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Bible, Faith, and the Holy Spirit
In this radical new translation of the New Testament Gospels of Mark and John, Bible scholar, John Howard Reid, presents an entirely new and even controversial picture of the life and death of Jesus, the Christ.
Mark and John: The First and Last Gospels
John Mark was born into a reasonably prosperous family in Jerusalem. He and his widowed mother, Mary, were early converts to Christianity. They knew Peter well. In fact, Peter made his way to Mark’s house as soon as he escaped from prison in the year 43 [Acts 12: 12-17]. Two years later, Mark and his cousin, Barnabas, joined Paul on what is known as Paul’s “First Missionary Journey”. When they reached the city of Perga in Pamphylia, however, Mark had a disagreement with Paul and returned to Jerusalem [Acts 13:13]. As a result, Paul refused to take Mark with him on his second journey in 50. Paul’s intransigence displeased Barnabas who sided with his cousin. After exchanging sharp words with Paul, the two cousins sailed for Cyprus [Acts 15:37-39]. Paul and Mark later became reconciled. In 61, we find them together in Rome [Col: 4:10]. Mark may have settled in Rome, for in 64 he is acting as Peter’s secretary and interpreter. Peter affectionately calls him his “son” [1 Peter 5:13]. As Mark’s natural father had died before the youth reached maturity, a close father-son relation-ship developed between Peter and Mark. When Peter was martyred, Mark left Rome and went to Ephesus, where he was living in 67, when Paul asked Timothy to contact him and bring him back to Rome to help Paul in his ministry. However, Paul himself was martyred a few months later. It is not known for certain whether Mark left Ephesus, but there’s little doubt that his gospel was published in Rome a year or two after Paul’s death.
Bishop Papias of Hierapolis in the province of Phrygia tells us something about Mark’s Gospel in a letter dated around 120 in which he quotes the recollection of an “old man” he identifies as John, the Elder (who signed two New Testament letters and extensively edited and added to The Gospel of John): “When Mark became Peter’s interpreter, he wrote down, although by no means in full detail, much of what Peter accurately remembered about the words and works of the Lord… Peter did not intend to give a complete exposition of the Lord’s ministry.”
The Jesus that emerges from the uncensored and restored Mark (reconstructed from what I consider to be the best Greek texts published in that admirable compendium, The Greek New Testament, edited with scholarly thoroughness by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger and Allen Wikgren) is quite different from the stained-glass image presented by Matthew, Luke and John. In fact, when they quote from Mark (which they often do), both Matthew and Luke work overtime to change Mark’s adjectives, even though they are the impressions of an eye-witness, namely Peter, whose veracity is beyond doubt. After all, Peter is so scrupulously honest, he even presents himself on at least four or five important occasions in a wholly unflattering light. You can’t help but have a lot of respect for a man who is so quick to condemn his own failings. My hat’s off to him!
As noted in the text, Mark’s manuscript ends abruptly. While it is by no means uncommon in Greek literature to end a sentence with a preposition (“for” actually—I have used “of” as an indication), to conclude a whole book that way is unheard of. Two early attempts to supply a conclusion are appended. Some Greek texts use one or the other. Some use both. Most Christian churches (both Catholic and Protestant) regard only a censored version of Appendix Two as authoritative.
The account of Herod’s dealings with John the Baptist was quite possibly written by Mark. It certainly captures his style and even employs his favorite word, “immediately”, twice. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly out of place in Chapter Six, so I have included it as an Appendix rather than try to guess where it may have originally been inserted.
So he asked Him, “In your opinion, Rabbi, which is the foremost commandment of all?”
“The first commandment is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is one Lord; and you must love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And the second commandment is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments more important than these.” [Deuteronomy 6: 4, 5; Leviticus 19:18].
The Scripture teacher answered, “I agree wholeheartedly with what you have just said. It is most validly put. You have truly stated that He is one, and one only. There is no other God except Him. And to love Him with all the heart, all the intelligence and all the strength of which a person is capable; and to love one’s neighbor as oneself — these are worth more to God than all the burnt offerings and all the sacrificial services in this temple, added together from the very day it was built.”
Jesus was impressed. He knew the Scripture teacher had answered accurately, sincerely and with understanding. “You are not far from the Kingdom of God,” Jesus said to him.
After that, no-one dared to question Jesus any more or interrupt His teaching in the temple.
“How does it come about,” Jesus asked, “that the Scripture teachers tell us the Messiah must be David’s son, when David himself (led by the Holy Spirit of Wisdom), wrote: The Lord God says to my Lord [the Messiah], sit at My right hand while I bring your enemies under your feet? If David himself calls the Messiah ‘Lord’, how can He be his son?” [Psalm 109:1 LXX].
The huge crowd congregated about Jesus listened to Him with great pleasure. All of them thoroughly enjoyed His constant attacks on the Scripture teachers, and the way He sent them scurrying for cover. In fact, in the course of His teaching, Jesus actually said, “Beware of the Scripture teachers! Beware of them! Don’t they just love to stroll around the streets in their long robes, and be greeted with overwhelming deference and respect in the market places? And don’t they all think it right and proper for them to commandeer the positions of honor in our synagogues and the best seats at feasts? I tell you right now that only two groups of people will receive greater condemnation than these smug, know-all, self-important Scripture teachers – namely all those who defraud widows of their property and everyone who makes a pretense of virtue and sobriety by offering longwinded, self-congratulatory prayers.”
Jesus sat opposite the collection bowls for the temple treasury and took note of the various people that put money into the coffers. Many rich men threw in large sums, but a poor widow came and offered two miserable copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Jesus called His disciples’ attention to this, and said to them, “Truly, that poor widow has put more money than anybody else into the treasury. The others all contributed but a small portion of their abundance, but this destitute woman has offered to God everything she possessed and left herself with absolutely nothing to live on. [But God sees her action and He will reward her].”