Saturday, July 03, 2010

Liveblogging the Gospel of Mark V: The Little Apocalpyse

I continue reading (or "decoding") the Greek original of the Gospel of Mark--

Chapter 12 is, in a sense, sameold sameold: more quarreling with the establishment (scribes and Pharisees). But Jesus gets more programmatic: here we find "Render under Caesar..." (Mark 12:17); also "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:31). There's also a parable about a "husbandman" who kills the son of the man who owns the vineyard, and come to a bad end; also another, stranger story about a woman who married (in succession) seven brothers, all of whom "left no seed." The question is: whose wife will she be in heaven (the answer seems to be "none")?

None of this really anticipates the extraordinary Chapter 13, the so-called "Little Apocalypse," in which Jesus offers his forecast, and it's not a pretty one: "nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles..." (Mark 13:8). "Little," I take it, means in contrast to the last book of the New Testament, the "Revelation" or (big) "Apocalypse." I've heard it said that Revelation is the most-cited book in the Bible, and I can believe the "Little Apocalypse" shares its place as a generator of any number of end-time cults (there's even a PBS Frontline Special on the topic, timed to coordinate with the coming of the new millennium in 2000).

But I gather this minatory "prediction" is also taken as evidence that Mark wrote after the Destruction of the Second (Jerusalem) Temple in 70AD and thus enjoys the most powerful ally of any predictor, thee benefit of hindsight. Indeed I gather that the whole point of the Gospel of Maark is to stitch together a new self-understanding for the nascent Christian community as it undertakes to rebuild itself out of the ruins.

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