The OT Sources for Mark 1

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by Neil Godfrey

The Gospel of Mark is shaped out of a re-weaving of Jewish Scriptures. If you want to know its sources then they are, principally but not exclusively, in the “Old Testament”. I have posted on the identification of 160 such scriptures in chapters 11-16 of the Gospel as identified by Howard Clark Kee. (There are more that could be added to that post, especially relating to chapter 12.)

I thought of going through the earlier chapters to make a similar list but the task is simply too much to get through right now. Instead, I have limited myself to a general overview of some of the more obvious allusions to Jewish Scripture in the first chapter only. I’d like to add other chapters over time.

The following table is not exhaustive even for chapter one. More allusions could be identified but some require more explanation that takes more time to present. So I’ve kept the list at a somewhat general level. Notice the story of the leper is a direct transvaluation rather than a more direct reworking of the original. Jesus and the leper are humble foils of Elisha and Naaman. If in the gospel of Mark the original text said Jesus was indignant (as opposed to the more widely attested “moved with compassion”) when the leper knelt and suggesting Jesus could heal him, there may be some significance related to the amount of indignation that runs rife through the 2 Kings narrative: both king Ahab and the leper Naaman at different times become enraged or indignant over the processes involved that led to the cleansing of the leper. Maybe something is missing from our text of Mark, or maybe “compassion” was original to the text after all.)

Here’s the table:

Mark 1

Jewish Scripture Sources

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah . . . as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning . . .

Isaiah 52:7; 61:1-2

who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,

. . . .

The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his Spirit.
He has chosen me and sent me
To bring good news to the poor,
To heal the broken-hearted,
To announce release to captives
And freedom to those in prison.
He has sent me to proclaim
That the time has come
When the Lord will save his people
And defeat their enemies.
He has sent me to comfort all who mourn,

Exodus 23:20

“See, I am sending an angel [=messenger] ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.

Malachi 3:1

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.

Isaiah 40:3

A voice of one calling:
In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.


And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Malachi 4:5-6

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

2 Kings 1:8

And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.

1 Kings 17:2-6

And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before the Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.


At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Isaiah 64:1

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down

Ezekiel 1:1

. . . the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God

Genesis 1:1

. . . the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters

Genesis 8:8

Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded . . .

Psalm 2:7

He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.

Isaiah 42:1

Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One, in whom My soul delights. I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations.


At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Exodus 14:29; 15:22

But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur . . .

Deuteronomy 8:2

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

Genesis 2:19

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to Adam . . .

Psalm 91:11-13

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

1 Kings 19:3-6

Elijah . . . went a day’s journey into the wilderness. . . . All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.


. . . Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Isaiah 9:1-2

. . . he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;

Isaiah 52:7

who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”


As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

1 Kings 19:19-21

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Jeremiah 16:16

Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them . . .


They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Nahum = comfort (Capernaum = city of comfort)

Isaiah 40:1; 61:2

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.

. . . .

He has sent me to comfort all who mourn.

Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

Nahum 1:15

Look, there on the mountains,
the feet of one who brings good news,
who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, Judah,
and fulfill your vows.
No more will the wicked invade you;
they will be completely destroyed.

1 Kings 17:18

She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!”

2 Kings 4:9

“Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God.

Exodus 34:30

When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses . . . they were afraid to come near him.

Joshua 4:14

That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses.

1 Samuel 18:14-15

In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.

1 Kings 3:28

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.


As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
  I will help you.

Psalm 103:3

who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

1 Kings 17:15

She went and did as Elijah said.

(Compare A Story of a Mother-in-law, Stopping the Sun, and Rebuilding the Temple Wall)


A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

2 Kings 5:3-19

She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

. . . The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

. . . When Elisha the man of God heard . . . he sent him this message: “. . . Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. . . ” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy

. . . said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. . . .

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Neil Godfrey

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  • Jonathan Rutherford
    2019-10-04 10:14:45 GMT+0000 - 10:14 | Permalink

    Thanks for doing this Neil. There is another two part allusion in chapter one in chapter one. It is often not recognised, but is important and clear in my view (I got this partly from the wonderful RG Price who comments here regularly…I think I picked up the hunter bit!)

    In Mark 1:17 “Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

    In Mark 1:35-36: In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.

    This is a double allusion to Jeremiah 16:16-17
    16 “But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks.

    We see in the Jeremiah passage reference to men being “fishermen” and “hunters” – exactly as the disciples are described in chapter 1. As RG points out “This is the only passage in the Old Testament that talks about fishermen catching people.” Its also the only OT place where people are described as “hunters” – making this a very sure literary allusion from Mark.

    This is significant, as R.G Price explains, because the Jeremiah passage is about “the destruction of Israel” which (as he shows) is the main theme of many of Mark’s literary allusions. Despite the “good news” of Mark on the surface the irony is the the underlying allusions are about tell of the coming destruction of Israel – i.e the destruction of Jerusalem which the author of Mark had in mind when writing.

  • 2019-10-04 10:31:43 GMT+0000 - 10:31 | Permalink

    This is great. I like the idea of casting a wide net, as you appear to be doing here. Some of these may not have been in the mind of the writer of Mark, but it’s a good idea to pull in all of the potential material for better analysis IMO.

    Also, with some of the parallels between Mark and Elijah/Elisha, they seem to defy exact textual parallels, but rather include themes and concepts. A few good books on this issue have already been written of course, but hopefully one day I can get around to writing up a full companion guide to Mark that tries to explain every literary reference in Mark.

    And yeah, Jonathan Rutherford did point out the hunter reference to me several years back (2014 actually, I keep all my e-mails) after I put The Gospel of Mark as Reaction and Allegory on my website. Thanks for that Jonathan.

  • MrHorse
    2019-10-04 11:19:54 GMT+0000 - 11:19 | Permalink

    Mark 1:1, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God’ also reflects Gen 1:1 (and Rom 1:1).

    A 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, [Isa 40:3]

    . BA “Look, I send my messenger ahead of you, [Malachi 3:1; adopting Mal 3:22–24, Mal 4:5, & Exodus 23:20]

    . BB who will prepare your way.” [Isa 40:3]

    . BA’ 1:3 A voice proclaiming in the wilderness, [Isa 43:19]

    . BB’ “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make his way straight.” [Isa 40:3; Psalms 5:8 and 107:7; Prov. 3:6]

    A 1:4 Appeared John the Baptizer in the wilderness proclaiming the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [Isa 43:19]

    (and David Oliver Smith has noted parallel prologue & epilogue structures in Mark 1:1-14 and Mark 15:39-16:8, respectively. Unlocking the Puzzle: The Keys to the Christology and Structure of the Original Gospel of Mark, 2016, Resource Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition; p. 28.)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-10-04 11:29:51 GMT+0000 - 11:29 | Permalink

      Genesis 1:1, of course — and the same source material for the opening is used and expanded on by Mark’s antithetical commentator, the Gospel of John.

      I may add others that may be mentioned here, though there are some types of allusions that are more structural and part of a cultural matrix and less easy to indicate by mere quotation.

      • MrHorse
        2019-10-04 11:52:54 GMT+0000 - 11:52 | Permalink

        Yes, there are some types of allusions that are more part of a cultural matrix and less easy to indicate by mere quotation.

    • MrHorse
      2019-10-04 11:38:38 GMT+0000 - 11:38 | Permalink

      Smith has also noted – re Archē tou euangeliou Iēsou Christou huiou Theou – ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God‘archē not only means ‘beginning’, it also means ‘rule’. Smith says “One of Mark’s main points that he wants the reader to grasp…is…that Christ is coming to Earth soon to establish the kingdom of God” (Smith says Mark this comes from Paul’s Christology, implying that Paul motivated the author of Mark to look at the Jewish scriptures [too]).

    • MrHorse
      2019-10-04 11:51:54 GMT+0000 - 11:51 | Permalink

      “The first pericope of the Gospel begins at 1:2. In this special case there is no movement into the scene or change of cast in the A hemistich since there is no prior scene. The A’ hemistich has John appearing in the wilderness, a definite location and the introduction of a cast member. The (BA, BA’) stich matches “sending a messenger” with “a voice in the wilderness.” The (BB, BB’) stich matches “preparing the way.”

    • MrHorse
      2019-10-05 11:47:25 GMT+0000 - 11:47 | Permalink

      W.S. Vorster noted in his 1993 essay, cited by db below, –

      In the first place the very first quotation (Mk 1:2-3) does not [just] come from Isaiah the prophet, as Mark asserts. It is a composite reference to Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 which he connects to Isaiah the prophet. The ‘quotation’ is taken out of context and worked into his story of John and Jesus in order to show the relationship between the two.

      “The production of the Gospel of Mark: An essay on intertextuality”. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies. pp. 385–396

      Vorster goes on, –

      The beginning of the Gospel does not prove the fulfilment of the Old Testament, it characterises John as the predecessor of Jesus. Only at a later stage does the reader realize the resemblance between the apocalyptic John and the apocalyptic Jesus.

      One of the inferences one should make from the use of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark is that the author created a new story with the aid of intertextual codes …

      Later Vorster says – and the first passage is slightly out of his context –

      … some of the stories are transmitted in Mark’s Gospel in a mixed form ….

      … [then] recent attempts have been made at describing the Gospel as the rewriting of Old Testament stories … to regard Mark’s Gospel as a creation of a new text … New Testament writers created what [these scholars] call[ed] new midrashim on older texts. They argue that Mark did not simply interpret the Old Testament midrashically. Mark created a new midrash – that is, new scripture in typical Jewish fashion …

      … We have already noticed that Mark did not hesitate to use the Old Testament out of context, and that it is probable that he did the same with the tradition he received.* This simply underscores ‘our’ notion that he retold tradition for his own purposes. By doing this Mark created a new text from other texts, traces of which can be seen in his text.

      The relationship between the final text of the Gospel of Mark and precursor and other texts is an intertextual relationship. There is no causal relationship between this new text and the texts out of which Mark made his text. Mark quoted other texts, and his story alludes to other texts and absorbed other texts.

      Vorster doesn’t say what he thinks that proposed tradition Mark received was or might have been. No doubt some would propose or argue that Paul might be a large part of it.

      Vorster, W.S. (1993) “The production of the Gospel of Mark: An essay on intertextuality”. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies. pp. 385–396

      • MrHorse
        2019-10-05 11:53:24 GMT+0000 - 11:53 | Permalink

        The two [then] recent attempts at describing the Gospel attributed to Mark as the rewriting of Old Testament stories were, –

        Roth, W 1988. Hebrew gospel: Cracking the code of Mark. Oak Park: Meyer-Stone Books.
        Miller, D & Miller, P 1990. The Gospel of Mark as midrash: On earlier Jewish and New Testament literature. Lewiston: Mellen.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-10-05 13:10:46 GMT+0000 - 13:10 | Permalink

          The two [then] recent attempts at describing the Gospel attributed to Mark as the rewriting of Old Testament stories were, –

          Following Thomas L. Thompson’s overview of the way the Jewish Scriptures were written I tend to see the Gospel of Mark as yet one more story in the same tradition as other (OT) biblical narratives. In Genesis we see the same narrative retold in different ways through each generation. We see the same reiteration of the Creation story out of the division of waters in the Exodus, in the entry into the Promised Land, and in Elijah’s crossing of the Jordan — then in Jesus’ baptism.

          The same story of being lost, then called, then obeying, then falling away, then punishment, then restoration is told over and over. Each story warns the “new Israel” not to fall into the errors of the “old Israel”.

          The Gospel of Mark (and its variants, Matthew, John, Luke) continue that same tradition of literature and theology.

          • db
            2019-10-05 17:39:16 GMT+0000 - 17:39 | Permalink

            The same story of being lost, then called, then obeying, then falling away, then punishment, then restoration is told over and over.

            Is it correct to say, that the old covenant with Israel no longer being extant and that the “restoration” now being applicable to any devotee of the Christ lord—is the novel innovation of Paul/Mark for this newest cycle.

            If so, have there been any novel innovations per previous cycles?

          • MrHorse
            2019-10-05 22:54:35 GMT+0000 - 22:54 | Permalink

            Neil, to clarify, when you say “In Genesis we see the same narrative retold in different ways through each generation”, do you mean ‘we see the same Genesis narrative/s retold in different ways through each generation [and now through or by the then new early-Christian theology]’ ??

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-10-06 01:30:03 GMT+0000 - 01:30 | Permalink

              Sorry, I was being fuzzy, wasn’t I. I meant it at a number of levels: the story of Abraham-Sarah is repeated in the stories of Isaac-Rebekkah and then again in Jacob-Rachel. The same story of the displacement of the natural order or privileged generation in favour of the younger and chosen is repeated in the Exodus (the old generation must die and the new enter the land of promise), in the stories of the prophets and their promises for a new generation, in the selection of the younger/initially disposessed over the older, right through to the New Testament. The motifs for new beginnings are also repeated — the splitting of the waters at the initial creation is repeated again with the renewal after the Flood, and then again in the Exodus and Red Sea crossing, and then the crossing of Jordan as those waters also divided, then with Elijah and Elisha at the Jordan, then again at the baptism of Jesus.

              The stories are retold, recycled, in their different mutations, and they are re-written for new generations who may have come through some crisis or are desirous of a new start as a “new” people of God who are now learning the lessons of the old generation, both in their real experience and in the stories themselves.

  • 2019-10-04 14:47:34 GMT+0000 - 14:47 | Permalink

    I note that Mark was not the only person in his time capable of bulking up these ‘scenarios from Scripture’ into narrative episodes that involve a Jesus character. The writers of the other canonical gospels did the same thing using other scenarios. Editors of GMark could have done the same. The Scriptural references in GMark are not necessarily all by Mark. After all, all of these writers lived in a religious and cultural matrix where Scripture was scrutinized, interpreted, emulated. The records we have of their activity are just the tip of an iceberg of their synagogue services, conversations, study sessions, etc. And of the texts they used, now lost.

    In my opinion, Mark’s particular, unique contribution was to use these scenarios to construct a play for performance, as I propose in my book The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text.

    • 2019-10-04 15:02:30 GMT+0000 - 15:02 | Permalink

      There is a difference between what Mark does and what the others do however. Mark makes many implicit references and builds his narrative from these “hidden” references. Matthew and John, however don’t do this. They make overt references and quote scripture. They found some of Mark’s references and when they did they often pointed them out with big neon signs. They are like, “Hey look at this, here is a case where Jesus fulfilled prophesy!!!!!”

      Luke, does little of either, but instead Luke more often builds new scenarios out of themes as opposed to direct quotes or literary allusions. The vast use of these “hidden” scriptural foundations is really only a feature of Mark.

      • db
        2019-10-04 19:30:45 GMT+0000 - 19:30 | Permalink

        Have you noted Mark’s reference to Transjordan matches the LXX OT, wheres Pliny the Elder (in Latin) & Josephus use the shortened form: Peraía (Περαία), rather than Mark’s péran toú Iordánou (πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου)—Mark 3.8 & 10.1

        • db
          2019-10-15 15:13:37 GMT+0000 - 15:13 | Permalink

          Therefore any interpretation of Mark as only referring to the much smaller geographical area “Perea” is untenable. Rather Mark is clearly referring to the larger transjordan—likely Hellenized. Per Rutherford (2015), “Galilee is symbolic of an inclusive Church, open to all, both Jew and Gentile, based on ‘faith in Christ’ alone. This was the gospel that Paul preached. To follow Jesus, the Jerusalem Church must go to ‘Galilee’ by following the example of Paul and embracing the inclusive universal Church.”

        • db
          2019-11-11 16:10:25 GMT+0000 - 16:10 | Permalink

          • and to elaborate

          In the Markan narrative, while at the western side of the Gallilee sea region, Jesus receives Gentiles from the surrounding regions, one of which is Transjordan (Mark 3:8). Here the author of Mark refers to the Transjordan region by using the same general term found in the LXX Book of Isaiah—péran toú Iordánou. Notably the Markan author never uses the specific contemporary name for the east bank territory of Herod Antipas, i.e. Perea. Both Galilee and Perea were incorporated into “Greater Judea” i.e. Provincia Ivdaea, in 44 CE, which already incorporated the regions of Samaria, Idumea, and the eponymous Judea. The regional name Perea is used by Josephus (c. 75 CE) and Pliny the Elder (c. 78 CE) in their geographic descriptions of the regions within the province. Therefore the traditional view that Jesus did not travel beyond the Perean territorial region of Herod Antipas is not supported by the Markan text. It appears that the usage of the term Transjordan in the Markan narrative is a reference to the Decapolis and other Gentile regions. Jennifer Wilkinson writes. “The [Markan] evangelist shows a great awareness and interest in the Graeco-Roman city territories surrounding Galilee: Gerasa (Mk 5.1); Tyre and Sidon (7.24-31); Caesarea Philippi (8.27) and the Decapolis (5.20; 7.31), and has Jesus himself travelling into these areas.” [Wilkinson, Jennifer (2012) Mark and his Gentile Audience: A Traditio-Historical and Socio-Cultural Investigation of Mk 4.35-9.29 and its Interface with Gentile Polytheism in the Roman Near East. Doctoral thesis, Durham University. pp. 51–52]

    • db
      2019-10-04 18:49:34 GMT+0000 - 18:49 | Permalink


      Mark’s bizarre geography is readily explicable per r.g.price’s work, i.e. The OT said it so Mark said it in that bizarre way as reference to the OT.

      How is Mark’s bizarre geography addressed per your work?

      • 2019-10-04 19:19:11 GMT+0000 - 19:19 | Permalink

        I can’t take credit for that. I mean, I agree with that point, but t was made long before me. I don’t explicitly address this in my book, but yeah, its implied that this is the explanation for most every aspect of Mark.

        Actually I see Neil talks about one aspect of this here: https://vridar.org/2010/08/06/mark-failed-geography-but-great-bible-student/

      • 2019-10-04 19:24:19 GMT+0000 - 19:24 | Permalink

        The answer is a bit complicated, and I address it in the book. I propose that Mark wrote two “works,” a performed play (which is more dimensional than a “text”) and a literary text that condensed and narratized the performance, and added literary features such as chiasms and pointers to Scripture. That literary text is the original version of the Gospel we have now. In the literary text, Mark added names of places that didn’t need to be spoken during the play.

        The audience saw the actors moving around the theater (stage + orchestra + parodoi + probably the audience area) and recognized when they moved into a different space, they were in a different place in the world of the play. A new scene was about to begin. The audience didn’t need to hear, “Glad we made it to Gerasa!” if that name had no dramatic value in the world of the play. The actors had crossed the orchestra in a boat! Obviously they were in a different location.

        The following must be somewhat speculative, as a) we don’t have all of Mark’s original literary text and b) the text was a secondary document. I assume that Mark followed good playwriting practice and did not provide extraneous information or info that the characters already know, solely for the audience’s benefit.

        I think that the audience experienced the geography of the play as follows:
        1. A man is baptizing. His costume and behavior identify him to the audience as John the Baptist/Baptizer. By implication, the location onstage is the Jordan River (not named in performance). Jesus arrives.
        2. Jesus walks, recruits fishermen in a boat. By implication, the Sea of Galilee (not named): the only place near the Jordan River where there is fishing from a boat.
        3. I am not sure if “Capernaum” is named. I don’t see why it should be. The reference to mother and brothers imply that Jesus is at home.
        4. The action implicitly continues in Galilee as long as the boat is present in the orchestra (it is removed after the return trip from Bethsaida, just before the Recognition).
        5. In 10:33, Jesus tells the audience “see, we are going up to Jerusalem.” Which tells them that the future action will be on the way to Jerusalem and in Jerusalem.
        6. The scenes thereafter on the mountain are implicitly near Jerusalem. Was this sufficient to tell the audience that this was the Mount of Olives? I guess so, given the identity of the main character.

        I suspect that “Bethsaida” was a name that was meaningful in the world of the audience, and was spoken. So, to sum up, the location “Jerusalem” was definitely spoken, and probably “Bethsaida.” I am not sure about “Jericho” as that scene is entirely missing. I doubt “Capernaum.” The rest are entirely literary.

        The bizarre geography is partly attributable to editing, e.g., the Syro-Phoenician woman scene is entirely by an editor. The early editors of GMark did not think of the narrative as a single consistent story about a human being on earth whose movements had to be minimally plausible.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-10-05 07:18:50 GMT+0000 - 07:18 | Permalink

          For general information, I intend to post a review of Danila’s book (also on James Barlow’s essay on the Ascension of Isaiah) after I have met my other commitments for reviews. I have made it a priority to complete reviews of some of the more expensive books I received from publishers after especially requesting them for discussion here.

        • db
          2019-11-16 19:07:37 GMT+0000 - 19:07 | Permalink

          Danila, I think the Markan literary West/East axis of the “Sea of Galilee ministry” and “Perean ministry” supports stagecraft, i.e. characters entering stage right/left identify them as Jew/Gentile.

          It appears that the usage of the term Transjordan in Mark 10:1 is a reference to the Decapolis and other Gentile regions while Jesus is en-route to Jerusalem—teaching both Jews and Gentiles per the same literary West/East axis presented previously for the Sea of Galilee ministry.

          • 2019-11-16 23:05:29 GMT+0000 - 23:05 | Permalink

            db: Yes, you have identified a further detail of my proposed staging. Stage Right (audience’s left, the way to the country) becomes identified with Gentiles because that’s where Gerasa has to be. I eventually concluded that all the characters that enter from Stage Right are Gentiles. In general the Stage Right side of the stage and orchestra is Gentile. I go over these stagings in much more detail in the book, including an appendix where I propose to reconstruct the action (not the dialogue) of the play.

            For Mark 10:1 and surrounding scenes, I think they take place in the orchestra and on the center of the lower stage–neither Gentile nor Judean. The question is whether this was simply the most effective dramatic staging, or Mark also thereby intended to indicate Jesus’s ecumenical ministry. In any case, when he wrote the narrative, he indicated it, as you say.

            • db
              2019-11-17 01:24:01 GMT+0000 - 01:24 | Permalink

              A good reason for starting in Galilee:

              • Boobyer, G. H. (1952–1953). “Galilee and Galileans in St. Mark’s Gospel [PDF]”. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library XXXV: 334–348.

              [The LXX Books of Isaiah and Ezekiel] depict Galilee of the Gentiles as specially appointed to receive salvation in the messianic age, and, further, as a land which will be one of the first to experience God’s deliverance. The writer of Isa. viii. 23–ix. 6 proclaims that the light of the messianic day will disperse the shadow of death lying over “Galilee of the Gentiles”; and the LXX text of ch. viii. 23 begins with a notable addition . . . that God will pour forth this light of His salvation first upon Galilee . . . according to Ezek. xlvii. 1–12, the prophet beholds a river issuing from under the threshold of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. . . . and it was flowing towards Galilee (verse 8)! —(p. 336)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-10-05 04:33:54 GMT+0000 - 04:33 | Permalink

      Some of us will be interested in another gospel that is a most unsophisticated attempt to graft OT texts into a Jesus narrative — I’m thinking of the Gospel of Peter.

      • MrHorse
        2019-10-05 12:20:00 GMT+0000 - 12:20 | Permalink

        Vorster (1993) noted, –

        The passion narrative is presumably related to the Gospel of Peter, which is basically a passion story (see Crossan 1988, reference below) …

        Allusions to and quotations from the Old Testament are usually absorbed into Mark’s story in such a manner that, except for a few cases where he specifically mentions the origin of the quotation, the allusions and quotations form part of the story stuff. They are so embedded into the story that, if it were not for the references in the margins and a knowledge of the Old Testament, the reader would not have noticed that Mark uses an allusion or a quotation (see Mk 15:24). This is best seen in Mark’s story of the passion of Jesus.

        It has often been noticed that psalms of lamentation such as Psalms 22, 38 and 69 concerning the suffering of the just, are knitted into the passion narrative in such a manner that one can say that the passion narrative of Mark is narrated in the language of the Old Testament. The point is, however, that the allusions and ‘quotations’ form such an integral part of the passion narrative that it is impossible for the naive reader to realize that the text is enriched by its intertextual relationships concerning the suffering of the Just.

        Crossan, J D 1988. The cross that spoke: The origins of the passion narrative. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

        • db
          2019-10-05 13:22:33 GMT+0000 - 13:22 | Permalink

          the text is enriched by its intertextual relationships concerning the suffering of the Just.

          I laugh when I imagine Ehrman reading that and scoffing, “So What!, that just means Jesus’ body was thrown in a mass grave is all, etc.” ad nauseam.

          • MrHorse
            2019-10-05 23:04:53 GMT+0000 - 23:04 | Permalink

            db, Ehrman’s tunnel vision is surprising given the way he broadly cast his net in the first decade or two of his career.

            Moreover, “allusions and quotations form such an integral part of the passion narrative that it is impossible for the naive [or wilfully ignorant] reader -[such as Bart Ehrman]- to realize that the text is enriched by its intertextual relationships …”

  • Jim Glass
    2019-10-04 22:36:05 GMT+0000 - 22:36 | Permalink

    Add to this discussion the sites of Jeanie C. Crain (crain@missouriwestern.edu) and Michael A. Turton.

  • db
    2019-10-05 02:03:49 GMT+0000 - 02:03 | Permalink

    This essay is like finding an evolutionary missing link for the the OT as a key source for Mark.

    • Vorster, W. S. (1993). “The production of the Gospel of Mark: An essay on intertextuality”. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies. pp. 385–396.

    • db
      2019-10-05 02:52:49 GMT+0000 - 02:52 | Permalink

      Neil, the Vorster essay above, appears to have a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)” license, so if you consider it merited, please reproduce it on Vridar.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-10-05 05:03:53 GMT+0000 - 05:03 | Permalink

        If I did that I’d run into all sorts of prioritizing and consistency issues. There is so much good stuff available. I can’t be the repository for it all.

    • db
      2019-10-17 15:04:28 GMT+0000 - 15:04 | Permalink

      I am trying to make Vorster’s work into an article at — “Gospel of Mark (intertextuality)”. Wikipedia.

      NB: the original journal article was initially pasted in full at — Old revision of Gospel of Mark (intertextuality)

  • db
    2019-10-05 19:51:30 GMT+0000 - 19:51 | Permalink

    Per Mark as Paul—declaring that the old covenant with Israel is no longer extant.

    Is there a “goto” source for Mark in the OT, on this topic?

    Per Jiri Severa, “[Mark] savages and ridicules the pharisaic Jews of his time by having Jesus defy the law and giving either himself or through Jesus, misleading references to the Torah (1:1-3, 2:26, 9:12-13, 10:19, 14:21, 14:49).”

    • Perhaps Isaiah 52:7; 61:1-2 as noted in the OP.

  • Amer
    2019-10-06 04:46:12 GMT+0000 - 04:46 | Permalink

    I love the parallels being generated here – however, I think a set of rules is needed for asserting a copy style reproduction. Of course the copying of Matthew from Mark for example is a very different type of copy – verbatim in other words. That aside, I still personally would go for a triangulation rule – That is, in order for something to be deemed a copying of another text three parts need to be the same.

    1 – Similar or same phrases (just these by themselves alone is not enough), for various reasons.
    2 – The references should be seen to be sought from the same group of texts – i.e. part of a phrase from one place and another part from another place is pushing the assertion that there is a copying act in place.
    3 – The relationships between objects and subjects, and the theme, should be completely transferable, not partially.

    Otherwise, we fall in to the trap of drawing pictures in clouds.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-10-06 07:35:54 GMT+0000 - 07:35 | Permalink

      I did not cite sources for any of the parallels because I thought most of them would be recognized immediately by any reader familiar with the marginal references in their old King James Bibles. They are also all discussed repeatedly in the mainstream literature, both journals and books, of conservative and liberal biblical scholars alike. That’s where the thematic or other meaningful links are discussed in depth. In addition to the King James marginal notes I used, mostly for overlap or double checking:

      • Bowman, John. 1965. The Gospel of Mark: The New Christian Jewish Passover Haggadah. Brill Archive.
      • Gundry, Robert Horton. 1993. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. 2 vols. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans.
      • Le Peau, Andrew T. 2017. Mark Through Old Testament Eyes: A Background and Application Commentary.
      • Watts, Rikki E. 2001. Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. Rev Upd Su edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic.
      • Winn, Adam. 2010. Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material. Eugene, Ore: Pickwick Publications.

      I was never aware of any suspicion or over-reach when a citation or two was alluded to as one focused on just one passage at a time. I wonder if some of the alarm comes from seeing all of those references collated and presented together like I have done here.

      All the above table does is show that that author was immersed in the Jewish Scriptures. I don’t think that’s a controversial point. I remember how scandalized some scholars and others were that Dennis MacDonald should dare suggest a Homeric influence on certain scenes and the loud rejoinder being, No, Mark borrowed from the story of Jonah, or of Israel in the wilderness, or from Elijah!!

  • Amer
    2019-10-06 11:47:18 GMT+0000 - 11:47 | Permalink

    Thanks for this post Neil ^

    Always impressed with the background research done here.
    I’m gonna have to go through this material.

    It is enriching for me to be corrected and to see clarifications as I learn more from that type of exchange.

  • francois
    2019-10-18 23:15:04 GMT+0000 - 23:15 | Permalink

    Reading Mark as a midrash, part 2: Jesus heals the man with an unclean spirit
    Tags: Midrash, Maurice Mergui, Nanine Charbonnel

    ** What does that mean? **

    Mark 1:27 NKJ “What is this? What new doctrine is this?

    ** Here are the main lines of my reply **

    — The spirit
    Mark 1 NKJ
    8 I (John) indeed baptized you with water, but He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
    10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove
    23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit.
    25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
    26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.

    Jesus is putting the Holy Spirit within the Israel’heart and consequently Jesus is eradicating the old/unclean spirit from the Israel’s heart.
    But Israel is reluctant to accept this change, so Israel has convulsions and Israel cries

    Ezekiel 36:25-27 strengthens my position
    Ezekiel 36 NKJ
    25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
    26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
    27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

    — The doctrine
    Mark 1:27 NKJ “What is this? What new doctrine is this?
    Exodus 16
    15 So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
    And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.
    31 And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

    The new spirit involves a new doctrine (new word, new gospel, new teaching, new bread, new Manna)

    — The water
    Mark 1 NKJ
    8 I (John) indeed baptized you with water, but He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
    Ezekiel 36:25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

    Comment: The water is used for cleansing and consequently It also represents the terrestrial life and the spiritual life.
    It also represents the terrestrial drink and the spiritual drink. Considering that the wine is a better drink than water, that allows me to introduce the word “wine”.

    ** To go further **

    — The incompatibility: between the old and the new spririt
    In addition to the difficulty to accept the change, I notice the incompatibility expressed by
    Mark 1:24 “.. What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? ..”

    — The incompatibility: between the old and the new Israel
    This is expressed by
    Mark 2
    21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.
    22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

    Old Israel New Israel
    old garment,camel’s hair unshrunk cloth
    old wineskins new vine

    — John represents the hebrews
    Mark 1:6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair .., and he ate locusts and wild honey.
    The attributes (camel, locusts and wild honey) refer to the exodus and the hebrews crossing the desert. Consequently, John represents the hebrews.
    Note: locusts -> the beginning of exodus
    honey -> the end of exodus

    ** Conclusion about this healing **

    The healing of the man with an unclean spirit means that Jesus puts the Holy Spirit within the Israel’heart.
    The old spirit is now considered as an unclean spririt and becomes incompatible.
    To be short this healing starts the “Renewal of Israel”

    ** Conclusion about Mark 1-2, first step **

    Mark 1-2 is the unit describing the new doctrine

    The healing of the man with an unclean spirit
    meaning: Jesus puts the Holy Spirit within the Israel’heart and starts the Renewal of Israel
    The healing of Simon’s Mother-in-Law
    meaning: Jesus announces the new Covenant including the hebrews and the greeks
    You have to read my previous reply
    The cleansing of a Leper
    meaning: The Hebrews who show their faith in Jesus are saved. They enter into the covenant with God
    A leper is Hebrew who does not follow the God’Law
    Status: A remaining work to detail and justify
    The Healing a Paralytic
    meaning: The Greeks who show their faith in Jesus are saved. They enter into the covenant with God
    A paralytic is a pagan who does not walk according the God’Law because he does not know the law.
    Status: A remaining work to detail and justify
    The main features about Old Israel and the New Israel

    Old Israel New Israel

    Spirit Unclean spirit Holy spirit
    Law/Teaching/Doctrine Law of Moses Word of Jesus, Gospel
    Food Manna Bread
    Drink Water, Old Wine Water, New Wine
    Garment Camel’s hair unshrunk cloth
    Old garment New garment
    Figure John as Baptist Jesus as son of man
    Covenant people The Hebrews The Hebrews and the Greeks
    Covenant rule Follow the Moses’Law Recognise Jesus as redeemer

    ** About Maurice Mergui and Nanine Charbonnel **
    Their works are very helpful but I also read christian authors.

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