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Union Biblical Seminary, Pune

Jesus Movement in the Gospel Traditions (English)

Topic: Exegesis (Mark 4:10-12)
Submitted to: Rev. Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty
Submitted by: Calban Riford Doling

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Author
3. Date
4. Situation in Chapter 4
5. Source Criticism
6. Form Criticism
7. Redaction Criticism
8. Context
8.1. Immediate Context
8.2. Wider Context
9. Verse 10: When He was alone
10. Verse 11
10.1. The Secret
10.2. Those Outside
11. Verse 12: Quotation from Isaiah
12. Theological significance
13. Implication in Indian context
14. Tradition
15. Conclusion

1. Introduction:

Mark was the first written Gospels among the other synoptic gospels, and Mark may then have
invented the form of book that we call a gospel where there is nothing like this book in the
previous years. The Gospel of Mark contains so many stories about Jesus that had been brought
together, and this is may explain why the gospel may seem a little ‘rough and ready’ to some.1

2. Author:

This gospel is anonymous, early Christian tradition ascribes it to John Mark, a companion and
interpreter of the apostle Peter. Hence its author is often called Mark. Although the gospel itself
nowhere says that it was written by Mark, the early Christians have no doubts about it.2

3. Date:

The vast majority of researchers believe that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, between
AD 60 and 70, only about 30 years after the death of Jesus Christ. This scholarly consensus
holds that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were composed, independently of one
another, sometime in the 80s or 90s.3

4. Situation in Chapter 4:

In chapter 4, Mark has collected together a group of parables in which Jesus gave encouragement
to all who follow Him. In the beginning of Chapter 4, we see that Jesus was surrounded by such
a crowd that He had to get into a boat and go out a little away from the land where he “sat down”
to teach the crowd. On completion of the parable Jesus is approached by the disciples, including
the twelve, “When he was alone” (v.10). They didn’t know what Jesus meant, and so they asked
Him about the parable. Jesus explains His teachings to his disciples privately. Mark does not tell
us their specific questions but Jesus first notifies them that the secret of the Kingdom of God has
been given to them but for those outside He says that everything comes in parables (v.11). Jesus

1 st
Carson D.A,France R.T, Moyer J. A, Wenham G.J, New Bible Commentary 21 century edition, (Leicester:
Intervarsity press, 1994), 946.
Marcus Joel, The Anchor Bible: Mark 1-8 A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: ABD,
Doubleday, 1999), 28.

also quotes a verse from Isaiah 6:9 (v.12). After saying this Jesus does not answer the disciple’s
question about the parables of the Harvest.

5. Source Criticism:
Mark’s source represents part of a collection of parables which had arisen in the early Christian
community. However, the present structure of Mark’s gospel must be understood as the work of
a redactor, since there is no evidence that other gospels had been written prior to the time of
Mark’s gospel. Therefore, one may conclude that the focal importance which this parabolic
material occupies in this gospel must be understood as the result of the author’s intention.4
6. Form Criticism:

This is a parable narrative, the main purpose is to investigate Mark’s understanding of Parables
as revealed in Mark 4:10-12, because the parables occupy an important place in the Gospel of
Mark. An additional clue to the significance of the Parables for Mark can be seen in the fact that
an extended collection of parables appears near the beginning of his Gospel.

7. Redaction Criticism:

This text sits awkwardly in its present context. The previous context is about Jesus teaching the
crowd in a boat (4:1-2). Without further explanation, Mark shifts the narrative that takes place in
private with those around his Twelve disciples (4:10-12), a small group of disciples. Another
textual issue that occurs in the passage is the use of plural form of parables, whereas Jesus
completes one parable (4:3-9). The placement of the discourse between Jesus and “those around
him” also interrupts the sequence of parable. Jesus was still on the boat in the sea (4:1-2), but he
and “those around him” appear to be in a private (4:10-12) and the clarification of the parable
occurs again in the boat in the sea (4:35-36). At this point, Jesus is again in the public setting
with his disciples in the boat. With few exceptions, some scholars believed this passage to be a
latter insertion. But this inconsistency is more likely due to tradition, so he decided to leave the
setting the way it is now.5

Brenda Jackson, An Exegetical Analysis of Mark 4,
Marcus Joel, The Anchor Bible: Mark 1-8 A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

Many ascribed the Markan redaction to traditional material. One cannot avoid the questions no
matter whether Mark inserted his independent tradition unit or borrowed from the tradition
within the parable collection. If he borrowed it from Pre-Markan tradition, where did he find it
and what qualified him to apply this text there (4:10-12)? His form, materials within his
redaction, and context show that he found it in tradition. Yet there are some questions to be
asked. Why did Mark quote Isaiah 6 here? Is the text is about double predestination that only
elect or insiders are foreordained to hear the message while outsiders’ ears divinely closed?
Some people think that v. 7:17 supports it. But what do we do with 12:12 when outsiders also
knew that the parable was about them? As Robert A. Guelich asserts that the text is not about the
“double predestination” but about the hardness of heart of those who constantly rejected Jesus
and his message.6

8. Context:
8.1. Immediate Context:
Jesus now retires with his disciples to a private place, giving these intrigued but mystified
followers an opportunity to ask him about the parable he has just uttered. His reply in strange
harshness, is one of the most formidable sayings in the New Testament. The structure of the
passage reflects its message.7 Its first verse and a half alternates between a focus on the disciples,
the strong link between the groups, and the implicit connection between both God are
emphasized by the phrase “those around him,” “he said to them” and “the mystery of the
dominion of God”
But the final verse and a half suddenly shifts its focus to a third party, “those outsiders,” who are
portrayed as being alienated from Jesus and the disciples and from God. This negative aspect of
Jesus’ parabolic is strongly emphasized by the disproportionate amount of space devoted to it.
The verse 10 explains the disciples question and 11-12 was Jesus reply.
8.2. Wider Context:

The peak of Jesus ministry in Galilean from Mark 3:7 to Mark 4:33 is the wider context for this
unit. Mark 4: 1-34, Mark parabolic material is the largest unit of Mark’s gospel which also

Cole R. Alan, Tyndale New Commentaries, (Grand Rapids: Inter Varsity, 1995), 148.

constitutes Jesus sayings.8 In this context it begins with Jesus and his disciples withdrawing to
the sea due to increasing number of crowds following him to listen to him, these crowds includes
outsiders from Galilee. In 4:1-2, Mark has apparently created the setting of Jesus teaching the
crowd while sitting in a boat, a setting that obtains through 4: 35-36. Yet 4:10 assumes a private
setting.9 Therefore, if we take 4:11-12 to have been redactionally added to this context by Mark.
The introduction of 4:11-12 into this this literary context fits more smoothly when regarded as a
pre-Markan stage in the development of the traditional complex behind 4:3-33.10

9. Verse 10: When He was alone:

“When He was alone.” That is, when the crowd has dispersed and Jesus was no longer in
demand. It awaited a suitable time and place and Mark puts it here so that the application
immediately follows the giving of the parable and brings out Jesus’ purpose in the use of
parables. Jesus was approached by not just the twelve disciples, but it was a wider number of His
followers “who were around Him”.11 They came to Him seeking more truth as they were not
satisfied with just a story.

10. Verse 11

10.1: The Secret:

“To you has been given.” This is a way of saying ‘God has given you’ without using the
name of God.

“The Secret of the Kingdom of God.” In the New Testament a ‘mystery’ was something
previously hidden but now revealed. It was opened secret’, and because these disciples sought, it
was to be opened to them. In Jewish thought, it was common place to describe God’s ways as
different from ours. They are a secret and are known, not by human wisdom, but by revelation.
The Aramaic word used to express this revealed secret was raz and is probably behind the Greek
word mysterion used here.12 “The secret of the Kingdom of God” is that the kingdom of God has
come in the person and mission of Jesus. The secret is not something that s discovered by human
Lane L. Williams, The Gospel According to Mark, (Cambridge: WB. Ferdmans, 1974), 149.
Brian Wintle, Synoptic Studies A Primer (Theological Book Trust: Bangalore, 1998), 117
Brian Wintle, Synoptic Studies A Primer…, 117.

insights; it can only be known by the divine revelation and is given to disciples only (or those
who have begun to follow Jesus can understand it. John 7:17). This means that the good news
that the rule of God over men’s heart has already begun to come.13

10.2: Those Outside:

The second half of verse 11 is about the difference between the followers of Jesus and “those
outside”. His followers were not better than others, but they followed a better master, and they
were divided from others in this way.14 One reason Jesus told His parable was to separate those
who sincerely followed Him from those who only come to see Him do a miracle.

11. Verse 12: Quotation from Isaiah:

In verse 12, we have a quotation from Isaiah 6:9, (where it is foreseen that the prophet would fail
to convert Judah.) Jesus employs it here in comment on the parable. 15 The commissions of Isaiah
the prophet in Isaiah chapter 6 follows a lengthy section of indication and judgment against
Judah and Jerusalem, punctuated by the expressions of hope but we see that the overall tone is
gloomy despite the glimmers of hope. The people have persistently rebelled against God, and His
patience has reached its limit.16 Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 6:9 in the purpose of this parable
passages raises the question of whether he desired some people not to be saved, which is really
the central exegetical issue.

In mark when we see the line “so that they may not turn and be forgiven” (v. 12), in which case
the purpose of Jesus speaking in parables is so that the “secret” might remain hidden.17 But what
Jesus did mean when He used Isaiah’s words was perhaps that when He told parables, a few
accepted the teachings, and many rejected it and the more he taught the more they rejected him.
This is what happened to Isaiah.18 Jesus intended his parables to be a means by which sincere

John Hargreaves, A Guide To St. Mark’s Gospel, (ISPCK: Delhi, 1988), 69.
John Hargreaves, A Guide To St. Mark’s Gospel..., 69.
Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction To The New Testament (Theological Publications: Bangalore 2009), 133.
Carl Walters. Jr, I, Mark A Personal Encounter, (John Knox: Atlanta, 1980), 114.
Brian Wintle, Synoptic Studies a Primer…, 118.
John Hargreaves, A Guide To St. Mark’s Gospel…, 69.

people would be divided from the insincere. Thus the traditional interpretation of this text is that
the secret of the parable is penetrated by the eyes of faith, but remains a riddle to unbelievers.19

12. Theological significance:

In a large extent the materials designated in Mark as “parables” are similar in nature. The
parables refer to a revelatory truth in the preaching of Jesus conveyed through the medium of a
known relationship in nature or the daily life of men.20 The parables make a direct appeal to the
imagination and involve the hearers I the situation. This parables lends to the parable the
character of an argument. It entices the hearers to judge the situation depicted, and then
challenges them, directly or indirectly, to apply that judgment to them. In Mark’s Gospel the
parables focus upon the critical situation created by Jesus’ presence.21

13. Implication in Indian context:

There are people in India to whom the word of God is “veiled” and who cannot “understand” it,
not because the Word is something difficult to understand, but because their hearts are calloused,
hard, not permitting any growth towards knowledge and having their own faith and belief like
not believing in the living God. Thus we must take the teachings of God’s word seriously. God’s
word is important and we must give much effort to understanding the word. Paying attention,
thinking and reflecting is required. We must realize that we won’t catch everything in first time
as this is sensitive to other faiths in India. Intensive reading and re-reading is required. First are
the things of the Kingdom of God and then all the other things. If we apply this principle, then all
the other things will be added to us and it would be an example to the society. If however, we
don’t apply it but in the top position we put cares and other things, then these other things will
choke the Word, making it unfruitful.22

14. Tradition:

Brian Wintle, Synoptic Studies A Primer…, 118
Lane L. William, The Gospel According to Mark, (Cambridge: WB. Eerdmans, 1974), 150.
Lane L. William, The Gospel According to Mark…, 150.
Carl Walters. Jr, I, Mark A Personal Encounter…,115.

Traditionally, this is a three way traditional parable which is found as well in Matthew and Luke.
Which is notable considering the widely accepted assumption that both Matthew and Luke used
Mark as one of their Primary sources when writing their Gospels, along with the fact that the rest
of Mark 4 is present in some form, in one or both of the Synoptic Gospels. Within the Gospel
context of Mark, the parable of the seed growing secretly is located in the midst of the Parabolic
teaching discourse of Mark 4, which according to the evangelists, takes place while Jesus is
speaking to the crowds from a boat. Parables has been interpreted as allegories. Consequently
each term express a cryptogram, so that the entire parable had to be decoded term by term. It
must be admitted that the Gospels themselves give encouragement to this allegorical method of
interpretation, for instance Mark interprets the parable of the sower and Matthew also interprets
the task and the dragnet on the basis of such principles.23

15. Conclusion:
Mark 4 can challenge modern readers in a variety of ways. The disciples did find it difficult to
understand but were filled with passion to learn and thus approach Jesus for explanation. His
parables are for all to understand and perceive, be it those outside or the disciples themselves.
However effort must be made by us in order to comprehend the word of God.


Oliver Brown, Mark’s Use of Parables as Revealed in Mark 4:10-12, (Atlanta: Inter Denominational Theological
Center, 1969), pdf

Brown Raymond E.. An Introduction To The New Testament. Theological Publications:
Bangalore 2009.
Brown Oliver. Mark’s Use of Parables as Revealed in Mark 4:10-12. Atlanta: Inter
Denominational Theological Center, 1969.

France Carson D.A, R.T, Moyer J. A, Wenham G.J. New Bible Commentary 21st century
edition. Leicester: Intervarsity press. 1994.

Hargreaves John. A Guide To St. Mark’s Gospel. ISPCK: Delhi, 1988.

Joel Marcus. The Anchor Bible: Mark 1-8 A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
.New York: ABD, Doubleday. 1999.

Wintle Brian. Synoptic Studies A Primer .Theological Book Trust: Bangalore, 1998.

Walters. Carl Jr. Mark A Personal Encounter. John Knox: Atlanta. 1980.
William Lane L. The Gospel According to Mark. Cambridge: WB. Eerdmans. 1974.

Brenda Jackson, An Exegetical Analysis of Mark 4,