Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 8:1 (Spring 95) p. 89
“‘He Saved Others; He Cannot Save Himself’: A Literary-Critical Perspective on the Markan Miracles,” Frank J. Matera, Interpretation, January 1993, pp. 15–26.
In this article, a Roman Catholic scholar examines the miracles of the Gospel of Mark using the literary-critical method. In harmony with literary criticism, he doesn’t deny the historicity of Mark, but neither does he affirm it. Mark is merely treated as a unified narrative with thematic developments.
According to Matera, Mark describes Jesus’ preaching as summoning people to faith and repentance. The miracle narratives do the same. By describing Jesus’ healings and exorcisms, Mark presents Jesus’ miraculous activities in a way that proclaims the imminent kingdom and calls people to reform their lives. This is accomplished by Mark’s narrative plot: resistance to Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Two reactions inevitably accompany Jesus’ miracles. Since miracles are acts of salvation, those who experience His power to heal are those who repent and believe (cf. 2:5; 5:34; 10:32; etc.). But resistance to Jesus’ miracles demonstrates a lack of faith and repentance. So conflict arises.
Mark’s eighteen miracles are grouped by Matera into four categories. (1) Five miracles (1:21–3:6) follow Jesus’ pronouncement that the kingdom is near (1:15). These healings, together with summary descriptions of Jesus’ miracles in all of Galilee, allow Mark to depict Jesus’ preaching in terms of His miraculous activities. (2) Four miracles describe Jesus’ authority over nature, demons, sickness, and death (4:35–5:43). By avoiding intervening material, Mark ties these miracles to the parable discourse (4:1–34) and the concept of the inbreaking kingdom. (3) Six miracles (6:7-8:26) highlight the ongoing plot of conflict. Mark makes it obvious that many in the crowd have not understood Jesus’ messianic office and have not repented. (4) Three miracles follow the pivotal confession of Peter in 8:27–30. Here miracles portray the need to suffer—a new emphasis in light of Jesus’ imminent death.
The article lacks clear definitions of terms. What is meant by kingdom, repentance, and salvation? No distinction is ever made between kinds of salvation. In Mark, the word
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