Biblical and Theological Studies Faculty Publications

Listening to the Voice of the Storyteller in Mark's Gospel

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Review and Expositor





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Mark was a gifted storyteller, and recent scholarly studies on the narrative aspects of Mark's Gospel have the potential to help us listen more carefully to the voice of Mark the storyteller. This article draws on recent research into Mark's narrative in order to set out basic principles for interpreting a narrative like the one found in Mark. The first principle highlights the importance of interpreting Mark as a realistic narrative. The story on the surface level is what Mark's Gospel is about, and interpreters should resist any attempt to shift the meaning of Mark away from the story that it tells about Jesus. The second principle emphasizes the necessity of interpreting individual passages within the context of Mark's narrative as a whole. Since Mark's Gospel presents a unified narrative, each individual episode takes on meaning and significance through its place within the overall story. The third principle points out the need to interpret Mark's Gospel with a focus on Jesus. Since Jesus is the central figure in the story, any interpretation of Mark's narrative should emphasize what it communicates about Jesus and about what it means to follow him. These basic principles make it possible to avoid some of the more common pitfalls in Gospel interpretation: allegorizing, over-harmonizing, and moralizing.