The ring of the Gospel of Mark is wrought around the central loading in Mark 7. As is sometimes the case, this central loading also has a ring structure. Here again, the technique of the author shows itself. The argument of this Gospel is highly structured; every part, every sentence, sometimes every word and the chosing of grammar has its meaning and is used to transport the central meaning: what is the good news of the teaching of Jesus.

The central loading is structured as a minor ring within the bigger ring of the Gospel. It looks like this (click to enlarge):

The parallel readings once more show the structure that centers the central meaning:

A and A‘ show movement, entrance and exit: Pharisees and teachers come to Jesus. In the end, Jesus exits the scene and goes into a house where he explains the meaning of the parable again for the disciples.

B and B‘ explain the situation further:The Pharisees see the disciples eat food without ritually washing their hands beforehand. It is explained that the Pharisees would never do this and even wash cups and kettles before eating and drinking, according to their explanation of the Law. The answer is given in B‘: „Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.“

C and C“ explore the situation further. The Pharisees ask Jesus how he could allow this. In C‘ Jesus explains that the commands of tradition have been lifted, staying within the example: For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)“ Jesus himself declares that the commands of tradition have been lifted.

D and D‘ explain the central saying with two quotations from the Old Testament. D quotes Isaiah 29,13, D‘ quotes Exodus 21:17; Lev. 20:9.

E contains the central loading: „Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” This is direct criticism of the overexplanation of the Law: people are forced to behave in certain ways because somebody explained the Law in this way. Jesus criticizes this way, for the Law has been made for the people, and not the people for the Law. The Good News is that Grace overthrew the Law and that people are not more burdened and judged by their outside behavior.

The other good – or is it bad? – news is that people are now judged by their inner thoughts and attitudes, and how they show themselves on the outside. A far more complicated behavior is required from them. They have to be good and full of Grace from the inside and show this in their deeds on the outside. Washing is not sufficient here.

(c) 2024 Cornelia Soldat