Thursday, November 30, 2023

Mark's Greek (Part 2: Intercalation)

In Mark 5 we have another example of Mark's style. This is when a second story is embedded within the first. Scholars call this "intercalation." Intercalation is a special feature of Mark's Gospel. The best example of it is found here in Mark 5:21-43, the story of Jairus's daughter and the woman with an issue of blood. Jairus and his request is first introduced, but the narrative is interrupted by the woman and her special need before the Jairus story resumes and the narrative is brought to a conclusion. 

In an intercalation, the interior story is there because the author wishes to inform or interpret the stories in the outer envelope. Mark wants to remind his readers that, before Jesus heals Jairus's "daughter," he has healed the woman with the blood discharge, whom he addresses as "Daughter" (5:34). Both healings in turn preview Jesus' eschatological reign when there will be no need for physical healing. It's also impossible to miss the connection between the raising of Jairus's daughter and Jesus own resurrection. 

To this point in Mark, the theme has been Jesus' power over all those things that are so utterly beyond human control. 

  • His authority over the wind and the sea.
  • His authority over demons.
  • And now his authority over death.

Jesus pacifies a huge storm when most of us can't even pacify a toddler.

Jesus orders a legion of demons about like he was giving instructions to a pet dog.

Finally, Jesus heals a woman who's been bleeding for 12 years and a young girl who is desperately ill and dies, and in each instance Jesus' authority is as boundless as it is absolute. The perfection of his power is matched only by the perfection of his compassion.

What a brilliant example of intercalation. And what a brilliant example of prayerful Bible study.