Project Employment Inc

Vietnam Sky during an outdoor mass

Mark - for the Disinterested Classroom

Michelle Nailon

(Using hard copies of the text, a black/white board, an overhead projector and possibly scissors)

Step One:

Hand out to each participant a copy of Mark's text from 1:1 to 3:35.
There is a paraphrased version of the literal translation for the Revised Standard Version (1988)

Ask participants to read through the text fairly quickly and starting from 1:9 circle all the places "where Jesus went." There is more than one A4 page here and they need to follow the first column for example, into the first column of the next page etc.
Step Two: Using the classroom blackboard or white board and starting from 1:9 draw up a list of these places. Keep the places in order according to the chapter and verse.

Compare the places named by the participants with the Realitysearch list here

A hard copy of this list could also be handed to participants so they can double check it against their own copy of the text.
Step Three: Ask the participants if they can see any sort of pattern in the list of places.

Using the list already draw up on the blackboard or whiteboard it can be demonstrated that the list of places form a "concentric circle" (c/f ABCDBCA). In this case the middle place is Capernaum/Home where they let a paralysed man down through the roof.

A copy of the places set out in a "concentric circle is
here .

Note sometimes the gospel writer qualifies a place e.g. he may talk of "cities by the sea." In such case it is either the 'cities' or the 'sea' that has a matching place.
Step Four: Ask the class to consider whether or not the writer of the text could have used the names of a place as a "paragraph hook."

In such case ask them to mark off the paragraphs on the first handout which are "headed" by each place name.

Using the handout of the divided paragraphs and if people have scissors they could cut up the text of 1:9-3:35 and sort the paragraphs into the paragraph pairs of the concentric circle. (If there is not enough table space every second participant could do this)

Step Five: There are eight paragraph pairs (cf this section of text in the Realitysearch analysis). The ninth paragraph forms the centre.

Participants do not need to study all the paragraphs. For instance if there are eight participants each person could get the one pair to examine. Or, two people could be given the one pair to examine together etc.

Participants would be asked to compare the paragraphs in each pair carefully and consider the parallels between them. They should find numerous parallels and in some cases opposites.

To illustrate this some of the "parallels" (or opposites) in the 4th and 5th paragraph pair are shown
It may be some people would be interested in taking the paragraph pairs they have not examined in class, home with them. Then "spotting the parallels" could be a family exercise.
Step Six: At this stage there could be some discussion as to what the writer would be intending by this use of paragraph structuring.

There could be a brief consideration of the situation of Mark the writer. Scholars believe the gospel was written around the time of the Jewish Temple's destruction by Rome in 70 CE. The emerging group of followers of Jesus would want and would need to clarify their own identity. The group was begun from Judaism but they were prepared and wanting to critique and incorporate aspects of Greek philosophy into their understanding of God and Jesus. Remember Mark the writer was talking about the life of Jesus which took place decades before. But Mark's writing (down) of the gospel came after Paul who had already taken the gospel to the people of Greek culture in the wider Empire. It was likely Mark was aiming to present the basis of Judaism and Hellenism (as Greek culture was called) side by side in order to compare and critique them.

In such case he would likely start with a "definition" of Judaism which, as a belief system, was based upon the moral law as expressed in the Ten Commandments given to Moses. There would therefore be an exploration as to what Law is based upon (presumably authority) and what authority itself is based upon.

Remember times were dangerous. In the CE 60's the Emperor Nero was burning Christians at the stake. If Mark was structuring a line of loguc about Judaism and Hellenism into his text he would need to build it into the text in an inconspicuous way.

There were precedents in what Mark was doing. For instance, Homer the most popular writer of Greek culture had a sophisticated structure in his Odyssey 10. Homer was known for his concentric circles As Cicero of the 2nd century BCE said, "I'll be like Homer and put the cart before the horse." 11
Step Seven: Ask participants to pull together one key theme common to both paragraphs in a pair. Be mindful of Mark's likely attempt to clarify what Judaism was (is), for the many Greek converts in the emerging group. In the Greek culture of the Roman Empire there was a heavy emphasis on rationalism and so Mark would be presenting "concepts" about authority.

Draw up a list of such "concepts" on the black/whiteboard.

Compare this with the Realitysearch list

It is likely there would be some differentiation here. However if participants can see comparisons between their own understanding of the common point in a paragraph pair and that of Reality Search, then the first main point of the exercise is probably achieved.

If people can agree that all the points listed appear to clarify what authority is based upon then the second main point is achieved.

Hopefully people could now look forward to an analysis of the "next" section of Mark.

Reality Search (semiotic) analysis of the gospel of Mark.