Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Liveblogging the Gospel of Mark II: The God Story

The late Herb Gardner used to have a riff about "The God Story"--the story of a small boy, born in a Pennsylvania mining town, who grew up to be God ("mama, I think I'm God!") I thought of "the God story," as I was reading the first few chapters of the Gospel of Mark. I was thinking: had I been doing the scouting report, I would not have identified this kid as the one who would grow up to be King of Everything. Granted, he seems to have a knack for driving out demons and healing the sick (one, by spitting), but hey, who among us does not?

Aside from that, Jesus seems to spend most of his time engaged in what Burton Mack would recognize as "pronouncement stories--anecdotes common in the tradition of the Cynics, pithy exchanges with a hostile or skeptical interlocutor in which the favored subject always gets the last word (but then, we aren't told what the other guy said after the last word). So, when someone asked Antisthenes why he kept low company, he replied "Well, physicians attend their patients without catching the fever" (Mack, 95). So, when his antagonists asked Jesus why his people ate with unclean hands, Jesus said "it is not what goes into a person, but what comes out that makes him unclean." Passable material in its own right, I suppose, but it mainly presents a man who has some cleanliness issues with the Pharisees. As to the bigger stuff, we'll have to wait and see.

I mentioned yesterday that I did find the Salome story. I might have added that until a couple of years ago, I just assumed something so saucy could not possibly be part of Holy Writ. I had a fairly decent bout of religious instruction in Presbyterian Sunday School in the 1940s, but I guess they skipped that part. But here it is: Mark 6:17-29; cf Matthew 14:3-11. [Update: But whups--it turns out she isn't named in either version. It was so obvious to me what story I was reading that I missed that point. Evidently for her name, you have to go to Josephus and his Jewish Antiquities.]

I said we wouldn't guess that he was bound for greater things. Let me revise that. In Mark 1:7, John the Baptist says "There cometh one mightier thn I after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." And in verse 11, "a voice form heaven"says "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." You can't buy publicity like that.

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