Mark’s Emphasis On Jesus’s Teaching, Part 1: Exploring A Neglected Motif -- By: Dane C. Ortlund

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 174:695 (Jul 2017)
Article: Mark’s Emphasis On Jesus’s Teaching, Part 1: Exploring A Neglected Motif
Author: Dane C. Ortlund

Mark’s Emphasis On Jesus’s Teaching, Part 1: Exploring A Neglected Motif*

Dane C. Ortlund

* This is the first article in a two-part series on the eschatological significance of teaching in Mark’s Gospel.

Dane C. Ortlund is Executive Vice President of Bible Publishing, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois.


While the Gospel of Mark is often thought to be more interested in action than in discourse, the Gospel in fact emphasizes the priority of teaching in Jesus’s earthly ministry. This distinctive emphasis becomes evident through surveying texts in Mark that highlight the teaching of Jesus as well as other recurring themes—the healing of deafness, Jesus’s title of “Teacher,” and the formula ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν. Part 2 considers the eschatological significance of this emphasis.

Mark’s Gospel is commonly taken to be the Gospel of action, concerned above all with portraying the mighty deeds of Jesus, culminating in his death on the cross. Episodes that appear in multiple Gospels will often be recounted with greater length and detail in Mark’s Gospel than in the others. At the same time, Mark has by far the fewest extended blocks of Jesus’s teaching. Studies of Mark accordingly cast the book as more interested in fast-paced action than in teaching. As Edwards says, “We learn who Jesus is not so much from what he says as from what he does.”1 Some treatments of Mark even build the “action” focus of Mark into their titles.2

All this is true. Mark is more fast-paced than the other three Gospels, and features such as the frequent use of εὐθύς, “immediately,” support this. Yet Jesus’s teaching is an important element to Mark’s portrait of the Messiah. This emphasis can be easily missed because Mark is the one Gospel that does not reproduce multiple large portions of Jesus’s teaching.3 Thus Theo Heckel observes that Mark 1:22 and Matthew 7:28 both speak of people who were astonished at Jesus’s teaching, yet Matthew 7:28 concludes a body of actual teaching, while Mark 1:22 gives none of the content of the teaching.4

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