|Gospel of Mark|
Mark 7 is the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. This chapter explores Jesus's relationship's with both fellow Jews and Gentiles. Jesus (according to some interpretations) rejects Jewish kosher food laws and then heals two gentiles, one begrudgingly. Scholars debate just how most of this reflects Jesus's own view and how much is reflective of the conflict between Jewish and Gentile converts in the early Church.
Clean and unclean
Some Pharisees come from Jerusalem to see Jesus and see some of his disciples eating without washing their hands. Mark then explains to his audience the Jewish custom of washing before dinner, indicating a non-Jewish audience. They ask Jesus why they are not obeying the custom and Jesus replies with a quote from Isaiah 29:13 and tells them "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." (8). He rebukes them for letting a man who makes an offering to God, i.e. money to the priests, no longer help his parents, in violation of the fifth commandment. That this was done is not found in other sources of the period, although "...rabbinic Jewish texts suggest that vows may be broken in such circumstances." (Miller 29)
He calls people to listen to them and explains that "Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" (15) Later his disciples (students) tell him they didn't understand him and he scolds them for being "dull". He explains to them that food can't make you unclean but "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" (20-23) meaning intention of the "heart" is more important than ritual. What foods you eat will not matter to God. According to Kilgallen "...ultimately what is at stake here is knowledge of the divine will: Who knows best what God wants human beings to do." (135) This view is contrasted to the controversy, such as at the Council of Jerusalem, within the Early Church over just how much Mosaic law one must obey. Mark uses this story as evidence for his view in the Pauline direction, making scholars question how much of it is actually Jesus's own teaching and how much of it is Mark trying to win Gentile converts. If the author really is Saint Mark then this would indicate that his group, Peter's circle, had come around in the Pauline direction. The saying, not the explanation, however is also found in the Gospel of Thomas saying 14.
The Syrophoenician woman and the deaf mute man
Mark then contrasts Jesus's fight over obeying Jewish law with two healings of Gentiles. Jesus travels to two cities in what is now Lebanon. Mark tells the story of the Syrophoenician woman who finds Jesus at a friend's house in Tyre and begs him to heal her demon possessed daughter. He brushes her off, saying ""First let the children eat all they want,...for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." (27), where the children are the children of Israel and the dogs are the Gentiles, a metaphor found in other Jewish writing (Kilgallen 138). "'Yes, Lord,' she replied, 'but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.'" (28) He's impressed with her answer and tells her to go home and she returns home to find her daughter healed. This is one of the few times, and the only time in Mark, that Jesus performs a miracle at a distance, that is he does not touch nor is he near the girl. He only says it will be done and it is done, by his will alone. This passage shows that, according to Mark, Jesus's primary mission was to the Jews first and only then the Gentiles but Gentiles, as long as they have belief, can be part of that mission as well.
Jesus goes to the Decapolis and comes across a crippled man who is deaf and mute. He touches his ears and touches his tongue with his own spit and says "Ephphatha! (which means, 'Be opened!')" (34), Mark translating from the Aramaic. The man regains his hearing and speech and word quickly spreads. In this miracle, as opposed to the woman, Jesus uses specific techniques, (the touching, the spit, the word), to effect a cure. This passage could be a fulfillment of Isaiah 35:5-6.
- Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament Doubleday 1997 ISBN 0-385-24767-2
- Kilgallen, John J. A Brief Commentary on the Gospel of Mark Paulist Press 1989 ISBN 0-8091-3059-9
- Mark 7 NIV Accessed 21 November 2005
- Miller, Robert J. The Complete Gospels Polebridge Press 1994 ISBN 0-06-065587-9
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