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Yeshua in Context » Gospel Genres, Literary Features, Reading Strategies » Three Pillar Stories in Mark

Three Pillar Stories in Mark

Mark’s gospel is organized as a series of short scenes in a style similar to the chreia of Greek rhetoric, descriptive scenes that show something about the character. Scene after scene, Mark’s chreia serve the purpose introduced in Mark 1:1, to show that Yeshua is Messiah and Son of God. I think the demonstration of Yeshua’s identity has a double edge: to the Jewish and Greco-Roman world. The following is a clue to Mark’s organization.

C. Myers (Binding the Strong Man, Orbis, 1988) calls the baptism event one of three “pillar stories” around which Mark organizes his gospel. The other two are the transfiguration (9:2-8) and crucifixion (15:33-41). What do these stories have in common and how to they organize Mark’s gospel?

At the baptism the heavens split and a dove descends. At the transfiguration Yeshua’s garment turns white and a cloud descends. At the crucifixion the veil is rent and darkness spreads. The voice from heaven calls out about Yeshua’s sonship at the baptism and transfiguration, but at the crucifixion there is only Yeshua’s anguished shout. The voice from heaven calls Yeshua Son in the first two, but a centurion affirms that he is the Son at the crucifixion. All three incidents mention Elijah as well.

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