Mark 6.45-8.26: The Gentile Mission
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This interpolation into Ur-Mark (i.e., Mark's first edition), often referred to prior to 1969 as 'the Lukan greater omission', since Matthew includes it and Luke does not, has been shown by C. T. Ruddick, Jr, ('Behold, I Send My Messenger'. JBL,Dec. 1969) to disrupt the lectionary sequence he detected. Hence, it may better be called the Marcan greater interpolation. (I.e., Luke worked from Ur-Mark, while Matthew worked from the later edition of Mark.) The material is largely concerned with aspects of the Gentile mission, as can be seen below.
Jesus forces (ἠνάγκασεν
B. 6.53-56: At Gennesaret (Jewish territory) the 'unclean Jews' seek to touch the fringe of his garment.
1) 'traditions of men (ἄνθρωποι
2) 'undefiled hands' not necessary for eating (vv. 5 ff.);
3) 'all food are clean' (v. 19);
4) on basis of (2) and (3), Jews may eat with Gentiles;
5) All evil comes from within man, nothing from outside him (vv. 18-23) - i.e., this combats Hellenistic dualism and clearly indicates that it is man, not the good creation, that needs to be changed.
D. 7.24-30: The Syro-Phoenician woman: comes to Jesus by mercy (as a Gentile), not by right as do the Jews (who are the children of the table).01
E. 7.31-37: Healing of deaf-mute with spit at Saida (= Bethsaida = 'House of the Provider/Fisher/Hunter' - cf. 1.17: 'fishers of men'). Jesus provides for disciples' obedient hearing: one can only obey by God's grace that comes through Jesus.
F. 8.1-10: Feeding of about 4,000 mixed Jews and Gentiles in Decapolis; disciples 'hear' without any commands being given.
G. 8.11-12: Sign-seeking by Pharisees.
H. 8.13-21: Disciples, in boat, with loaf, still fail to understand the signs of the Feedings; they fail to perceive Jesus.
I. 8.22-26: Healing of blind man with spit at Bethsaida in two stages: Jesus provides for disciples' seeing that they may follow him in the way of the cross and understand. (E. and H. are closely parallel stories - cf. V. Taylor, St Mark, pp. 368-370.)
Note the only two miracles involving spitting: deaf-mute (7.31-7) and
blind man (8.22-26). These healings are concerned with the 'hearing' that
includes obedience ('heeding') and the 'seeing' that includes going in the way
of the cross.02
This can be seen by noting that the incident with the deaf-mute (7.31-37) who then hears and speaks 'correctly' (ὀρθῶς
The blind man (8.22-26) is healed in two stages: first seeing men like trees walking (see Judges 9, Jotham's parable: Cedars of Lebanon looking for a king, the only OT Passage in which trees travel), then seeing clearly. Peter's confession at Caesarea Phillip immediately follows (8.27 ff.). But Peter gets no further than confessing Jesus as the Christ (8.29), for as soon as Jesus says that the Son of Man must suffer (8.31), Peter stops short and objects (8.32 f.). But as Jesus goes up to Jerusalem we have the healing of blind Bartimaeus (10.45-52). Bartimaeus hails Jesus with the Messianic title, 'Son of David' (10.48), that is, he starts out from where Peter left off (but he uses 'Son of David' which is associated with mercy rather than 'Christ' which is associated with triumphant glory). Then the blind man, having called for mercy (10.48), i.e., knowing that he needs God's grace, springs up and comes to Jesus (unaided - 10.50). And when he has received his sight, he follows Jesus 'in the way' (10.52) to the Cross.
Mark's message is this: If you would know Jesus as the unique Son of God, you must go with him in the way of the Cross. There is no other way.
1In Mark the woman
replies in the same vein, speaking of the children's (παιδίων )
But Mark's version is not all that gentle. The woman, when faced with her being likened to a κυναρίοιν
2To use spit for healings was apparently considered to be a particularly potent thing to do, so that Jesus' use of spit may perhaps be meant as an indication of how difficult it is to make men really 'hear' and 'see' . But this is speculation. Back to text
), i.e. above all, since he never goes on to a second point, that the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God, i.e., the scriptural witness and its interpretation. It may be that Mark, in a slightly gentler manner, is making the same point.