Epic (1)

The word “epic” is overused by some these days – not everything is “epic,” just as not everything is “awesome”! The current use of the word amuses me and gives me fodder for classroom remarks that are to me marginally humorous. A wrong answer in class, or a bad quiz grade, may elicit the response “whoa! epic fail!” from a student, and I’ll minimize that by saying, “Naw. That was more like ‘short-story fail’ or maybe ‘limerick fail.'”

On the other hand, striking me as authentically “epic” are the connections in Mark’s gospel between “the way,” death, and baptism. As numerous scholar-commentators have pointed up, Mark tends to use chiastic or “sandwich” syntactical structures. These seem to occur in both large and small scales; one of the small-scale chiasms is seen when one analyzes the early part of chapter 1 as follows:

Gospel (1:1)

  • Desert (1:4)
    • Baptism (1:5-8)
    • Baptism (1:9-11)
  • Desert (1:12-13)

Gospel (1:14-15)

Considering the beginning and end of Mark as “bookends,” so to speak, we can also see the following relationships (this is difficult to format here on the blogsite):

A: 1:4-9 (beginning … forerunner … John points to Jesus)

  • B: 1:9-11 (Jesus’ baptism … splitting of the heavens … approval of the Father with “You are my son”)
    • C: 1:12-13 (Jesus is tested in the wilderness)
    • C’: 12:13-27 (Jesus is tested in the temple)
  • B’ 15:33-39 (Jesus dies, the temple veil is split, and the centurion’s voice shows approval with “Truly this was God’s son” )

A’ 16:1-8 (ending … “post-runner” … the young man points to Jesus)

We can then see relationships between A and A’, between B and B’, and between C and C’.

Tomorrow, the grander, even more “epic” epic!


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