Faith and failure in the gospel of Mark

Trainor, Barry L. (2018) Faith and failure in the gospel of Mark. Masters thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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The characters in Mark’s Gospel are animated and are of fundamental importance in his primary task of presenting the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mk 1:1). Among his key characters are the disciples (including the Twelve) and an array of minor characters, many of whom are portrayed in a positive light and often function as foils for the disciples, Jesus’ family and the religious authorities. These characters are compared against one another in terms of their knowledge, faith and courage and in relation to Jesus, and the story of negation and failure which emerges becomes one of Mark’s primary motifs permeating the entire narrative, i.e. the wilful blindness of humanity vis‐à‐vis the appearance of its Messiah. Although Mark’s initial representation of the disciples is positive, they begin to demonstrate a lack of understanding which then becomes misunderstanding, eventually culminating in rejection. In spite of Jesus engaging with them in private teaching, their lack of faith and deficiencies continue to place his mission in jeopardy and they move from being ‘insiders’, who receive the secret of the kingdom of God (4:11a) to becoming more like ‘outsiders’ (6:52; 8:17‐18; cf. 4:11b‐12). Even when their confusion concerning Jesus’ identity is partially resolved with Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, their obstinate misunderstanding of what messiahship means results in blindness preventing them from recognising the way of the cross which the Messiah must traverse and from accepting the full implications of true discipleship. In the narrative, Mark offers a converse portrait of select minor characters. These characters exhibit the work of the rule of God and their inclusion in the story serves as a counterbalance to the negation of the disciples. Mark divides these characters into two broad categories: the first are those who evince faith in Jesus and his proclamation on the incoming of the kingdom of God. They willingly repent and put their whole faith in God who acts through Jesus. The second category contains those characters who by their words, actions, or by their identities, convey the significance of service in the incoming kingdom and their role in the narrative is that of as exemplars of true discipleship. Accordingly they function as foils for Jesus’ disciples. Mark’s depiction of Jesus’ disciples has caused much scholarly debate concerning his possible theological motivations. Many scholars take the view that Mark’s theology incorporates a generally favourable estimation of the disciples, others that his depiction of them is balanced and a third group avows a primarily negative portrait. This dissertation is therefore an investigative and analytical study into Mark’s presentation of the failures of the disciples contrasted with the faith of the minor characters in his gospel and an exposition of the possible theological motives for the perceived ambiguities in his treatment of the disciples. Each of these motives will be considered in order to determine which of them is most likely to have been the author’s driving force.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: Lesley Cresswell
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2021 15:09
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2021 15:09

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