New Book: The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark (Skinner)

PICKWICK_TemplateAt the end of last week I received a package in the mail and I was thrilled to find inside a review copy of Gregg Morrison’s book, The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Markan Christology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014). Gregg and I were students at Catholic University between 2002 and 2007. During that time we sat in several seminars together and had the privilege (along with Kelly Iverson and Sherri Brown) of being Frank Moloney’s final doctoral students. Gregg is also a friend and I have been waiting for this book for some time. While I have not yet read the entire book, I remember the seminar paper that gave rise to the monograph and I’ve also heard Gregg give a paper on the subject. Gregg’s work is an engaging study in Markan Christology from a narrative perspective. Those interested in the Gospel of Mark need to put this one on the list!


4 thoughts on “New Book: The Turning Point in the Gospel of Mark (Skinner)

  1. I bought this book and am in the process of reading it. So far, it’s been very interesting. I like all books having to do with the structure of Mark.

    Personally, I see the GoM as a chiasmus. I also see the center section of Mark as a chiasmus:

    Inclusion (bookend): Jesus as John the Baptist/Elijah?
    A Peter’s Confession (Who is Jesus?: Answer: The Messiah)
    B Jesus’ 1st prediction of death and resurrection
    B’ Jesus’ teaching on B: “Pick up your cross …”, etc.
    A’ The Transfiguration (Who is Jesus?: Answer: “My Beloved Son”, the Son of God)
    Inclusion (bookend): John the Baptist as Elijah (JtB killed)

    The first half of Mark has the following inclusions (bookends):
    1) From Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God (1:1) … to … Jesus as the Messiah (Peter’s Confession) and Son of God (The Transfiguration).
    2) From Jesus as the Messiah (‘anointed’ with the Spirit at his baptism) and Son of God (God’s statement at Jesus’ baptism) (1:9-11) … to … Jesus as the Messiah (Peter’s Confession) and Son of God (The Transfiguration).
    3) God speaks (“You are My Beloved Son”) (1:11) … to … God speaks (“This is My Beloved Son”) (9:7)

    The first half builds to the climactic center where Jesus is both the Messiah and God’s Son. The purpose of the first half structure is to give Jesus authority (Messiah/Son of God). The Transfiguration ends with God saying, “Listen to Him”. I think that would be Mark’s major, overall first half point. Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of God: Listen to Him (based on everything you’ve heard here in the first half, He deserves that!)

    The second half of Mark has the following inclusion (bookend):
    From Jesus’ first prediction of death and resurrection (the center’s B) … to … Jesus’ actual death and resurrection.

    By creating a chiasmus at the center of Mark, Mark is able to reiterate the themes of the first half and second half. In other words, he’s doing something a little bit special with the first half end inclusion and the second half beginning inclusion. Instead of running the inclusions one after the other, he’s mixed them up a bit into a chiasmus, creating an additional opportunity to highlight their significance at the center – creating a beautiful center chiasmus.

    Overall, Mark’s center is very strong: Peter’s Confession, The Transfiguration, Jesus’ first prediction of death/resurrection, Bottom line: “Pick up your cross and follow me!”.

    The center section’s inclusion with John the Baptist is appropriate since it has to do with JtB’s death. In this way, the center section mentions JtB’s death, Jesus’ death, and the followers’ potential death (“pick up your cross …”). The ends and the center of the center chiasmus focuses on death – ~creating an outsides/center match.

    A lot more could be said … … but …

    The GoM is a very well organized book. Everything has it’s place.

    My chiasmus fills in the missing ending of Mark.

    PS. The second half inclusion (prediction of death/resurrection … to … actual death/resurrection) is one of three structural reasons why Mark ended his gospel at 16:8. By ending at 16:8, Mark has given his second half a good strong inclusion (bookend). A second structural reason Mark ended where he did was so his chiasmus’s center and end matched up (a common chiastic technique). Both the center and end are about Jesus’ death (resurrection) and the disciples’ response to it.

    • So, why wouldn’t Mark have created a normal first half end inclusion followed by a normal second half beginning inclusion? Ie., why wouldn’t he have created a center section that went in this order: Peter’s Confession, The Transfiguration (the two first half end inclusions – ending the first half), Jesus’s 1st prediction of death and resurrection (second half beginning inclusion – beginning the second half), and teaching based on the 1st predictions? … After all, that would have been a whole lot less confusing. … Because …

      1) Mark likes chiasmus. His gospel is a chiasmus and he uses chiasmus within it. Why not use it in his climactic center? … A chiasmus at the center of his chiasmus. Sounds good to me.

      2) As hinted in the comment above, by creating a chiasmus in the center, Mark is able to re-emphasize the basics of his first half, second half strategy. The first half, second half dynamic is basically reiterated by using a chiasmus at the center. The ‘who Jesus is’ question is answered in the chiastic base A/A’ (Peter’s Confession/Transfiguration). This then surrounds the theme of the second half, B/B’ (1st prediction/teaching). Overall, by using a chiasmus at the center, Mark has produced a secondary way of producing the basic 1st half, 2nd half outline/structure. (Mark’s first half was meant to give Jesus authority. The first half theme was meant to make the difficult second half theme easier to accept: eg., a dying Messiah. Imo, albeit, highly generalized.)

      3) Finally, by using a chiasmus, Mark actually highlights the B/B’ sections (prediction of death/resurrection, teaching), because they’re placed at the center of a chiasmus, and the center is typically the highlight within a chiasmus. It was important to highlight the prediction of death and resurrection at the very center of Mark to produce a match with the very end of Mark. … Really, the center and ending question for Mark revolved around the cross and persecution, whether one faces up to it or not, etc. This ultimately, imo, goes to the nature of Mark’s audience, which was likely facing persecution. (Mark even shortened his ‘resurrection scene’ at the end of Mark in order to place as much emphasis on the cross – the prior scene – as possible.)

      • If Mark’s center is a chiasmus, I wonder how the story just before the center should be interpreted? I.e., how should the story of the ‘healing of the blind man in 2 steps’ (BM2) be interpreted? Or, at least, how COULD it be interpreted?

        Some people think the BM2 story should be interpreted along side Peter’s Confession and Jesus’ first prediction of death and resurrection (the 2 stories following BM2). I.e., just as there were 2 steps needed to heal the blind man, understanding Jesus requires the 2 steps of ‘learning’ seen in Peter’s Confession and Jesus’ predictions (yes, (1) Jesus is the messiah, but also, (2) Jesus must die). It’s only when both ideas are fully understood that you really ‘see’ Jesus (who He is, and what He came to do; full vision, or understanding, is acquired).

        But if Mark’s center is a chiasmus, then the BM2 story could be applied a bit more broadly. In fact, BM2 is a nice illustration of what chiastic matches sometimes do. I.e., it nicely illustrates the chiastic principle of ‘this, and what’s more, that’. Or, in other words, e.g., A, and what’s more, A’. Or, B, and what’s more, B’. Or, A/A’, and what’s more, B/B’. In other words, here’s ‘some sight’/insight, what’s more, here’s more, or complete, sight/insight. In other words, here’s part of the picture, and what’s more, here’s the rest, or the complete, picture.

        Applied to Mark’s entire center, the BM2 story could be illustrating the what’s more principle in A/A’: Jesus is the messiah (Peter’s Confession, A), and what’s MORE, Jesus is also God’s Son/the Son of God (The Transfiguration, A’). Or, it could be applied to B/B’: I am going to be killed (Jesus’ prediction of death/resurrection, B), and what’s MORE, you need to be willing to ‘pick up your cross’ as well (Jesus’ teaching on his death, B’). Or, it could be applied to A/A’ // B/B’: I am the messiah and Son of God (~’listen to me’) (A/A’), … what’s more, I am going to die, and you should be willing to die (B/B’).

        Bottom line, when the center is viewed as a chiasmus, the BM2 story becomes a bit more broadly applicable.

        In reality, the BM2 story can be applied even more broadly than the center’s A to A’, B to B’, or A/A’ to B/B’ (or for that matter, based on a linear read, A (Peter’s Confession) to B (Jesus’ prediction of death/resurrection)). All the above reads may actually be secondary to Mark’s primary usage of the story. Interesting.

        Just saying … or, suggesting.

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