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A Pre-Markan Passion Narrative

When you read the first half of the Gospel of Mark, some of Jesus’s teachings appear to be arranged topically (e.g. Sabbath controversies in Mark 2:1 – 3:6 and parables in Mark 4) and there is a fairly loose geographical and chronological framework. Jesus may “immediately” do something while attending synagogue on some Sabbath or while walking by the sea. With the exception of the baptism and anointing of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry and Peter’s climatic confession about Jesus as the Messiah at the mid-point of the Gospel, the precise order of events does not seem to be too crucial until Jesus rides on a donkey to Jerusalem.

It is at this point that there is a much more interconnected, chronological story. One event leads logically after another. Jesus enters Jerusalem to the crowd’s acclaim as a potential messianic deliverer (Mark 11:1-11), causes a disturbance in the Temple courts the following day before slipping out of the city (11:15-18), debates religious authorities in the temple courts the next day before predicting the temple’s doom (11:27-13:37), has a plot hatched against his life two days before Passover (14:1-2), is anointed by a woman beforehand as he will be dishonorably buried (14:3-9), after the Passover Lamb is sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan his disciples prepare a room to eat the Passover meal for the 15th of Nisan (14:12-31), is abandoned and betrayed by his disciples in Gethsemane before his trials and execution (14:43-15:41), and his tomb is found empty (16:1-8). This is the story about Jesus’s “Passion” (from the Latin passio or “suffering/enduring”). Did the author of the earliest extant Gospel inherit a complete “Passion Narrative” or did he or she craft one from a variety of earlier oral/written sources (e.g. eyewitness reports, liturgical traditions like the Last Supper, scriptural prophecies, etc.)? I am going to reproduce my notes about this issue from my previous blog over the next few days.

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