Reopening the Word: Reading Mark as Theology in the Context of Early Judaism

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Overview

This book asks: How might the earliest gospel have been heard by those first followers of Jesus who were religious Jews? Assuming that the earliest Jesus traditions took their shape from forms familiar to Judaism, Sabin sets the composition of Mark in the context of the theological discourse of first-century Judaism. In that context, she notes, all theology was biblical. It took the form of an exchange between current events and Scripture: contemporary persons and happenings were understood through the lens of the Hebrew Bible, while at the same time, the biblical word was reopened—that is, reinterpreted—so as to reveal its relevance to the present faith-community.

Applying this kind of compositional process to the Gospel of Mark, Sabin uncovers a fresh reading of the seed, fig tree, and vineyard parables; of the various Temple scenes; of the foolish disciples and the wise women; and of the controversial ending. She highlights the results of her findings by juxtaposing them with interpretations of the same passages given by various church fathers such as Origen, Irenaeus, and Bede, as well as by readings from the twentieth century. The results are provocative.

Sabin sees Mark as an original theologian shaping his material out of two primary Jewish traditions: the Wisdom traditions, with their emphasis on God's presence in daily life, and Creation theology, which imagined the End Time not as a catastrophe but as a return to the Garden. She thus offers a new way of understanding Mark's use of Scripture, his eschatology, and his presentation of Jesus.

In conclusion, she argues that retrieving Mark's voice in the context of Early Judaism brings with it insights much needed in our day: of God's presence in the ordinary; of God's image reflected in female as well as male; of watchfulness as the way of wisdom; of God's revelation as ongoing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sabin's many keen observation, provocative suggestions, and intriguing statements throughout the book succeed in giving Mark a theological voice . Offers readers genuine insight for a deliberately reflective reading of Mark."— The Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"This is a very noteworthy volume. In a very complicated field, the author writes in an admirably lucid, uncluttered style and draws upon the vast pertinent sources. The Gospel of Mark is one of the most scrutinized of all the Gospels. Dr. Sabin recognizes that it has been treated theologically, literarily, liturgically, and catechetically; but she is innovative in suggesting a fresh approach to that Gospel....After a very illuminating chapter in which she sets forth the meaning of the term Midrash, she examines Mark as a midrashic document. To show how such a midrashic approach leads to new insights, she juxtaposes her midrashic exegesis of Mark with one of the early Church Fathers and that of a contemporary exegete....The result is a presentation of Mark which is often provocative and enriching: it may prove to be seminal."—-W.D. Davies, Duke University

"Sabin reminds us that in reading Mark's Gospel we must never forget that its author is a first-century Jewish writer who engages the entire Hebrew Bible in communicating his evaluation of Jesus, his followers, and his adversaries. She consequently claims that only an understanding of the Midrashic interpretation of Scripture in Mark's time can unlock the nature of his Gospel. Her aim is to counter longstanding standard approaches to the interpretation of Mark. She is singularly successful. Time and again she produces original insights into our understanding of Mark. She expresses her ideas powerfully and clearly and commendably communicates to the reader exactly what positions she is arguing for and why they differ from the mainstream ones. Her criticism of major scholars in the field is sophisticated and persuasive. I have not encountered better."—Calum M. Carmichael, Cornell University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195143591
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Lexile: 1430L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Independent scholar with a Ph.D. in English from Yale and an M.A. from Union Theological Seminary; author of The Gospel According to Mark in the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series (2006)

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Table of Contents

1. The Theological Context of Mark
Searching for the Origins of Mark
Retrieving the Jewish Context Connecting With Christian Tradition Dialoguing With the Text Rereading Mark as Theology in the Context of Early Judaism

2. Scripture Interpreting Scripture: Reopening the World
The Opening Verse
The Seed Parables

3. Scripture Intersecting History: Mark's Eschatology
The Outer Frame of Chapter 13
The Inner Frame of Chapter 13
"The Desolating Sacrilege': The Core Evil Images of Hope Summary

4. From the Temple to the Cross: An Exegetical Journey
The Temple, the Fig Tree, and the Vineyard
The Exegetical Debates in the Temple From False Witness to Revelation in the Temple Summary

5. The Identity of the Markan Jesus: A Meshal
Jesus as "the Messiah"
Jesus as "the Beloved Son"
Jesus as "the Son of Man"
Jesus as "Son of David" and "Son of Mary"
Jesus as "Wisdom"

6. The Discipleship of Wisdom: A Process of Transformation
The Foolish Disciples
The Disciples' Potential for Transformation Women Transformed: The Ending of Mark is the Beginning of Wisdom

7. The Unending Revolution: Mark 16:8 as a Theological Choice
The Spurious Ending
The Textual Evidence for Mark 16:8
The Canonical Argument for Mark 16:8
How Mark 16:8 Fits the Literary Shape of Mark's Gospel
16:8: Mark's Theological Voice Conclusion

Notes Bibliography Index of Ancient Texts Index of Authors and Subjects

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