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The World Behind the Text


According to the traditional views of the hermeneutic school, a biblical text has one author-intended meaning, the message that Holy Spirit guided him to convey to the people of his time. Hence, there must be one valid interpretation and many valid applications. The applications are derived from one meaning that justify the timeless truth of the text. The present essay intends to value the importance of “the world behind the text”, “the world of the text” and “the world in front of text”. The explanation will be given by referring toGospel of Mark 1, 4, 9 and 13. The purpose of selection of these passages from gospel of Mark is its radical shift from other gospels such as Mathew and Luke. He does not provide any information regarding the birth and childhood of Jesus Christ instead he starts with “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The word gospel simply means good news and the good news is about the Kingdom of God. We will analyze the cultural and contextual meaning of the passages, the second goal is the lingual or textual study of the text and finally the significance of the texts for the present day world (Marcus, 2009).

The Context

The gospel of Mark opens “The beginning of the good gospel about Jesus the Messiah….” according to Mark it is “good news”, second it is about Christ the Messiah, the savior and he the Son of God and also the God Son unlike other human beings. In the fourth verse another historical figure is appeared John Baptist. The office of John of Baptist spoke about the coming of Messiah. John the Baptist thinks unworthy of himself and his ministry before Christ and his glory.The baptism and stay there alludes to his mission and give foundation for the subsequent ministry. The prologue echoes with the motif of the wilderness. The first section is set in the wilderness before Jesus left for the Galilee. Hence, the primary unifying term chapter one from verse one to thirteen is about wilderness. Right from the beginning after introducing Jesus Christ, Mark focuses on the ministry of John the Baptist and doing this Mark celebrates the redemptive activity of God in providing deliverance for men. The cited prophecy (Ch. 1: 2-3) is fulfilled first in the ministry of John and second with the coming of Christ into the wilderness (Union Seminary Magazine, p.71-90).

The word “gospel” has its roots in pagan and Jewish culture; it was not the Christian who used this word for the first time. For Romans the word meant “joyful tidings” and was associated with the emperor. According to the calendar inscription found around 9 B.C from Asia Minor, the inscription says the following about Octavian Augustus “the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings which have been proclaimed on his account.” The similarities are remarkable between this inscription and Mark’s initial lines. Hence, it is an historical event that introduces a new situation for the world. Only in this context would Romans understand Mark’s announcement of Christ as Messiah. Right after the announcement of Christ as the Lord and Son of God Mark introduces John the Baptist, John is a vital figure in the history redemption and revelation. For more than three hundred years Israel had never seen any prophet, they thought that the prophetic task has been accomplished.

Nevertheless many believed that a prophet like Moses would appear to signal the “last days” (I Macc. 4:42-46; 14:41; Deut.18:15-19;). Hence, John’s appearance in the beginning of gospel of Mark is was an eschatological event. Therefore, the good news began with the coming of Christ and John the Baptist. Although it is difficult to discover John as a person, nevertheless, the disclosure of an Essene center at Khirbet Qumran in the Judean wild has prompted the guess that John might had invested some time there. Stamp centers consideration around three components in John’s service, every one of which is identified with the OT predictions with which he has introduced his Gospel: (1) John was a man of the wild; (2) he performed his service of baptism in the wild, thus arranged the method for the Christ; (3) he declared one more important than himself who was to come after him. Each detail of the five verses is identified with at least one of these three accentuations. To this point we have analyzed the “world of the text”, its contextual meaning and its background by analyzing a few verses from the gospel of Mark chapter one (Wink, 2000).

The Text

A reasonable origination of Mark’s aim in the Gospel reveals insight into the particular character of his style. Mark’s mission was to extend Christian confidence in an atmosphere of vulnerability where martyrdom had been a reality. He chose and organized the custom to introduce the Christ who proceeds to talk and act seriously with regards to emergency. What was demanded by the circumstance was not a past word, descriptive of what Jesus had said and done, yet a word from the present through which the living Lord could be heard and known. The record Mark drew up is portrayed by effortlessness and straightforwardness. His style and language is not as much detailed but rather more prevalent than that of Matthew or Luke. The frequent use of the word “immediately” increases the sense of excitement and vividness (Dodd, 1961).

In this section we will evaluate “the world of the text”, in this session the purpose is to analyze literary devices used by the Mark to tell the good news. The passages are selected from chapter four because in this chapter Jesus through parables as in other synoptic gospels (Mar 4:1-9). The purpose of telling a story rather than abstractions was obvious, Jesus had wide range of audience and he was cautious about his words hence, he told his message in concrete picture for the maximum understanding. In chapter four the parable of the sower or soil is famous parable Jesus told to the people. The purpose of telling the truth in parables was to make his audience attentive (Mar 4:1-9). The intention was not to blind them but because they were blind, so that they can look again. Jesus frequently criticizes his audience. The parable is about teaching, you can study the teaching, you can analyze it, you can make categorizations and so on but without sowing nothing can grow (Starobinski, 1971).

The Significance

In this section we will see “the world in front of the text”, in other words we will see if the text has anything for our time. This the most important section as the timelessness of the word of the God. The selected text is from chapter 13 of gospel of Mark. The chapter is very significant because in this chapter predicts the destruction of the temple (Mar 13:1-2). The prophecy was fulfilled some forty years after Jesus proclaimed its destruction. The literal fulfillment of the prophecy will pave ways for the fulfillment of other prophecies proclaimed by Jesus Christ. When the disciples asked about the fulfillment of the word, Jesus’ answer is the one of the general condition of the world before his second coming (Mar 13:5-8). His words are farewell instruction by closely looking at the text. The chapter 13 is one of the most debated chapters in the gospels. A series of prophesies made by Jesus had been fulfilled after a century. But there are strong evidences, for instance, according to David Barrett 165,000 Christians died for their faith in 2000. 46 million Christians have been killed since the day of Pentecost. Hence, the significance of the word of God is timeless. The book has a lot to offer to its reader even in the present day world (Barrett, 2011).  “That day and hour no one knows” says Jesus, no one but God. Jesus does not know, doesn’t he the Lord himself? The answer of this question is that Jesus deliberately in submission to his Father, restricted his knowledge.


In the first section of this exegetical essay we evaluated the “the world behind the text” and we noticed that how important this strategy is in deciphering contextual meaning of the text when it was produced. In the second section our focus was the text, that how the use of literary terms and literary devices and the selection of language was cautious due to the sensitive subject matter of the message. And in the final section we tested the timelessness of the text by evaluating the powerful prophecies made by Jesus Christ. Hence, it is very important to study “the world behind the text”, “the world of the text” and “the world in front of text” in order to properly understand the meaning of the text.



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