Tag Archives: Lenten Mark Study

mark study: day 2

a sign along the Sea of Galilee...gotta watch out for those shorts

One thing that I’ve found to be fairly essential in ‘manuscript study’ is the ability to sit with the questions, without rushing in to answer them. This is something that we who are Americans are not always great at, with our unquenchable optimism in our ability to overcome any obstacle, whether we know what it is or not. It doesn’t mean that we can never have answers, or that answers are inherently evil or wrong. But it does mean that, at times, we might need to sit with the questions without having all the answers. I believe that in that ‘sitting’ is found part of the powerful experience of this type of study.

So, for Day 1, I’ve posted some  thoughts/questions/observations. Perhaps they resonate with you. Perhaps they frustrate you or confuse you. Whichever it is, let them roll around a bit, and keep them within reach as we continue through Mark to see what might happen to them.

Oh, one other caveat. Often those of us who have grown up in the church are used to consulting ‘experts’ when it comes to a study of the Bible. We who have gone to seminary are probably even worse when it comes to this reliance on ‘experts.’ Again, I’m not saying commentaries or scholars are bad–many have devoted their lives to this study and of course have a vast knowledge to share from that. But for now, for this time, let’s not rush to see what the experts say, but let’s dwell in the text and see where it leads us.

…..

So, to begin Day 2, which begins at page 2 line 1 (“And passing along by the Sea of Galilee…”) until page 3 line 11 (“And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”) Remember, the questions you are asking are “What do you see?” and “Where do you see it?” What do you notice repeated, left out, described…what surprises you, what is confusing to you?

Some of my questions/observations (and feel free to add your own):

  • Line 4, “immediately they left their nets and followed him”: Were they just bored of the whole fishing thing? They were in the middle of casting a net, which makes one think they were a little busy. But ‘immediately’ they followed. What was it about Jesus, the way he spoke or looked or acted, that made them so ready to ditch what they were doing and obey him, hook line and sinker? (sorry, couldn’t help myself…)
  • Line 6: Same thing with James and John. They left their father, in the middle of mending the nets. This time the ‘immediately’ is Jesus calling them (Line 7).
  • ‘Immediately’ (line 10) on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. What did he teach? Why were they so astonished? How had the scribes been teaching? (obviously, sometimes we will ask questions for which we may never have answers…that’s okay, keep asking)
  • Line 13: ‘immediately’ again–this time a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue
  • Line 14: unclean spirits are talking to Jesus? Who is this guy? What do we make of the fact that the ‘unclean spirit’ knows something about Jesus that the others present don’t seem to understand?
  • Line 19: they were amazed. In line 11 they were astonished. ‘a new teaching, with authority’ seems to be the cause.
  • Line 24: immediately again. This time he left.
  • Line 25: If Simon has a mother-in-law, then where is Simon’s wife?
  • Line 26: “immediately they told him of her.” The opening of  the book of Mark seems to be in quite a hurry…
  • Line 29: ‘at sundown’–pay attention to time of day being referenced. What would this mean? In this case, it had been the sabbath, so ‘at sundown’ would signal the end of the sabbath. If the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law happened before this, then Jesus had healed her on the sabbath, something that gets him in trouble later, but actually, we’re not supposed to be reading ahead… 😉
  • Line 29: ‘all who were sick or possessed with demons’–really? All of them? Wonder how many that was? Seems like it could have been quite chaotic…

Page 3

  • Line 1: the whole city was gathered together. That’s likely a big crowd.
  • Line 2: ‘he healed many who were sick.’ But not all? What about the others? If they all had come, why were only ‘many’ healed? Was he not capable of healing the rest? Did he run out of time?
  • Line 4: how/why did the demons know him? What does that mean?
  • Line 5: ‘lonely place’ Was Jesus an introvert? What did he pray? How did he pray?
  • Line 8-9: Jesus seems unconcerned that ‘everyone is searching for you’. If he had any PR sense he’d take the opportunity to launch his movement with all of this momentum behind him, wouldn’t he? That doesn’t seem to be his strategy…
  • Line 9: ‘preach there also’ What had he been preaching? What was the content of the preaching? Have we seen that yet? (hint, page 1)

So, those are some thoughts to get you started…

 

Mark study: day 1

Tuk tuks are great, but a bit crazy, transportation in Bangkok

Perhaps it is because I wish that I were in Thailand right now, participating in person in one of these manuscript studies, or perhaps it is simply that by ‘giving up travel’ for Lent I’ve actually got the time to dedicate to it, but either way, here goes, Mark manuscript study, Day 1.

The first thing you will need, if you’d like to join me (and, by the way, if you are the LAST person in the world who would ever do something called ‘Bible study’ then you are most definitely the FIRST person I’d invite to  contribute–part of what has made these studies so rich for me in the past is the variety of people, from so many backgrounds, that have offered their observations, thoughts, and insights)…where was I?

Oh yeah, the first thing you will need is a pdf of the Mark text. I’d recommend printing it out–it will be 43 pages, so be prepared.

The pdf of the Mark text that I’ve posted at that link already has the appropriate line and page numbers for easy reference. This method depends on using the same line/page numbering technique.

So, Day 1 begins with Page 1, lines 1-27 (that’s the entirety of page 1). If we were in a group together we’d have about 30 minutes to read the page on our own (now you can see why some get antsy, thinking 30 minutes is WAY too much time to read one page) asking the questions ‘What do you see?’ and ‘Where do you see it?’

As much as possible cajole yourself into staying with the text in front of you–don’t read line one and say “Well, John says this about the gospel…” That’s cheating. However, if the text is quoting something from the Hebrew Scriptures (such as page 1, line 2) it is completely fair game to go and try to find where that quote is, if it is actually quoted correctly (just a hint, this one is not…)

So, on page 1, what do you notice? What do you see? What is the gospel (according to page 1!)? What words or phrases are repeated? What is confusing? What is intriguing? Pretend that you are Book of Mark CSI and pay attention to clues, hints, and random stuff that makes you wonder why the author included it.

From a methodological perspective, it can be helpful, or at least colorful, to use the same color to denote certain things. Use colored pencils or pens, whichever you prefer. Write all over the text–that’s what it is there for. So, if you see a word repeated, use the same color, or circle it, or do something to mark it. Or a certain phrase, or perhaps when you are given the location, or the time of day.

After the 30 minutes is up then we’d share what we observed with a group of 6-8 people around a table, taking turns to hear what one another observed, wondered, noticed. After a while of discussing around tables, we’d then open the conversation up to the larger group (usually about 25-30 in a larger group) and see what played out. Obviously, in this context, that is a bit impossible. So, feel free to simply eavesdrop and read along, or even better, contribute a thought or two.

Just a note on etiquette: it is essential in this type of study that all voices are allowed to contribute, that no one is belittled or shamed for a perspective, and that common courtesy is practiced. It doesn’t mean folks can’t disagree, but it does mean that it must be done in a manner that is respectful. It’s unfortunate, but often the most ‘religious’ of us are the worst offenders in terms of how we treat those with whom we disagree. Let’s give that up for Lent too.

what is ‘manuscript study’ (and why in the world would I care?)

Page 1 of Mark manuscript

I first came upon the concept of ‘manuscript study’ in Bangkok, Thailand. I realize, a form of studying the Bible is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Bangkok. Nor the second. Nor the third. And yes I did partake of much that Bangkok has to offer–amazing Thai massage, beautiful Buddha statues in temples, and of course green curry, tom yum, and pad Thai with incredible flavor and dirt cheap. No, I did not partake in the ‘other’ side of Bangkok, but I did go on a tour of the red light district with an organization called Night Light that seeks to rescue women from sexual slavery and exploitation. But more on that later.

Back to manuscript study. I was blown away by it from my first encounter. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but each of the three times I’ve participated in this week-long event, it has been incredibly rich. I’ve tried to describe it a few times, including an article I wrote for Princeton Seminary called ‘Wonder Bread.‘ I wrote about it again after my experience with it four years later.

The basic gist is to take a book of the Bible (the gospel according to Mark is what is often used), take out the chapters, the verse numbers, the paragraphs and print it out, as in from the computer. Mark is about 42 pages. Well, the shorter ending of Mark. But that’s another story too. Each page has a page number (in case you drop the pile, it makes for much easier ordering than playing “I wonder what comes next” with the text) and each page is also given line numbers, every 5 lines, so that you can refer to a particular location such as “On page 1, line 10, what does it mean that they were confessing their sins?”

The format is part of it–take the study away from those paper thin pages in that leather-bound book and it can help to make it more accessible, or at least easier to write all over it without feeling guilty for ‘messing it up.’ With no chapters and verses there are no arbitrary stopping or starting points, and the story itself is allowed to dictate where one section ends and another begins.

But more than the format is the style in which the manuscript is studied. I’ve grown up in the church, so I’ve been a part of many Bible Studies, some better than others. What often seems to happen is that the text can be used as a springboard for something else. So, instead of studying Mark, we actually bring in Ephesians or Acts or Revelation, none of which are bad, necessarily, but they are not Mark. In the method of manuscript study (mss) one is forced to stay with the text at hand.

The two main questions, in this format, are ‘What do you see?’ and ‘Where do you see it?’ This, again, helps the study to stay focused within the text in question, and to try to curb the tendency amongst some to leave the text behind and pontificate on a topic of choice.

It can feel limiting at first. It can be frustrating. It can feel slow.

In our Mark 1 group (the first half of Mark–it is a two part series, with each half taking up one week)  we spent the entire first day on page 1. An entire day, 9AM to 5PM, on roughly 300 words. Among the other westerners in the group (people come from around the world) you could see the obvious body language of “Okay, I’m done with page 1, can we move on now?!” as they shuffled their papers and fidgeted in their chairs, questioning the decision to devote a week to this madness. But by the end of day 2? They didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. Seriously. It’s that engaging, that engrossing. I know, it sounds a bit crazy. But I’ve flown half way around the world three times to be a part of this process.  (well, the food and the Thai massage are enticing as well…)

So, since I can’t make it to Thailand this year I’ve decided that I’m going to attempt a blog version of a Mark study. Will it work? Don’t know, I’ve never tried it before. Seems like it’s worth a shot.