::ve use of immediately;
(Mark uses it 41 :mes, oken in
combina:on, and Immediately; MaLhew
uses Immediately only 5 :mes; and Luke
only once); and
The use of the historical present tense
(suddenly shiking a past event to the
gramma:cally present tense, intensifying
the sense of urgency).

The Gospel According to Mark


The Prologue, 1: 1-15
Beginning of the gospel [inclusio with v. 15] of Jesus Christ, Son of God, as it has
been wriLen in Isaiah the prophet:

Look! I send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way;
a voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord; make
straight paths for him.

John, the one bap:zing in the desert, appeared proclaiming a bap:sm of


repentance toward the forgiveness of sins, and the en:re Judean countryside
and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they were being
bap:zed by him in the Jordan river confessing their sins and John was clothed
with camels hair and had a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and
wild honey and he spoke out saying: Aker me comes one who is migh:er than
I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy of stooping down to loosen; I
have bap:zed you in water, but he will bap:ze you in the Holy Spirit.

The Prologue, cont.


And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in
Galilee and was bap:zed in the Jordan by John, and immediately
coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn apart and
the Spirit like a dove descending into him, and there was a voice out of
the heavens: You are my Son, the Beloved; in you I am well-pleased.
And immediately the Spirit drives him [historical present] out into the
desert, and he was in the desert forty days being tempted by Satan, and
he was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to him.
Aker John had been arrested Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the
gospel of God and saying: The appointed :me has been fullled, and
the kingdom of God is fast approaching; repent and believe in the
gospel [inclusio with v. 1].

So, what does all this


mean to Marks audience,
the Chris:ans in Rome at
the :me Mark writes his
gospel?

There is a price to be paid for


the Kingdom of Godand
the :me to pay it is NOW.
I know youre afraid, but the
:me has come to stand up
and be counted, no maLer
the cost, for this is war and
Christ will be victorious!

1. Why is it important to examine so minutely


Marks opening 15 verses, the Prologue?
2. What does Mark accomplish by telling his readers
who Jesus is, while withholding that informa:on
from his characters?
3. What stylis:c devices does Mark use to create a
sense of speed and urgency in his gospel?
4. What insight do we gain by learning that Mark
addresses his gospel to the Chris:ans in Rome
who are being systema:cally persecuted under
Nero?
5. How might we apply what we have learned about
Marks Prologue to our rela:onship with Christ
today?

Copyright 2014 by William C. Creasy


All rights reserved. No part of this courseaudio, video,


photography, maps, :melines or other mediamay be
reproduced or transmiLed in any form by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any
informa:on storage or retrieval devices without permission in
wri:ng or a licensing agreement from the copyright holder.