Gospel of Mark Literary Structure

Literary Structure of St. Mark’s Gospel as proposed from different scholars

St. Mark, a disciple of Simon Peter, although not an eyewitness of Christ’s public ministry, wrote the second Gospel based on Peter’s direct information. [1]

According to Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch [1], Mark’s Gospel resists a neat and clearcut outline. Mark remains tucked behind his story and imposes no artificial structure on the traditions he has received; he is content, rather, to present the events of Jesus’ life as he learned them. For the sake of convenience, however, the Gospel may be divided into two major sections and two minor sections. The two major sections (1:16-8:30; 8:31-15:47) comprise most of Mark’s narrative and consist of various events that gradually build in momentum toward a climatic confession of faith. The Gospel’s two minor sections (1:1-15; 16:1-20) are small in size but great in importance. The Prologue (1:1-15) sets the stage for Jesus, narrating the preparation leading up to his public ministry. The Epilogue (16:1-20) crowns Mark’s story with the account of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. Below is the proposed structure:

1. Prologue: Preparations for the Messiah and His Forerunner (1:1-15)

  1. Preaching and Ministry of John the Baptist (1:1-8)
  2. Baptism of Jesus by John (1:9-11)
  3. Testing of Jesus by Satan (1:12-13)
  4. Jesus Begins to Preach the Gospel (1:14-15)

2. Public Ministry: The Messiah’s Secret and His Widespread Ministry (1:16-8:30)

  1. Jesus Becomes Popular and Controversial in Galilee (1:16-3:12)
  2. Jesus Teaches the Apostles through Words and Deeds (3:13-7:23)
  3. Jesus Travels to Gentile Regions (7:24-8:30)

3. Passion Narrative: The Suffering Messiah and Passion Week Narratives (8:31-15:47)

  1. Passion Predictions and Formation of Disciples on the Way to Jerusalem (8:31-10:52)
  2. Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem and His Conflict in the Temple (11:1-13:37)
  3. Last Supper, Trials, and Crucifixion of Jesus (14:1-15:47)

4. Resurrection Epilogue: The Risen Messiah and Easter Narratives (16:1-20)

  1. Empty Tomb of Jesus (16:1-8)
  2. Resurrection Appearances and Great Commission (16:9-18)
  3. Jesus’ Ascension and the Spread of the Gospel (16:19-20)

A second proposed outline for the literary structure of St. Mark’s Gospel is from the scholar, Robert M. Grant. This outlines reflects Mark’s basic understanding of the mission of Jesus. Below is the proposed structure:

 

I. The Gospel of the Kingdom (1:1-4:34)

◦A. The proclamation of the gospel (1:1-45)

◦B. The reception of the gospel (2:1-3:35)

◦C. Teaching about the reception of the gospel (4:1-34)

• II. The Inauguration of the Kingdom (4:35-8:26)

◦A. The incipient presence of the kingdom (4:35-5:43)

◦B. The rejection of the kingdom (6:1-29)

◦C. The kingdom anticipated (6:30-7:37; 8:1-26)

• III. The Recognition of Jesus as the Christ (8:27-9:13)

• IV. Through Death to Victory (9:14-16:8)

◦A. The way of the cross (9:14-10:52)

◦B. The Christ in Jerusalem (11-13)

◦C. The passion (14-15)

◦D. The resurrection (16:1-8)

 

Resources:

[1] Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament (Ignatius Press, 2010)

[2] Robert M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament (Harper & Row, 1963)

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