Table of Content



I. Jesus' Ministry in the Gospel of Mark

A. The Problem of Two Levels: the Historicity and the Markan Story-telling

B. Observations on Jesus' Ministry in Mark

1. Markan Literary Devices:

2. The Markan Description --- The Growing process of Jesus' Ministry


d. His supporters and opponents:

e. The religious issues at stake: spiritual authority and true holiness.




Without the grace of God, I will not have the chance to write this thesis. He has given me a very supportive, charming and loving wife, Enid. She encourages me when I am upset. In midst of hardship and severe difficulties, she prays with me and assists me to solve the problems. The Scripture says, "...but a prudent wife is from the LORD." (Prov. 19:14b). I have to thank the LORD and her.

Besides, I am indebted to many people for their support and assistance in the preparation and writing of this thesis. Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Karl Olav Sandnes who introduces the sociological approach to me and helps me to choose this thesis. After that, Dr. Kari Heikki Olavi Latvus has given me some guidelines to modify my outline. Dr. Karl Hermann Mhlhaus has helped me to find some information in Germany. Finally, I want to thank my advisor, Dr. Nils Aksel Rosaeg, who has lent his own books to me. Without the help of these materials, my research would be almost an impossible task. I would like to thank his kindness to lend me these books. His endurance to help me going through this difficult writing process is highly applauded.

I want to show my appreciation to the Christians who have supported me during these two years of study. Especially, I would like to thank the Christians from Garden Estate Baptist Church (previously serving church), Hong Kong Evangelical Zion Church (mother church), Lock Tao Christian Association Shatin Church (internship), and Korean Exodus Mission Church (internship).

I thank the people who will use this article to develop new insights. May the LORD bless your study and His words will enlighten you as they help me! May the people of God gain more lights from His words and live accordingly.


In this following section, I will discuss the aim and scope of this study. After that, I will analyze the theses and methodology used. This will help us to be aware of the pitfalls and limitations in this research.

A. The Aim and Scope of this Study

In the following I will argue, briefly, for my choice of the gospel of Mark as the basis for the following investigations.

Though Albert Schweitzer has written a classic on this subject, problem of "historic Jesus" is still an unsolved problem in Biblical study. Bultmann and Barth emphasized the dialectic and existentialist theology did away with the research on historical Jesus. Surprisingly out of Bultmann's own pupils and friends, like Ernst K酲emann, re-emphasized the significance of historical Jesus to theology. Starting from the late 1980's, J. H. Charlesworth has introduced an inter-confessional, historical (secular) approach to this problem. On the other hand, the contributions of Gerd Theissen on the sociological approach also helps to rekindle the research on historical Jesus.

However, there are several problems imbedded to this issue. To name some, the fragmentary nature of the gospels and the discordant records among them are some of the difficulties involved. Also, the attitude towards history is different in Jesus' times and modern times. In that time, "history" is written to serve the author's purpose; however, in modern times, the historical accuracy is demanded. But even under this requirement, the bias and the pre-understanding (Vorverst鄚dnis ) will also affect the writing of modern authors.

Since the problem is not yet solved, I deliberately choose one gospel to prevent the problematic discussion that may diverge our concentration on Jesus' ministry. Hence, for due pursued purpose, the perspective on Jesus' Ministry is from one gospel only (i.e., the gospel of Mark). This means that we must always be aware of the narrow view used in this thesis. However, in order to throw more light on the texts under discussion, also other gospels are usually used. Besides, the works of Josephus, rabbinical traditions, non-canonical gospels, and other related Christian works will be at times used to enlighten and countercheck the Markan description.

We must now explain why we choose Mark. Since the study on "movement" demands analysis on events in chronological order, the topical tendency of Matthew is against this necessity. Matthew seems to have freely rearranged the Markan material and adds other sources when he feels fit; but editorial fatigue step in at the later part of his gospel, where he sticks to Markan order. Hence, his arrangement of the chronological order will provide us no more hints than Mark does. Besides, Matthew tends to omit details in the narrative of the stories. For example, the stories in Mark 5 that make up 43 verses are re-told by Matthew in 8:28-34; 9:18-26 in only 16 verses. This feature limits our search for sociological evidence that may be found in some details in the narrative. Matthew is therefore not an appropriate choice for this study.

On the other hand, the gospel of John has fewer details of directly human interest comparing with the Synoptics; it is emphasized a lot on its proclamation function (Jn 20;31). Hence, it shows at times undefined length of Jesus' teaching and mentions only these occurrences (e.g., Jn 3:22; 7:1; 10:40-42; 11:52). The loss of details is definitely not suitable for this study. In addition to that, the time of Jesus' ministry revealed in John is greatly different from the picture in the Synoptics that means a harder comparative job is needed when the research is based on it.

The option then falls on Luke or Mark. Mark is believed by most scholars as the earliest gospel, and its chronological framework is followed by Luke. Certainly, Luke can provide us 220 verses of Q-material and 550 verses of special material, but most of them are parables or sayings, which are not decisive for this study. Besides, Luke is often dependent on Mark. This tendency forces us to consult Mark when we deal with Luke. To simplify this job, choosing Mark seems to be a reasonable one.

The choice of the term "Jesus' Ministry" is intentionally to distinguish from "Jesus movement". The later is commonly used to include the activities of the apostles; in contrast Jesus' Ministry is confined to Jesus, starting from his first calling of disciples and ends with his resurrection.

B. Methodology and Theses used

1. Methodology used

As argued, this study is mainly based on Mark which is a redacted writing on Jesus' life. This poses some limitations on the rediscovery of the historical Jesus. I deliberately focus at this gospel to simplify the work and to make it more pointed. But the use of other sources is a way to balance this weakness. For example, the use of Josephus' works. Josephus' source is important, but he is writing with an apologetic reason, so his source should be critically received. Scholars like Rhoads uses his life and other sources as control.

In order to reconstruct the social situation of Jesus' times, sometimes we have to expand the information by means of argument from silence. However, G. M. Styler reminds us that the handling of argumentum e silentio is a risky business. Those arguments may be imposed on the texts by the presuppositions of the researchers without noticing the great gap between Jesus' world and modern society. For example, some scholars assume that Jesus is related to the Essenes or the 'zealots' (which is assumed to be an organized sect). We don't have information to prove it. On the contrary, evidences seem to run to the opposite. In order to prevent this fallacy, I will try to seek some supports from the texts and other sources related to these arguments.

We will "impose" modern sociological theories of social movements on the biblical description. But the cultural differences are significant for us. Therefore we have to compare this analysis with the contemporary movements to balance the views. On the other hand, a methodological drawback must be notified: From the perspective of sociological movement theory, the similarities of the movements are the key concern. However, the distinctiveness of Jesus' ministry is not found in these characteristics. Therefore, I try to find the similarities by means of the theories, and then deliberately search for something special in Jesus' ministry. If something specific is found, it would be better to compare with the contemporary movements.

2. Theses used

a. Jesus is a prophetic figure who starts a revival movement that is very sensitive in religious and political aspects. He follows the line of John the Baptist and has a very close relationship with John's revival movement. Many of Jesus' disciples are previously John's. Jesus chose to have a lower key on political matters than John; at times, he tried to prevent political risks.

b. Jesus has deliberately planned his movement according to the developmental needs of his ministry of particular times, rather than using a pre-determined plan when he first started his works. Of course, he adjusted to the needs and the leading of God the Father. When Jesus faced increasing oppositions from the Pharisees and scribes, he gradually lost the hope of the repentance of the religious establishment. He then changed to train his disciples and prepared to die for them in the cross. The full humanity of Jesus Christ is stressed here. If he is fully man, he then will have a limitation of knowledge. If he knows everything in details beforehand, then his actions and thought will all be make-up acts only. I would suggest that the divine part of Jesus notify the human part of Jesus when "it" is ready. Therefore, when Jesus said that he did not know the time of the "end" of the world, he was not telling a lie. Sometimes, he did show a knowledge of the future. For example, he spoke of the end times in Mt 24. But he said that "this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Mt 24:34). This obviously didn't happen. He seemed to know something of the end times, but the real time of it was still ambiguous to him. The so-called eschatological message of Jesus, as I proposed, was actually believed by Jesus to actualize very soon. This thought was brought down to later generations by his disciples also. In short, I think the eschatological debate should take note of the "development" of Jesus awareness. He might not see God's whole plan clearly in the early stage of his ministry. This seems to be clearer only in the later stage. Thus, Jesus knew that he should die for the people; only after the continued, increasing and strong oppositions from the religious authority (i.e. somewhat in Mk 6-8).

c. Jesus' ministry was initially successful as he attracted many followers. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem aroused the "danger consciousness" of the priestly class, who decided to get rid of him. They feared the outbreak of revolt against the Romans. (cf. High priest' prophecy and Gamalel's mention of Judas the Galilean).

d. Jesus' ministry has a few distinctive characteristics compared with the contemporary movements: Jesus' authority is not like the Scribes, Pharisees (traditions), priests (institutional), the magicians (charismatic, he demands personal faith), the "kings" (he rejects to be accepted as king, Jn 6). Jesus' ministry has its distinctiveness (contra E.P. Sanders in Jesus and Judaism, esp. pp. 31-320). Sanders holds that Jesus stands within the tradition of Jewish restoration theology. Thus, he is not against a trivial legalistic system, but holds the tradition which is acceptable to his contemporary. This idea can't explain with convictions why Jesus' contemporary oppose him. I suggest that Jesus lies in the prophetic tradition that is a charismatic leader proclaiming God's message for his time. Therefore, he is a messenger of God and leader of his movement. As mentioned, he tried to be low key in political issue. He never directly and explicitly challenges the political establishment (contra to John the Baptist). HHe escaped from the people who want to make him king (Jn 6).

Conclusion : my hypotheses

In conclusion, I will use the narrative of Mark as the base of this research and supplement the materials by the Synoptics, John and other related sources like Josephus. My portrait of Jesus is a prophet who tries to turn the people back to real holiness appreciated by God by his spiritual authority. He has human limitations on knowledge about future, but he knows a little more than prophets, like John the Baptist. He plans his ministry according to needs of it and the leading of God the Father. He also tries to be politically low-key.

I. Jesus' Ministry in the Gospel of Mark

A. The Problem of Two Levels: the Historicity and the Markan Story-telling

We now begin our investigation. The first part is our Mark's narratives. It seems that Mark describes Jesus in his own perspective, with some special purposes in mind. Some of them might be recovered easily while some were minor themes that were harder to find. Mark had his own target groups in mind when he wrote his gospel. The "applications" of the stories and logia of Jesus to these groups would affect the context of the description. The redaction of the traditions handed down to Mark might be revealed through the comparison with other gospels. Even with the help of other sources that normally supplied scarce data, the reality of a particular narrative was only approximately reclaimed.

B. Observations on Jesus' Ministry in Mark

1. Markan Literary Devices:

Since his literary methods will affect his selection and arrangement of material, a general survey on that is essential for us. Here I include the techniques that will affect our understanding of the text.

a. He has occasionally used parenthetical statements to reveal the meaning of a particular action or pronouncement (e.g. 7:3f).

Moreover, his composition is characterized from time to time by

b. Three literary devices:

i) He may juxtaposes two contrasting accounts to sharpen the issue; e.g., Jesus frees the possessed (3:7-19) and is said by Pharisee as a possessed man (3:20-35).

ii) Intercalation of two texts, e.g. 3:20-21 reports Jesus' relatives start to take him home, and their arrival is mentioned in 3:31-35. The contrast is set between people who claim that he is deranged (v.21) and the one who affirm his supernatural power (v.30).

iii) Development of two independent cycles of tradition in a parallel pattern. (e.g. 6:35,-44, 52; 8:1-10,19f).

2. The Markan Description --- The Growing process of Jesus' Ministry

In this section, I will try to show how Mark presents the growth of Jesus' ministry. This will enable us to see how Mark sees Jesus' ministry. I will then use it to compare with the perspectives of other gospels to reveal a fuller picture of Jesus' ministry and Markan peculiarity. However, I will reserve these later analyses to the coming section "3. Some Observations" below.

The Structure of Mark is still debatable. Suggestions like biography-chronology (K. Niederwimmer), architectonic designs with OT prototypes (A.M. Farrer), a Christian liturgical calendar (P. Carrington), and Catechesis (G. Schille) have not been totally convincing. The feature of these proposals is that they try to project Mark from outside groundplans. Literary theories from another perspective may be more profitable. For example, J. M. Robinson has proposed that Mark is a combination of the passion narrative and the cycle of miracle-tales. It can reflect two parts of Mark with a watershed at the episode of Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8:27-33), but no solid evidence of the cycle of miracle-tales is available. However, repetitive forms have been found in Mark. The most important one is that of a series of three. A repetitive form is clearly found "when three people, things, or phrases occur in a series where the second and third items are connected to the first by means of the simple conjunction kai (and)." For example, "Peter and James and John" exists in 5:37, 9:2; 14:33. Repetitive forms containing three units can be found in extended portions of the text, e.g. the triple repetition of the passion predictions in Mark 8:31; 9:31; and 10:32-34. According to the analysis of Robbins, these three different predictions form a three-step progression; hence, Mark must have planned the structure of the Gospel. In the following, I will try to give an outline revealing the progression of Jesus' ministry in Mark.

a). His preparation: 1:1-13 [desert & Jordan River] Forerunner (John the Baptist); Baptized; Temptation.

b). Early Galilean Ministry: 1:14 - 3:6 [Capernaum & beside the lake /sea]

(i)The rise of His fame: disciples increase & authority shown 1:14 - 45 [Teaching and cast out demon etc.]

(ii)The development of conflicts 2:1 - 3:6:

(c). Call and Training of the disciples: 3:7 - 8:26

(i)Later Galilean Ministry: 3:7 - 6:29 [concentric sandwich's structure]

(ii)Withdrawal from Galilee : 6,30 - 8,26 [training of disciples; escapes from attention]

Transition: Healing of a Blind man at Bethsaida [8:22 - 26]

(d). Preparation for Final Jerusalem Journey: 8,27-10,52

(i) The Messianic Identity of Jesus [8:27 - 9:13]

(ii) Teachings in Galilee [9:30 - 9:50]

(iii) Teachings in east of the Jordan [10:1 - 45]

(e). Jerusalem Ministry: 11,1 - 13,37

(i) The public ministry [11:1 - 44]

Transition: The Widow's offering [12:41 - 44]

(ii) The ministry on disciples only [13:1 - 37]


(f). Passion Narrative: 14,1 - 15,47

(i) Preparation of the Passion [14:1 - 42]

(ii) Execution of the Passion [14:43 - 47]

(g). Risen Lord: 16,1-8.

Mark may have intended to present Jesus' ministry in a "action-result" pattern. For example, in 1,14-45, he arranges a series of results of Jesus' ministry after Jesus' action / teaching. [Please refer to the section which I deliberately mark by putting the word "Result" before them.] In Markan presentation, the early Galilean ministry seems to be initially successful (Mk 1,14-45). However, the conflicts (Mk 2,1-3,5) in the later time have piled up to a climax in which his opponents make a plot to kill him (Mk 3,6). In this stage, Jesus calls and trains his disciples (Mk 3,7-8.26) hoping they can help him to spread the message. The hope can be seen in his sending of the twelve to witness him (Mk 6,7-13). Note that this is after he is rejected from his home-town (Mk 6,1-6). This may shows his struggle to gain back the losing ground by evangelize other towns. However, Jesus' fame has aroused Herod's interest (Mk 6,14-29). This will certainly pose a political threat on Jesus himself and his ministry. Jesus tries to draw the disciples to a quiet place (Mk 6,31) and willfully prepares them to face the coming difficulties. In this phase, Jesus chooses to concentrate on these disciples, rather than further public attraction. However, the oppositions from the Pharisees and the teachers of the law have continued (Mk 7,1-23). Jesus has warned his disciples of "the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod" (Mk 8,14). In Mark, this is the only time to connect both parties which oppose Jesus. This may represent the religious and political establishments. Herod is mentioned in Mark in chapters 6 and 8. And in chapter 8, it is used only once! In addition, Luke mentions Herod's appearance in the process of Jesus's trial in Lk 23:6-12. Matthew follows similar appearance of Mark ignoring Herod after this event while John may only indirectly refer to Herod by mentioning a royal official (Jn 4:46b-54). But Herod's opposition to Jesus is somewhat hidden in Mark. On the contrary, Luke cites a Pharisaic report on Herod's intention to kill Jesus at his later phase of ministry (Lk 13,31). Jesus calls Herod "fox" too (Lk 13,32)! Compare also Luke's general historical representation in Lk 3:1ff. In Mark, the warning of the yeast of these two parties is following by the healing of a blind man (Mk 8,22-25). In which, Jesus' question on the blind is illuminating: "Do you see anything?" (Mk 8,24). It echoes the later passage, Peter's confession of Christ. Yes, Peter sees him as the Christ (Mk 8,29), while others who are spiritually blind can't see this. They take Jesus as some sorts of prophets only (Mk 8,28). After this climax in Mark, Jesus foretells his death (Mk 8,31-38) and makes a transfiguration before some disciples (Mk 9,1-8). Hereafter, he is marching towards his death on the cross.

3. Some Observations

There are five observations to be made on place, plan, his authority, supporters and opponents, and the religious issues at stake. Does mentioning of these places represent religious traditions, social reality, or responsiveness of the people? Do he have a special clear-cut plan for this ministry? What is his authority like? What socio-religious phenomena can be seen from his supporters and opponents? What are the religious issues at stake?

a. Place: Jesus started from Galilee and emphasized villages, rather than towns.

Do these places relate to some religious traditions, political or religious establishment, and special responsiveness of the people? Or can some hidden clues of the ministry of Jesus be found in the mentioning of certain places?

i) Many Bandits and Messiahs arisen in Galilee: e.g. Galilean Cave Brigands (30s CE) and Menahem son of Judas the Galilean (c. 66 CE, a Messiah). This may incite the indictment that Christ is a brigand by the non-believers in the later debates in the early churches. Of course, it is cold fact that Jesus is crucified with robbers and as a criminal (Mk 15:25-32).

ii) Jesus' focus is on rural setting, and Sepphoris is ignored. It lies near to his home town Nazareth. Nazareth is seldom mentioned in the gospels, and only five times in Mark (1:9,24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6). Nathaniel's contempt for this village may be related to a common idea on Galilee (Jn 1:46). It is also taken by the Jews as " Galilee of the Gentiles" in Mt 4:15. This negative image is not mentioned in Mark; and Jesus never calls himself a Nazarene, a prophet or a Galilean.

iii) Mark's twofold geographical setting - Galilee in 1:14 to 9:50 and Jedaea from Chapter 11 onwards, is well-known among scholars. Ernst Lohmeyer has proposed a theological significance is involved. He suggested, "In the Evangelist's own time Jesus is active there in and through the preaching of a distinct Christian community, and in Mk 14:28 and 16:7 this Jesus foretells his parousia in Galilee."

In Mk 14:28, 16:7, Jesus instructs the disciples to meet him in Galilee, seems to strengthen this suggestion. But Jesus' relocation in Tyre (7:24) and the villages around Caesarea Philippi (8:27) will cause difficulties to this proposal. This view is contradicted by Jesus' Baptism in Judaea and hostility also arisen in Galilee. Hence, they put an emphasis on other places, rather than Galilee. The context of 16:1-7, and the wording of v.7 ("But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'" ;NIV) most probably allude to seeing the resurrected Christ, rather than the parousia. No other direct information in the NT about the existence of a separate early community with its own particular brand of Christology in Galilee is available. Jesus meets the disciples in Galilee, may be caused by political reasons. It is unsafe for Jesus to appear in Jerusalem for a long time, because the chief priests will once more try to kill him. There is no need to suggest some theological reasons are involved. On the contrary, Jesus' retreat to Galilee after John is put in prison is clearly associated to strategic reasons hidden by Mark, rather than theological reason arranged by him.

Jesus goes to Galilee after John the Baptist is put in prison (Mk 1:14). This may be caused by political reason. John the Baptist is certainly a man of great influence. According to Josephus (Ant. 18:116-119), John is killed because of Herod's fear of John's popularity, rather than John's condemnation of Herod's marriage (Mt 14:3/ Mk 6:17-19/ Lk 3:19). But if we try to combine these two pictures, they may throw some lights on it. Herod is afraid of John's influence on the people; and John has at times criticized his marriage as illegitimate which will affect his reputation and influence on the Jews. Herod is having a war against his father-in-law because Herod has dismissed his wife. Now John is opposing him when he is having a war. The suspicious tendency of Herod probably presses Herod to act before John may cause more bad influence.

In Mark 6:12-14, Herod identifies him as the risen John the Baptist. Besides, Jesus is known to many people through John's introduction (Jn 3:22-30) and Jesus' message is similar to John (Mk 1:14). Simon Peter is from Bethsaida (Jn 1:44), which is under the rule of Herod Philip II. Hence, the departure of Jesus from Judea may imply his willingness to escape from being involved into this political matter. However, Jesus lives in Capernaum which is also under Herod's rule and near to Herod's palace in Tiberias. Also, Mark 1:29-31 (see also Mt. 8:14-15; Lk 4:38-39) may imply Peter has moved to Capernaum and lived with his mother-in-law there. Hence, this warns us to search for a more complex picture behind this event.

John has been working in Aenon near Salim (Jn 3:23) in Samaria; Herod can't catch him because it is under Pontius Pilate's rule. John has a strong feeling that he has very short time to work (Matt 3:10; Luke 3:9), he may try to preach in Galilee too. In the first century, there are 3 Jewish provinces: Peraea, Judaea, and Galilee. He has worked in the former two. It would be probable that he tries to work in Galilee too. In order to continue John's ministry in this area which has not yet touched by Jesus. After John's death, his disciples has abandoned his work. Therefore Jesus tried to search for John's faithful disciples who live in Galilee and called them to follow him. According to Mark 1:16-18, Jesus called Simon and Andrew to follow him and they followed him without hesitation. It would be strange for them to follow without knowing him or seeing any signs. But in John 1:29-42, Jesus has been introduced to them by John the Baptist. This might happen in Bethany (Jn 1:28), thus they knew Jesus personally before John's death. Trying to prevent Herod's intervention, Jesus has a lower tone on political issue than John - Jesus never speak directly and clearly on political issues. At that time Jesus has worked in Judean countryside (Jn 3:22). John was caught and then killed in Machaerus (according to Josephus, Ant. 18:119).

iv). Some places traveled by Jesus have strong religious traditions in his times. For example, the Jordan River (Joshua, Elijah), desert (Moses and Exodus), and Galilee (Isaiah's prophecy according to Matthew) have strong religious traditions. But in the narrative of Mark, they are not explicitly shown. For example, the desert tradition is not shown in Mk 6:8, but Jn 6:25-71 explains it explicitly on Manna.

b. Plan: Jesus seems to react according to the needs and leading of God the Father at that time, rather than using a pre-determined plan.

It seems in Mark that Jesus has intentionally prepared and trained his disciples for his death. Though this may due to the developing needs of his ministry. Jesus' ministry seems to face larger and greater opposition from the religious establishment (esp. after Mk 6-8). Pharisees are in control of the religious life in the normal people, especially in a town like Sepphoris. And the priests have controlled the centre of Judaism: the Temple. But neither do these two groups favor Jesus' position; on the contrary, their oppositions have demanded the death of Jesus. In response to strong opposition, Jesus calls his disciples, sends and trains them in Galilee. After Peter's confession on his Messianship, Jesus foretells his death and is shown in transfiguration before them. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus chooses the first four disciples from the disciples of John the Baptist; or some people related to them. (They have known them already.) Therefore Jesus certainly has a plan, but it may not be a pre-determined one.

c. His authority : related and similar to John; spiritual power.

The nature of authority in Jesus is related to the prophetic movement started by John the Baptist. Jesus has started a movement similar and related to John's, but they worked individually and separately: John worked in Aenon (in Perea) and Jesus in Judea (Jn 3:22-23). Jesus has used the question on source of John's authority to block the challenge from the chief priests and their accomplice (Mk 11:27-33).

John has established a prophetic revival movement in the desert region of Judea (Mk 1:4-5). In fact, As John 1:19-22, 24 show, the contemporaries take him as a very important prophet (Josephus mentioned John more than Jesus might reflect John's importance in his eyes). Besides, the Jews have considered the defect of Herod by his father-in-law as God's vindication of John. It means that John has a very high reputation among the people (Ant. 18:116-119). He also witnesses to the one who will come -- Jesus (Mk 1:7-8), as John 1:29-34 described, John the Baptist has introduced Jesus to other people, especially his disciples (Jn 1:35-43). However, this is ignored by Mark who may want to stress Jesus' independence from John. Jesus' ministry clearly echoes the biblical tradition (Deut. 18:15) and the confession of Peter is the climax in Mark. In this passage, Mk 8:27-30, Jesus is seen by others as John the Baptist (Mk 6:16), Elijah (from Mal. 3:1; 4:50, and one of the prophets. Therefore his prophetic figure is commonly accepted among the people and the Christians (Lk 24:19). This kind of prophet normally behaves like a charismatic leader, rather than simple, legitimate, or legal leader. Also, Jesus is depicted as a "manager" or "leader". His behavior is like a faction leader (Seland), rather than like a leader in modern millenarian movement model (Gager; Robin Scroggs), or an Essene .

The so-called Messianic secret reflects the political sensitivity of Jesus' ministry, rather than eschatological reasons. After the miracle of feeding five thousand people, the people admit that Jesus is the Prophet (Jn 6:14). Jesus knows that they intend to make him king by force and he withdraws from them to a mountain by himself (Jn 6:15). However, none of the Synoptics mentions this political risk. Matthew (14:13-21) and Mark (6:32-44) follows this narrative with Jesus' walking on the water; while Luke (9:10-17) links it with Peter's confession on Jesus' messianship. Malina has suggested that is his repudiation of visibility. This is contrary to his messianic works that demand a publicity. But it may be his exercise of freedom. He intentionally strives to prevent an outbreak of massive political movement against the Romans. This kind of actions is common among contemporary Messianic movements, but contra to his ministry. In Mark 14:48, Jesus has asked the men who arrested him a question. "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?" The political overtone can easily be felt. Also, it is clear that the indictment that causes his crucifixion is "the king of the Jews" (Mk 14:2, 26, 32). Besides, Jesus may try to escape the premature direct intervention or opposition from the High Priest. This can be subsisted by the fact that Jesus is taken as a brigand by the non-Christians in the early fathers' polemic. Hence, his Messianic movement is very political, and may appear to his opponents as a brigand, not a Messiah or prophet in a good sense.

Besides, S.G.F. Brandon has advocated that Jesus sympathized with the ideals and aims of the Zealot movement. I think that is a wrong association, by the support of the following arguments. Firstly, Zealot movement is not an united national resistance movement. There is no evidence that this sect exists before 66 C.E. Secondly, Mark mentions one of the twelve apostles is a zealot (ton Kana_SYMBOL 110 \f "Symbol"_aion, Mk 3:18). It would be a risky business to mention this, since Mark may be written around 70 C.E. This may indicate that the word zealot doesn't mean the sect or this sect doesn't exist as an independent political group. Or Wenham's thesis is right that Mark is written before A.D. 55, on the basis of the indefinite ending of Acts. Thirdly, Jesus intentionally rejects the people to crown him as king (Jn 6). Jesus is totally aware of the political risk involved. This may be the reason of the "messianic secret" of Mark. This may also causes by Mark's intention to mask the political implication of Jesus' life, as Brandon proposed. Or this may be caused by the traditions available to Mark. These traditions may be not interested in the political aspects of Jesus' life. The political background may be lost in the transmission process of the traditions (this is very common in the parables of the Synoptics), or Mark has reduced them intentionally. However, if it is Mark's purpose to minimize the political aspects of his gospel, then he will certainly delete Mark 15:2. In this text, Jesus directly admits that he is the king of the Jews. This saying is also found in Mt 27:11, Luke 23:3. Therefore, lacking of political implication may be due to the transmission process, rather than Mark's intention.

The spiritual power of Jesus helps the establishment of authority. When Jesus preached in Capernaum, he proclaimed with authority (Mk 1:22). The people are also amazed at his exorcism of the evil spirits (Mk 1:23-27), which helps the spread of his name (Mk 1:28). Detailed discussion of spiritual authority will be found below in "e. religious issues at stake".

d. His supporters and opponents:

The economical and social support from Jesus' disciples or sympatheticizers will contribute to the clearer understanding of Jesus' ministry. His opponents will also reveal the religious views and impacts of Jesus' works.

Jesus supporters, according to Mark, have four different designations: i)the crowd (oclos) and multitude (tlhqos, Mark 3:7f and 8:37), ii)12 disciples (maqhths), iii)women (gunh), and iv)some individuals without a general term for them.

i) In Mark, the term "the crowd" normally refers to a group of people following Jesus (Mk 4:1; 5:24) or gathers to Jesus (Mk 5:21). They are amazed at Jesus' teachings (Mk 11:18) and love to listen to him (Mk 12:37). Their support forces the chief priests to be warned of revolt after arresting Jesus (Mk 12:12). However, the term is also used to refer to the group who arrest Jesus (Mk 14:43) and force Pilate to kill Jesus (Mk 15:8,11,15). A neutral sense is used in the people who put their money in the treasury of the temple (Mk 12:41). This term as used in Mark, 33 out of 38 times refers to a group of people supporting Jesus. This usage ceases after 12:37. Hence, Mark depicts Jesus as a teacher loved by the crowd, but is rejected by the chief priests. They stir up a crowd against Jesus (Mk 15:11). The main rejection is from the religious authority, rather than the ordinary people who can be manipulated by the religious leaders easily.

ii) Mark never uses the singular form of disciple, contra to Matthew (5 times), Luke (3 times), and John (16 times). Once when Mark refers to a disciple, he uses "one of the disciples" ('eis twn maqjtwn). Therefore, the disciples are usually taken as a group. First disciples of Jesus are followers of John the Baptist. When James and John are called by Jesus, they leave their father and the hired servants (twn misqwtwn). Their father is not a poor fisherman. Levi is a tax-collector (Mk 2:14) which is a job of good pay. His colleague may also have a relationship with Jesus (Mk 2:15). Josephus of Arimathea, called as a disciple by John, is a respected member of the council (Mk 15:43). So is Nicodemus (Jn 3:1). A rich young man has struggled whether to follow Jesus (Mk 10:17-22). Therefore, some of Jesus' disciples are not poor people, on the contrary they are men of high pay and middle or upper social status. Of course, not all the disciples are of this "class", many of them may belong to lower "class".

iii) Some women have supported Jesus and his disciples. One of them is the wife of a high official of Herod (SLk 8:1-3). Mary who pours the oil on Jesus' head must be very rich. The perfume is worthy of a year's wages (Jn 12:5)! Besides, their house can accommodate Jesus and his 12 disciples, it is not a small house. Obviously, they have quite a good fortune, some of them probably come from higher social status too.

iv) Furthermore, Jairus is the ruler of the synagogue (Mk 5:22). And as mentioned, Jesus' messages do attract some rich people, but their contribution to the finance of Jesus' ministry is unknown.

Since the opponents will be discussed in the application of theory (II. B. f. social control), I will not discuss it here. The spiritual opposition is another matter. Evil spirits are mentioned many times in Mark. (Mk 1:27,34,39; 3:11; 5:13; 6:7; 7:25; 9:18) Jesus was tempted by Satan when he started his ministry (Mk 1:9-13). The evil spirits tried to make him known to the people (Mk 1:34). In order to oppose him, the Pharisees accused him of being possessed by Beelzebub (Mk 3:22)! Jesus drove the demons into the pigs (Mk 5:1-17). This event led to the rejection from the villagers (Mk 5:17). The disciples failed to drive out demons (Mk 9:18) was placed just after the transfiguration. The opposition from the evil spirits was extremely strong that Jesus said, " This kind (i.e. evil spirit) can come out only by prayer." to the disciples (Mk 9:29).

e. The religious issues at stake: spiritual authority and true holiness.

What is the nature of debates against the religious leaders? Why did they oppose Jesus? According to Mark 2:18-3:6, the Pharisees made a plot to kill after the debate of Sabbath's laws. If E. P. Sanders' description of the covenantal nomism is right, then Jesus has undermined one of the cornerstone of this thought. Sabbath, circumcision and dietary laws are signs of obedience to God. The fasting debate just before that argument is concerned about one of three main pillars of Jewish piety - prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (e.g. Tob 12:8). Since Sanders has based this study on the "Jesus within Judaism," he proposes that the adversary stories are added by the early church and unhistorical. However, why does the early church break the Sabbath laws if Jesus himself observes them? There is no evidence in the NT to support there is a conflict between the Jews and the Christians about Sabbath laws. Since no such debate ever exists, therefore it is unlikely that the early church invents the conflicts stories. The problem may exist only in later time when the Christians are expelled from the synagogues. If Jesus holds contemporary ideas of restoration theology, as Sanders proposed, then he will have little difference from his opponents and unconcerned about the social world; then why he is prosecuted and killed by his enemies. The adversary stories are better taken as historical, and reveal that the real holiness or piety is debated between Jesus and his opponents.

Hence, the source of spiritual authority to re-define the piety is important. The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders came to challenge Jesus' authority (Mk 11:27-33). When Jesus preached at the synagogue in Capernaum, the people were amazed saying, "What is this? A new teaching - and with authority!" Jesus' teaching is different from that of the teachers of the law: He preaches with authority (exousia). He had the authority to forgive sins (Mk 2:10) and casting out demons (Mk 3:15; 6:7). The chief priests challenged his authority (Mk 11:28) on cleansing the temple (Mk 11:15-18). Jesus' acts and teaching had a judgmental meaning on the temple and the religious authorities who had made it "a den of robbers" (Mk 11:17).


The perspective from Mark will narrow our view. Even with the help of the other sources (which are normally scarce), the real picture of the events in Jesus' times cannot be full reclaimed. In summary, Mark has used 3 literary devices: juxtaposition, intercalation of two texts, and development of two independent cycles of traditions. In the growing process of Jesus' ministry, Mark depicts a rapid growth of Jesus' influence. However, when his fame increases, stronger oppositions from religious establishment arise. The continued development of this conflict has led Jesus to concentrate on the disciples in later phase of his ministry and he prepared to go for the cross.

Five observations have been made: place, plan, his authority, his supporters and opponents, and the religious issues at stake. In regard to place, Jesus concentrated on Galilee and rural settings. He may be rejected in Capernaum too! He had intentionally continued John's ministry in Galilee. Though the places used in Mark had strong religious traditions, Mark doesn't state it explicitly. Besides, Jesus doesn't have a pre-determined and rigid plan. He adjusted according to needs and leading of God the Father. He prepared to die only after continued strong oppositions. His authority was related and similar to prophetic tradition like John the Baptist. His authority also came from his spiritual power and preaching authority. Some of his supporters are rich, and his opponents are all from religious establishment. The religious issues at stake are true holiness and the source of spiritual power that validate this shift of spiritual practices. Jesus has chosen a different pious approach that is contrary to the Pharisaic way.