Mark as Story by David Rhoads

Table of Contents

Mark As Story : An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel
by David M. Rhoads, Joanna Dewey, Donald Michie

Paperback - 192 pages
2nd edition (March 1999)
Fortress Pr;
ISBN: 0800631609

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This book has 11 sample pages available for viewing at

From the Back Cover:  "The first edition of Mark as Story was a groundbreaking text showing teachers and students how to read Mark as a narrative.  The second edition, which adds Joanna Dewey to the authorial team, makes a good book even better.  Substantial revisions improve and update the text.  Insights from recent scholarship are incorporated while maintaining the focus on Mark as a story.  An Afterword on the ethics of reading has been added.  Of special note for the classroom use is their English translation of Mark.  It allows those who do not read Greek to gain a sense of the style of the original.  Two new appendices with exercises for students are also available." —Janice Capel Anderson, University of Idaho

"Any doubts about the maturation of a 'literary' approach to the New Testament Gospels, or its usefulness, ought to be dispelled by this brief but fruitful study. . . . The authors manage to derive insights from analysis of the text's rhetoric, its temporal and spatial frames, its plot and characters while writing a study that can be sued in any contemporary classroom." —William G. Doty, Interpretation

(page 1)

"When we enter the story of the Gospel of Mark, we enter a world of conflict and suspense, a world of surprising reversals and strange ironies, a world of riddle and hidden meanings, a world of subversive actions and political intrigues.  And the protagonist — Jesus — is most surprising of all.

"The Gospel of Mark deals with great issues — life and death, good and evil, God and Satan, triumph and failure, human morality and human destiny.  It is not a simple story in which virtue easily triumphs over vice, nor is it a collection of moral instructions for life.  The narrative offers not simple answers but tough challenges fraught with irony and paradox:  to be most important, one must be least; nothing is hidden except to become known; those who want to save their lives but lose them.

"Within the story, characters may think they understand their situation only to discover their expectations overturned:  the disciples follow Jesus expecting glory and power, only to find a call to serve and the threat of persecution; the authorities judge Jesus in order to preserve their traditions and authority, but they only bring judgment on themselves; the women come to anoint the dead Jesus, only to discover he is among the living.

"Not only is the story itself full of mysteries and ironies, but the author has told the story in order to transform the reader and to be a means to help bring about the rule of God.  The author has used sophisticated storytelling techniques, developed the characters and the conflicts, and built suspense with deliberateness, telling the story to generate certain insights and responses in the reader.  The ending has a surprising twist that leads readers to reflect on their own relation to the drama.  As a whole, the story seeks to shatter the readers' way of seeing the world and invites them to embrace another, thus impelling them to action."

Table of Contents (back)

Preface to the Second Edition

Introduction: The Gospel of Mark as Story
The Historical Context of the Gospel of Mark
What Type of Story Did Mark Write?
The Coherence of Mark's Narrative
The Story World
Guidelines for Reading Mark as a Story
A Narrative Method for Interpreting Mark

Chapter 1 — The Gospel of Mark
Introduction to the Translation
The Gospel of Mark

Chapter 2 — The Narrator
The Role of the Narrator
The narrator speaks from outside the story world
The narrator is not bound by time or space
Mark's narrator is fully omniscient
The narrator guides the reader by means of 'asides'
The narrator give the reader privileged knowledge

The Narrator's Point of View
The narrator is not neutral
The narrator's standards of judgment

The Narrator's Style and Tempo

The Narrator's Pattern of Repetition in Storytelling
Verbal threads
Foreshadowing and retrospection
Two-step progressions
Sandwiched episodes
Framing episodes
Episodes in a concentric pattern
Progressive episodes in series of three

Other Literary Features
Quotations from the writings


Chapter 3 — The Settings
Cosmic Settings

The Political-Cultural Setting

Patterns of movement on the journey
Jordan River
Gentile territory
The journey to Jerusalem
New beginning in Galilee

Settings recalling Israel's past

Jordan River
The desert
The sea

Public and private settings
The journey as the way of God


Chapter 4 — The Plot
Approaches to the Plot

The unity of Mark's plot
Beginning, middle, and end
Connections in Mark's plot
The fulfillment of nonfulfillment of expectations
The outcome of Mark's plot
The plot involves conflict

The Rule of God Initiates the Conflicts

Stage 1: The inauguration of the rule of God
Stage 2: The culmination of the rule of God

Jesus in Conflict with Nonhuman Forces

Jesus in Conflict with Authorities

The development of the conflict in the plot
The journey to Jerusalem
The authorities' side of the conflict:
Defending God's law
Jesus'' side of the conflict: Message and evasion

The resolution of the conflict

Jesus in Conflict with the Disciples

The development of the conflict in the plot
The journey to Jerusalem

The disciples' side of the conflict: Overwhelmed by the rule of God

Jesus' side of the conflict: Making faithful disciples
The resolution of the conflict


Chapter 5 — The Characters I: Jesus

Approaches to Characterization
Characters as types
Standards of judgement
Comparison and contrast
Traits of the characters
Identification with characters

Agent of the rule of God
The authority of Jesus
Serving and not lording over others
Renouncing self, being least, and losing life for others
Jesus faces death
The execution
The meaning of Jesus' crucifixion
The empty grave

Chapter 6 — The Character II: The Authorities, the Disciples, and the People
The Authorities
No authority from God
No love for God or neighbor
Blind and deaf
Willful blindness
The authorities save themselves
Fear is at the root of their actions
The authorities lord over people
The reader and the authorities

The Disciples
Faith, loyalty, and authority
Lack of understanding, fear, and lack of faith
Seeking glory and resisting death on the journey
Fear and flight in Jerusalem
The failure of the disciples
After the resurrection
The reader and the disciples

The People
Losing life, being least, and serving
Comparison and contrast with other characters
Ongoing discipleship
The crowds
The reader and the minor characters


Conclusion: The Reader

The Rhetoric

The Ideal Reader
Stage 1: Experiencing the rule of God
Stage 2: Overcoming resistance to the way of God
Stage 3: Facing persecution and execution in Jerusalem
The Ending

Hypothetical First-Century Audiences

Contemporary Readers

Afterword: Reading as a Dialogue: The Ethics of Reading

Appendix 1: Exercises for an Overall Literary Analysis of Mark

Appendix 2: Exercises for a Narrative Analysis of Episodes


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