Step 3 in my Bible study method involves interrogating the passage like Donald Trump in the boardroom of the Apprentice.
In the worksheet I suggested a list of questions for you to start with, but you will recall from class that I have encouraged you to keep a running list of things you don’t understand or questions you have from the passage. In this post I will give you my answers to the suggested questions. Tomorrow (remember, this is a two-day assignment) I will tell you the questions I have from the text and what I learned using the Bible study tools available.
Here are the questions I put on the worksheet and my answers to them. Remember that these are my answers based on no commentary work yet, so they are subject to correction when I apply the tools of interpretation to the passage tomorrow.
- What kind of literature is this paragraph?
This is a story (narrative).
- Is the author recording what Jesus said or what he did?
Mark is recording what Jesus did. First he tells us the preparations God made for Jesus’ coming, then he tells us of the miraculous revelation of Jesus’ identity at his baptism.
- Why did the author include this paragraph in his Gospel?
Unlike Matthew and John who begin their account of Jesus’ life and work with the stories of his miraculous conception and birth, as well as his genealogical line, Mark simply begins the account of Jesus’ life with the introduction to his public ministry. This part is important because it demonstrates that Jesus’ was identified as God’s son from the beginning. In other words, Mark wants us to know that Jesus didn’t just start teaching, get popular, and then suddenly assume for himself messianic ambitions; rather, from the opening of his public ministry God identified Jesus for who he really is.
- Why did the author put this paragraph at this point in his Gospel?
You have to start somewhere, either with the events of Jesus’ birth or with the beginning of his public ministry. Mark begins with his public ministry. This is consistent with Mark’s style throughout the Gospel of Mark, which is briefer and more direct than the other three gospels in the New Testament.
- What differences do you notice in the translations you’ve read?
v. 1: The NIV calls it “the gospel about Jesus Christ,” while the NIV2011 use the more contemporary “good news about Jesus.” NIV2011 and NLT also omit the word “Christ.” The ESV calls it “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” which is more formally equivalent but less precise than interpreting that genitive as the NIV, NIV2011 and NLT do.
v.2: NIV and ESV begin a new sentence with verse 2, but the NIV2011 and ESV continue the sentence from verse 1 with the words, “just as….” The ESV uses the phrase “behold” which is archaic and also uses the phrase “before your face” which would be idiomatic in the original language but does not make very clear English at all.
v.3: NIV calls it the “desert” while the NIV2011, ESV, and NLT use “wilderness.” Also, there is some diversity of translation about what John is doing with the NIV and NIV2011 saying he was “calling,” NLT saying he was “shouting,” and the ESV saying he was “crying.” The phrase “straight paths” (ESV “paths straight”) is interpreted only in the NLT’s translation which says, “Clear the road for him.”
v. 4: NIV, NIV2011, and NLT all include some sort of connector that shows John in verse 4 to be the one prophesied in verse 3. The NIV and NIV2011 use the phrase “And so,” while the NLT is even clearer saying, “This messenger was John….” The ESV, by contrast, simply tells us that “John appeared” leaving it up to the reader to connect the prophecy quoted in verse 3 to John as the fulfillment in verse 4. Also, the NLT is alone in adding the qualifier “the Baptist” to John’s name in order to distinguish him from the Apostle John. Finally, the NIV, NIV2011, and ESV leave the meaning of the phrase “baptism of repentance” ambiguous; the NLT interprets this phrase as “that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.”
Tomorrow I will finish comparing the passage in these translations, as well as answer the remaining questions (below). I will also share with you what I learned using various Bible study tools (such as commentaries).
- What interrogation questions have you written down in your previous readings of this passage?
- What do you need to investigate to understand what this passage means?
- Are any of the answers to your questions revealed in the passage itself or in the passages that precede or follow it?
[This post is one of a series of Monday-Friday posts detailing the results of my own personal Bible study following the method and steps I'm teaching in a class here at see this post right here.]