The Poor Widow Who Gave At The Temple: Narrative Logic In Mark 12:41–44 -- By: David E. Malick
PP 33:4 (Fall 2019) p. 8
The Poor Widow Who Gave At The Temple:
Narrative Logic In Mark 12:41–44
David E. Malick has a ThM and has completed PhD coursework at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). He was an assistant professor at DTS and Southeastern Bible College. He does doctoral work at the University of South Africa, practices law, and continues to teach the Scriptures at his church in Birmingham, Alabama.
This article is a highly abbreviated version of ch. 3 of the author’s dissertation, “Biblical Gender Studies and Literary Analysis: Contributing Different Perspective on Women in the Gospel of Mark” (University of South Africa, forthcoming).
In Mark 12:41–44, a woman shows the readers the way to follow Christ as she foreshadows the suffering that lies ahead for Messiah and for the disciples by giving her “whole life” to God. Thus, she should not be overlooked in the Bible’s long list of exemplary women. Through Mark’s artful storytelling, this unnamed woman—whom Jesus witnesses giving an offering in the temple—encapsulates the self-giving life of Christ and foreshadows the lives of all Christians who follow Jesus well.
Reading In Context
We have all heard how a simple word can have several meanings depending on its context: “Trunk,” for example, can mean the back of a car, the “nose” of an elephant, the stem of a tree, a storage unit, the core of a person. What is true for individual words is also true for phrases, sentences, and even larger units of text. For example, Jesus’ proclamation to Nathaniel in John 1:51, that “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (NRSV), only has clarity when it is read with awareness of the context of Jacob’s encounter with God at “Bethel” in Gen 28:10–19. As an integrated part of the canon of Scripture, Genesis allows the reader to understand that Jesus is proclaiming himself to be the new “Bethel,” which means “house of God.” Likewise, the account of the poor widow who gave at the temple (hereafter “the Widow”) in Mark 12:41–44 is clarified by giving close attention to its immediate and broader contexts.
Mark’s Geographic Structure
Starting at a broad level, we should recognize Mark’s attention to geography and location. The account of the Widow falls in and around Jerusalem. Literarily, locations help Mark structure his Gospel as in the following diagram:1
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