Beginning in the middle 1

ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ. καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah…

Mark’s Gospel begins with a fresh start: ἀρχὴ , the beginning. And in the very next sentence, takes it away: καθὼς γέγραπται , as it has been written: this is the fresh beginning of a new text which had already been written, long ago. Mark’s Gospel starts in the midst of things; it begins in the middle.

My thoughts run in several different directions at this point, and today is a busy day when I shouldn’t really be spending my time posting here, so I’ll simply plant some signposts at this point. I’ll try to find time later in the week to fill in the detail.

  1. I recognise that my own reading of Mark is a ‘beginning in the middle’ – in two respects. On the one hand, I have of course read it before. And I have read various bits of secondary literature. Yet I am trying to make ‘a fresh start’. On the other hand, one of my reasons for starting this project was to make some kind of devotional fresh start, to get ‘back to basics’ (if British readers can ignore the nasty resonances of that phrase) – even though any complete ‘fresh start’ is always an illusion. (No revolution finally succeeds in declaring a year zero.)
  2. This ‘beginning…at it is written’ also opens up one of the themes that most interests me as I re-start reading the Gospel: the relationship between it and the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures. What kind of new beginning does Marks Gospel represent with respect to what has been written? To hang this question on a convenient hook: is the ἀρχὴ at the beginning of this Gospel a replacemenet for the one at the beginning of Genesis?
  3. Lastly: some say that this strangely abrupt beginning is evidence of the ‘mutilation’ of the start of Mark’s Gospel. I don’t have the expertise to make a firm judgment about this, but I am interested in asking whether it matters. What if this beginning is not the beginning the text originally had? What if it is a makeshift rebeginning?

As I say, I intend to come back to these points soon. And I hope that, once I’ve got through them all (and anything else that crops up), you’ll begin to see the kind of approaches I am planning on taking … as well as just how slow I’m likely to be.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation