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ClassicsOnline Home » NEW TESTAMENT (New Jerusalem version), Set 3: The Gospel According to Mark
The Spoken Word
Set One: The Early Letters of Paul – Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians
Set Two: The Mature Letters of Paul – Romans, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon
Set Three: The Gospel according to Mark
Set Four: The Gospel according to Matthew
Set Five: The Gospel according to Luke
Set Six: The Acts of the Apostles
Set Seven: Letters and Documents
Set Eight: The Revelation to John
Set Nine: The Gospel according to John: 1 John
The scriptures, Old and New Testaments, were shaped into their present form over centuries. From a range of documents, first the Hebrew and later the Christian community selected certain writings authorised for reading in public liturgy. That is the whole point of the canons of scripture. The Christian Church adopted the Hebrew canon in its entirety as being part of its own canon. In arriving at their choice, our forebears also made decisions about the order in which the documents were to be placed within the canon. The New Testament possesses a rationality in its order, placing the story of Jesus first, followed by Luke’s account of the missionary growth of the church, then the body of letters and concluding with Revelation—a broad chronology of events.
I have chosen to arrange the recordings in the order of composition, so far as that order is generally agreed upon by scholars. The letters of Paul were written before any of the gospel accounts. Mark’s gospel was followed by Matthew, then Luke, a book in two halves,
the second half being the Acts of the Apostles. John’s gospel can be read as a reflection back on the entire tradition.
My objective in making these recordings is to present the scriptures to my contemporaries
in a manner that will, I hope, capture their imagination and attention. Most of the biblical books are finely nuanced, and it can take the art of reading to bring out those nuances. Through nuance we capture imagination. Each of these documents was a response to a need that passionately involved both the writer and their readers. We are able today, in some measure, to recapture what those circumstances were, and therefore approach the texts with a light unavailable in the past. In commencing with 1 Thessalonians, for example, we can listen as a people for whom there was nothing at all in writing relating to their new-found faith. In the letter, Paul’s own thinking is far from mature. Thessalonians shows us a community of faith just beginning to grapple with themes that have occupied Christians ever since.
Even by the last of Paul’s letters to be written, not one of the gospels has appeared. Paul knows little of the details of Jesus’ life and teaching. Even in the Judea of that period the stories of Jesus’ life must have been little known or little valued, since otherwise Paul would have been instructed during his times in Jerusalem. When Mark was published, it may have come as a shock and revelation to the whole church. By reading Mark after hearing Paul, we can enter in some measure into the experience of learning about the earthly life of Jesus against the background of the significance Paul has assigned to the man.
Mark presents a picture of Jesus that fits the Pauline theology of justification by faith. Matthew, writing a decade later, appears to shape his account to contradict Mark and show Jesus as the man of the Law, the establishment man. By reading Matthew after Mark and possibly as a reaction to Mark we bring new
light to our understanding of both.
This arrangement of texts also allows the connection of Luke and Acts into the continuous narrative they were originally intended to be and which the placement of John’s gospel between them destroys. John’s gospel, and the first Letter of John, is placed at the end of this collection not only because they were written around the turn of the century, with just a few of the New Testament documents subsequent, but principally because this gospel provides a supreme reflection upon the whole tradition and makes a fitting climax.
Here, then, is an invitation to listeners to bring new life and understanding of the scriptures that I believe will, in turn, invigorate our engagement with the scriptures in all our manners of approach.
The New Jerusalem Bible translation
I use the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) for these readings and I am grateful to the publishers (Random House (US) and Darton, Longman & Todd), for their permission to read from their translation. There are a number of good translation options available but, to my ear, only one, the NJB, captures the sound of words with vividness. Others are essentially literary compositions, their focus being upon the printed page. The NJB is not without its weaknesses but, on the basis of the sound of its words, it stands head and shoulders above other contemporary translations.
Any gift that I may have which is expressed in these readings is just that—a gift received from the Spirit through the person of others. I owe an inestimable debt to my speech tutor of student days, John N Thompson, and to Dr Raymond Foster, whose enthusiasm for Jeremiah and Ezekiel set me on the path of a love for the scriptures. To my son, Jonathan, I owe all my skills with the computer, enabling the technical side of these recordings, while my wife Barbara and daughter Ruth have been my unfailing support, encouragement and critics. Strangely, the centrepiece of this acknowledgement belongs to five children, my grandchildren,
for whom I ventured into recording in order to create for them disks of stories and music.
The manner of the gift
How did it come about that I created these recordings? The story commences in mid-2006 as I was emerging from a long period of illness. During this period the daily morning and evening prayer offices of the church were my sustaining support. I began to record these offices and publish them on my website and on podcast, receiving considerable affirmation and support from many for the initiative.
The early broadcasts were poor in quality, both from the standard of equipment and my technical inexperience, but these gradually improved and the standards rose. Initially, I recorded each day’s office as a complete entity, but found that this consumed an immense amount of time—recording, editing and making ready for broadcast—and also brought variable quality, dependent as it was on my pressure, health and well-being on each day.
The logical next step was to record whole books of the Old and New Testaments and then break up the recordings into the tracks corresponding to the daily lections and that is what I proceeded to do. From that point it became a near-inevitable step to conceive the publication of the recordings in themselves, while a parallel development of conceptualisation took place regarding the philosophy behind the recording and their ordering, as recounted above. And so these recordings came to be. They remain for me indelibly planted in the spirituality of the prayer offices; for me, a gifting of the Spirit through me to the church.
For the prayer offices: www.genesis.net.nz
David Guthrie, 2008
The Gospel according to Mark
(Written about 64 AD)
The Gospel according to Mark appears some thirty years after the death of Jesus and, very significantly, after the conclusion (and possibly the death) of Paul. So all Paul’s letters have been written before this first of the gospel records of the life of Jesus appears. When we read Paul’s letters in this light (as the arrangement of these recordings of the New Testament facilitate), we see that Paul himself shows little detailed knowledge of the life of Jesus—nor do the letters give any indication that he considered it important that he should have such knowledge. Jesus’ death and resurrection are certainly central to Paul, but even here there is no ‘passion narrative’, with the sole exception of the reference to the Last Supper. Given that Paul had connections with the Jerusalem church and its principal elders, this would seem to indicate that it was characteristic of the church during the first three decades that the details of Jesus’ life were not considered of high importance. The focus for Paul was on the mythic proclamation that the manifestation of the Christ had done away with the Law and pioneered an entirely new way to God, based on faith and given through pure grace.
It is therefore against this background that, it seems to us, Mark’s account of the life of Jesus appears as if from nowhere. We do not know the circumstances behind its writing but, just as reading Paul’s letters before engaging with Mark throws a new perspective on Paul and his ministry, and on the thinking of the church in the first generation, so reading Mark after absorbing Paul gives a new dimension to the gospel account. Tradition assigns the gospel to ‘Mark’ and in this it is quite possible that the tradition is correct: that this is the writing of the John Mark who was one of Paul’s companions—and who, significantly, fell out with Paul at least at one crucial point in the missionary enterprise. If indeed John Mark is the writer (and possibly the ‘young man’ who ran away naked from the arrest of Jesus), then what we have in his writing is essentially ‘the gospel according to Paul’ although with the major corrective of rooting that gospel not so much in the mythic element of the death but in the concrete experience of the disciples.
That it is, or may be, the ‘gospel according to Paul’ emerges from the consistent emphasis throughout the gospel on how people are saved simply by believing in Jesus—“your faith has saved you”. Mark is not attempting a full chronological account of the facts of Jesus’ life: he is telling the story to make real and powerful the message Paul has been proclaiming and teaching to his churches. It is also noteworthy that Mark tells the story of the Syro-Phonecian woman, the gentile, where he responded to the woman’s faith by healing her daughter. The Jesus that Mark portrays is the one who does away with the Law and brings salvation by pure grace, this grace being immediately experienced by his followers. Mark’s account of Jesus is very direct and un-elaborated and, therefore, for the modern reader especially, the most approachable of the gospels. It is his writings that form the foundation for the next two gospels to be written, Matthew and Luke, although each of these latter has a very different perspective on Jesus even as they use Mark’s account almost in its entirety. This directness of Mark comes out most powerfully in his account of the events of and leading up to Jesus’ death; events recounted almost matter-of-factly. The authentic gospel text ends, fascinatingly, with the words about the women at the empty tomb—“for they were afraid”. Not for Mark are the accounts of resurrection appearances. The verses from chapter 16, verse 9 to the end were later added to the gospel to ‘bring it into line’ and are not part of this recording which ends where Mark intended it to end.
Making these recordings has been a much longer process than I ever anticipated at the outset of the project. A principal reason for this has been that it took many takes on the recording to find the manner of presentation. Of course this is a ‘reading’ of the Markan text. But what I have striven to achieve in this CD is a reading that the listener may hear as if it is Mark speaking directly, simply telling in person the story of Jesus as he wishes to present it. I see Mark as a consummate story-teller, and that is what I hope will be conveyed in this recording.
Included in this set of CDs is the disc entitled ‘Tight Mark’ (also available on its own). Tight Mark is a condensation of Mark’s gospel, fitting on a single CD, the length reduced by approximately a third. It omits passages such as questions surrounding the traditions of the Jews, discussions on fasting and adultery, and the whole of chapter 13, the so-called ‘eschatological discourse’. Tight Mark is intended as an introduction to the story of Jesus for people unfamiliar, particularly for youth. The idea for the CD arose out of preparations I made for the public reading of Mark, particularly to schools. For the serious engagement with the New Testament there is no replacement for the full text, but I am sure that Tight Mark has a genuine place.
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