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.