There is much more that I wish to say in relation to my personal theology, but I feel that if I were to say any more, the most common response would be, “but scripture says.” In light of this probability, I think it is wise to begin my own reading through of scripture so that you can understand where I am coming from. When I come across particular passages I may take an extra blog out to discuss the logical ramifications of Jesus’ words.
So, without further ado, the book of Mark. I am beginning with the book of Mark because Biblical scholarship tells us that it is the oldest of the gospels. It is highly likely that Mark itself was used as source material for the other gospels, and so seems like the most reasonable place to begin. It being the first written also suggests that it represents the most accurate story, but this is not necessarily the case. I feel it is also important to mention here that being the oldest written gospel does not make it the oldest New Testament book, as the letters of Paul have been dated to around 60AD, whereas Mark is likely somewhere around 100AD. So no matter what, keep in mind that the best representation of Jesus’ words we have is almost 70 years after the fact. It is also this dating which suggests that the book’s namesakes are not their authors, but this is not definitive.
I’m using the NET bible, which is pretty close to a literal translation, with multiple translators working in conjunction to determine the best possible translation using the most recent biblical scholarship. I’m not going to print the text here, as that would make this blog seem even larger, and I am trying to keep it simple! Feel free to google it, or use your own bible if you have one.
Mark 1: 1-8 The Proclamation of John the Baptist
I feel that Mark begins with a quote from Isaiah because he thinks it’s awesome that it lines up with what happened with Jesus and John the Baptist. It says that John was preaching a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins, that he was proclaiming that one greater than he was coming. Most intriguingly, it says John claimed that the greater one would baptise them with the Holy Spirit, but did anyone even know what that meant? If John was proclaiming the future, why would he even bother telling people about something that would be a complete mystery to them? It seems illogical for the Holy Spirit to be here at the beginning of this story. I think it most likely that Mark, writing retrospectively, put this line about the Holy Spirit here as his interpretation of what happened. This is not to say that we should discount the entire tale. I do think that John was baptising people, and that he went on to baptise Jesus, but that discussion is for next time.
These verses also say that he was wearing clothing synonymous with repentance and was eating bugs, which is all consistent with a guy trying to punish himself so that he might be forgiven for his sins.
The idea of punishing oneself so that one could be forgiven is still popular. We think that if we give up something we like or want, that God will reward is. We believe that if we have done something bad, we can deny ourselves pleasures or food to earn forgiveness. I ask you as I would ask John. Does this behaviour sit reasonably with a God of unconditional love?
Think of it this way. If there is nothing you can do that God will not forgive, would God need you to perform any action to facilitate that forgiveness? In a similar way, would any loving parent want their child to slap themselves, or whip themselves, or deny themselves food because they disobeyed? This is not to say that there are no consequences of actions, of course, there are, but the consequences are not a punishment, but a lesson.
In light of the likely controversial nature of my opinion about Mark, next blog I will discuss ancient speeches and quotes, and what we know about their accuracy.