“The Beginning” Responses

What document begins in Mark 1:1? – Document Mark

We identified four strands of messiah in the last section: Can you name them?  – Political king,  Milk & Honey/economic provider, apocalyptic, suffering servant

Deuteronomy 10:12-20

What do you make of the phrase, “ circumcise…the foreskin of your heart? – Remove the protective covering, exposing the sensitive heart; the opposite of cold, hard-heartedness; be vulnerable at the core of one’s being. As circumcision is also done for hygiene, a circumcised heart is easier to keep ‘clean’.

What does God want? – a heart that is unprotected, open and receptive, free of impurity

Do you see any inconsistencies? Mark misidentifies the first Old Testament quotation  as coming from Isaiah, when it actually comes from Malachi.

Compare Mk 1:2  to Malachi 3:1. Whose way is being prepared? In Malachi, God’s way is being prepared by his messenger; in the gospel citation, thy (the reader’s) way is being prepared.

This is only in Mark.  Why?  Is it a later addition to Mk or a correction by Lk & Mt?  – Mt. and Lk could have omitted this Marcan verse because they knew it to be in error, for it is hard to imagine a later editor choosing to add a mistake. On the other hand, a later editor may have wanted to insert this misquote to address a particular issue within the community. This would means the original Document Mark did not have a mistake, because the following verse is indeed from Isaiah.  (You decide).

Why would Mark include the misquote in the first place? – possibly as a word of encouragement to the readers, stating that their way had been prepared for them.

Read Malachi 4:1.  Into which messianic strand does the use of Malachi put John the Baptist? The apocalyptic strand.

What is John offering in Mk.1:4-6? repentance, a cleansing, forgiveness

What is your image of John?a bit weird, the equivalent of the bible-basher on a soap box in the shopping mall, a sect leader

What did baptism mean to John? a means of preparing the people for the ‘endtime’.

What did baptism mean to those who were baptised? – forgiveness, expiation of their sin, cleansing

Look at Mt. 3:7-10 and the equivalent in Luke.

What source document begins here? Document Q

What is the difference between the two accounts?  – In Mt, the Baptist is addressing Pharisees; in Lk, he is addressing the general populace.

Why do you think this difference exists? Mt. takes every opportunity to criticise the Jewish establishment.  Remember his audience is primarily Jewish. Luke, addressing Gentiles, has no such agenda, so Luke’s version is probably the accurate use of the source material (Q).

What is the warning contained in this section? Change your behaviour and live according to God’s will or else perish.

What does it mean to be a ‘child of Abraham’? one of the ‘chosen’ people, God’s favoured people.

What would John say to a Christian that would mean the same thing?Accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour’ won’t save you.’

What has changed from John’s viewpoint?– the time of judgment is near, so time is now short for repentance.

What is the Australian equivalent of ‘children of Abraham’? – ‘living in the lucky country’

How do you resort to a claim of being a ‘child of Abraham’,i.e., How do you let yourself off the hook?  ‘I’m not as bad as others’, ‘I’m basically a good person’, ‘I didn’t know…’

Look at Mk 1:7-8 and the parallels.

What is the new idea here?- Baptism through the Holy Spirit 

Where did the idea come from?  The spirit broods over the waters at creation in Genesis, and gave life to the clay to create Adam; thus it is the symbol of the new creation and new life.

How do Mt & Lk differ from Mk?   They add baptism by “fire”.

What is the source of the difference?  They have Doc.Q as a source, which was not available to Mk.

How could this have occurred?  Either Mt & Lk added it to Mark when they copied him, perhaps incorporating an idea from Doc. Q, or Mark originally had ‘fire’, but it was removed by a later editor. Why? “Fire’ imparts an aura of purification, judgment and punishment.

Which is likely to be more original?  People have agreed Mark’s version is probably more original.

Look at Mt.3:12

What is “the One to come” going to do? Judge 

What sort of Messiah is being described? – Apocalyptic

Now jump to Lk.24:13-53

Of the five (political, milk & honey, apocalyptic, suffering servant or dying and rising saviour), which one grips you right now?Answers will vary from person to person and in the same person, from day to day.

What might be the source of the yearning behind all these? a yearning for ‘more’ out of life; desire for freedom, growth, peace. wholeness…

What happens when this yearning gets projected into any of the messianic strands? – we then rely on someone else to bring about the change for which we yearn, rather than striving to change things ourselves. Psychologically, by projecting any part of ourselves onto another, we effectively disempower ourselves by putting our potential and resources on another.



Why would someone go to John? – Guilt, and a desire for forgiveness/cleansing, fear of the coming endtime.

Note that we have 3-gospel material here except for Mt. 3:14-15.  That being the case, what is the source material? Document Mark

Looking at Mk.1:10 and parallels, what is different among the three gospels? – “bodily form” in Luke

What happens when a symbol, in this case the dove, becomes concrete? It loses its power to evoke meaning and, instead, is a sign with a single specific meaning

Which form is more likely the original? “like a dove” is more likely than a real dove.

In the baptism, what is the first movement? – held under the water 

What does this symbolise? drowning/death, return to womb, cleansing

What is the second movement? -emergence from water 

What does this symbolise?   rise from or escape death, rebirth, freedom from sin

What is Jesus’ experience upon emerging? heavens are torn asunder

What does it mean to a Jew that the heavens are rent? – God is accessible.  This can be related to the curtain across the holy of holies in the temple which, according to the story, is torn when Jesus dies.

What is the 3rd movement in the account? God as Spirit descends

What is the nature of this descent? gentle like a dove. God, the demanding, punishing, masculine, tremendum, whom Moses could not even look at lest he die, appears dove-like and feminine!!  It’s an extreme contrast to the traditional image of God!  

What is happening here? Jesus is having an ecstatic religious experience; he is filled with the Spirit

In Mk.1:11, what would the words, “I am well pleased” have felt like for Jesus? – he experienced forgiveness, acceptance and removal of his guilt, probably resulting in surprise/shock, confusion, relief. 

For what was the compliment given? – Jesus chose to make the trek into the wilderness to John, present himself and repent.

Compare the first two words of this verse in the three accounts. What is different? Matthew’s choice of the third person: “This is…” instead of “You are…”

What does this do to the meaning of this paragraph?  It makes Jesus’ personal/natural experience a public/supernatural experience. Which is original? Mark & Luke. If it really had been a public pronouncement, surely this would have been such an outstanding event that Mark and Luke would have included it.

What kind of questions would Jesus be asking himself? What does it all mean? What do I do with this? 

Looking ahead to M. 1:12 and parallels, what does the Spirit do next? – Drives Jesus into the wilderness to search for answers.

At the end of the baptism, how is Jesus different? New sense of relationship with, and image of, God; now free of the sense of guilt that brought him to John in the first place.

What was Jesus’ contribution to this event? What did he bring? – his choice

At the end of the baptism, how is God different?  more of self revealed, better known, not alone, accessible. 

Return to “The Beginning”