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Mark 7:24-37 in Multilevel Interpretation Essay

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Updated: Aug 8th, 2020

Mark 7:24-37 is a series of Bible verses, which tell about Jesus’ deeds and His communication with ordinary people in need, living in Tyre and Decapolis. It tells about the mighty works and the way Jesus became known due to His amazing others. Still, one might think that this excerpt is just a story of a woman and a man, who met Jesus and witnessed His miracles. It is more than that – it is a unique text, which was perceived in different manner overages. To obtain a better understanding of the message, several interpretation levels can be identified – the text itself, the purpose of the excerpt, and the application of the story to various contexts and during differing epochs.

To begin with, it is essential to understand the message itself, its structure, and its boundaries. Because this excerpt is two separate stories, it is not complicated to determine its boundaries. The first passage, the story of healing a Syrophoenician woman, is seven verses – Mark 7:24-301. It begins with Jesus coming to Tyre and seeing a woman with a child obsessed with demons and ends with a miraculous exorcism. The second part of the text is devoted to telling about the healing of a deaf man. It is described in six verses – Mark 7:31-372. This story begins when Jesus moves from Tyre to Decapolis and people take him to see a deaf and mute man and end with his curing. As seen from the references, it comes from Mark’s Gospel. It is the seventh chapter – the middle of the book because there are sixteen chapters in general.

Like other Biblical writings, the excerpt is specific in the genre. It cannot be said that it is a letter, poem, or novella. Instead, it is special theological writing. At the same time, because the verses share the story of Jesus, it can be said that the genre is a biography. It is possible to come up with this conclusion because of the context of the seventh chapter and Mark’s gospel as such. Because other verses within a section speak about Jesus’ life and deeds, this passage in intertextually connected to other parts of the Bible. As for the structure of the text, it is both a description and problem-solution text. Calling it description is evident because the text is detailed. Speaking of a problem-solution structure, it can be proved by the fact that both stories begin with the problem shared with Jesus and end with a miracle, helping to cope with it3.

Also, to interpret the meaning of the message, it is beneficial to evaluate the grammar and word choice. The text is written in indicative mood – it simply tells the story of Jesus and describes details of His deeds. More than that, the tense is past, which is appropriate for theological and biographical texts. Reading the passage, it is perceived as a recollection of Christ’s life. Speaking of the subjects of sentences, in most cases, these are Jesus, man and woman who needed help, and their problems as well as other people witnessing miracles. In all sentences, subjects come before predicates. Sentences are written in both active and passive voice. As for the word choice, the language is simple without intricate and complicated phrases. It might point to the desire to deliver a clear and easy message to make the Bible available to all people, especially illiterate.

The next level of analysis is the investigation of the world behind Mark 7:24-37 – the author, the audience, and the epoch. It is essential to note that the author of the Gospel is anonymous. Nevertheless, according to the Christian tradition, it is believed that John Mark wrote it under the guidance of apostle Peter. It was written during 60-70 A.D., which corresponds to the years of apostle and John Mark’s lives. During this epoch, Christians were persecuted by Nero in Rome, there was a revolt against Jewish leaders, which led to the persecution of Jews4, and Pharisees became dominant in the Jewish communities5. It was written to Gentiles to point to the power of Jesus’ deeds instead of focus on his words6. The text is closely connected to the developments of that time because, in his Gospel, Mark recalls events of the uprisings against Jewish leaders7 and persecution of Christians, as he accepts the fact that Christianity was perceived as a sect in Judaism8. In this way, Mark 7:24-37 is a passage of a historical text because it does comply with recognized and well-known events in the history of civilization development.

Still, except for historical and biographical purposes, this message is as well an educative one. Except for the focus on doing, not words, it is paramount to note the way it was used during that time. Because Mark recalls the Power of Jesus and he was a pastor, it is possible to assume that these passages were read aloud in the Church of Alexandria he had found9, as well as to Jews and Gentiles outside of the church, to make them believe in God’s power expressed through Jesus’ miracles. Besides, it represents some theological concerns such as recognizing that Jesus is God’s son (a woman calling Him Lord in Mark 7:2810), acknowledging that the Gospel is the source of truth11, the Godly power of Jesus because He healed people without any rituals12, and Messiahship of Christ13.

Finally, the message was interpreted differently over time. For instance, one of the modern scholars, Owens, believes that hearing in Mark’s context is more than just a physical ability – it is connected to the ability to show respect for others and hear them in need14. At the same time, the story of healing a deaf man can be related to healing by reading the Gospel or having no desire to hear God’s message15. In one of the theological papers written around five decades ago, Burkill points to the symbolic nature of bread in Mark 7:27, as bread is as important to the human body as Gospel to the soul16. On the other hand, another current-day theologian, Smith, does not pay significant attention to symbols in the message. Instead, she focuses on the purity of faith in God and claims that this chapter is written to share the miracle of healing and exorcism with people17. In this way, it can be said that contemporary researchers interpret Mark 7:24-37 to question human faith in God and His power without seeking obscure meaning18.

To sum up, the passage under consideration is a unique world. Even though it tells similar stories and glorifies the power of God, it can be interpreted in different ways and from different perspectives. Still, it is essential to note that time does not play a critical role in understanding its message, as it is the spirituality and internality of a reader that affects the perception of the verses. Nevertheless, either perceived symbolically or literally, the meaning of the stories is profound, as they do point to the strength of faith and the power of God.

Bibliography

Burkill, Alec T. “The Historical Development of the Story of Syrophoenician Woman (Mark ii: 24-30).” Novum Testamentum 9, no. 3 (1967), 161-177.

Bible Dictionary. Web.

Bible Dictionary. Web.

Bible Gateway. Web.

Owens, Catherine. “’Hear, O Israel’: Exegetical Blindness and Mark 7:31-37.” Sewanee Theological Review 56, no. 3 (2013): 251-261.

Skinner, Matthew L. “’She Departed to Her House’: Another Dimension of the Syrophoenician Mother’s Faith in Mark 7:24-30.” Word & World 26, no. 1 (2006), 14-21.

Smith, Julien C. H. “The Construction of Identity in Mark 7:24-30: The Syrophoenician Woman and the Problem of Ethnicity.” Biblical Interpretation 20, no. 4-5 (2012): 458-481.

Footnotes

1. “Mark 7:24-37 (NIV),” Bible Gateway, Web.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Alec T. Burkill, “The Historical Development of the Story of Syrophoenician Woman (Mark ii: 24-30),” Novum Testamentum 9, no. 3 (1967): 162.

5. Ibid, 167.

6. “Gospels,” Bible Dictionary, Web.

7. Burkill, 162.

8. Ibid, 163.

9. “Mark,” Bible Dictionary, Web.

10. “Mark 7:24-37 (NIV),” Bible Gateway, Web.

11. Matthew L. Skinner, “’She Departed to Her House’: Another Dimension of the Syrophoenician Mother’s Faith in Mark 7:24-30,” Word & World 26, no. 1 (2006): 17.

12. Catherine Owens, “’Hear, O Israel’: Exegetical Blindness and Mark 7:31-37,” Sewanee Theological Review 56, no. 3 (2013): 258.

13. Burkill, 176.

14. Owens, 252.

15. Ibid, 258.

16. Burkill, 11.

17. Smith, 466.

18. Skinner, 16.

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