Who is the "Strong Man" in Mark's Gospel?: Studies in Mark, Pt. 5

Of nearly 50 works written on the Gospel according to Mark that I have recently surveyed, 99.9% of them agree that the “strong man” mentioned in Mk. 3.27 is satan. The argument goes as follows: Jesus is the thief who breaks into satan’s house, ties satan up and then plunders him for his followers. Honestly, I must say that I am shocked at such conclusions. It reminds me of the early atonement theory expounded by Pope Gregory the Great (AD 600) who said, “…matching deceit with deceit, Christ frees man by tricking the devil into overstepping his authority. Christ becomes a ‘fishhook’: His humanity is the bait, His divinity the hook, and Leviathan (satan) is snared.”

I want to show here though, that Christ does not have to trick or deceive satan to lead believers to Himself. Just as well, He does not have to, as would a thief under the cover of night, attempt to break into satan’s home (this earth) and steal believers away! Yet, when Christ is taken as the “thief” and satan as “the strong man,” that is exactly the picture that this interpretation paints.

Currently, I am writing a paper to be submitted to a journal on this topic. However, I want to share many of my initial findings here. What I want to do here is to show how the “strong man” is actually Jesus and that satan is the thief. Now, very few people have argued this point and usually when they have, they have only do so because they cannot stomach the thought of the term “thief” being used to describe Jesus. While I understand their hesitation, I must say that in other places the Gospel writers refer to the return of Christ as “a thief in the night.” I don’t have any qualms with that. What I do have a problem with is Jesus having to deceive satan to gain followers. When the return of Jesus is mentioned, it is not a return to “gain” followers or to “make” new believers but rather it is to judge and to pardon. There is a huge difference between the two uses of thief language! Moving on…

In Mark, the “strong man” has to be Jesus because that is the only reading that, from a narrative / literary standpoint, makes any sense. Putting it all in context, here is what has happened prior to the “strong man” comment in 3.27:

From a spiritual standpoint:

* satan has tempted Jesus in the wilderness without avail (1.12-13)
* Demons attempt to gain control over Jesus repeatedly by calling His name (1.24-35; 3.10-11)—it should be noted here that, in ancient exorcism handbooks, one way to gain control over the demon or evil spirit was to call it by name, thus, when the demons call Jesus by His name, they are attempting to reverse the norm and get control over Him

From a religio-political standpoint:

* The empire has taken John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, to be killed (1.14)

Note the progression of violence towards Jesus here in each of Mark's episodes:

1. The religious leaders, sitting in the home of Jesus, talk amongst themselves about Christ’s claims and actions; they see Him as a blasphemer (2.7)
2. The religious leaders challenge the followers of Jesus to their faces, concerning Christ’s actions (2.16)
3. The religious leaders work up the nerve to confront Jesus to His own face (2.18)
4. The religious leaders begin spying on Jesus (2.23)
5. The religious leaders attempt to boobytrap Jesus by placing an ill man in the synagogue (3.2) to see if He will heal Him on the Sabbath
6. The religious leaders plot with the Herodians to kill Jesus (3.6)
7. The religious leaders bring the Herodians to the home of Jesus and accuse Him of being in-league with satan (3.20ff)
8. The family of Jesus sides with the majority and agree that Jesus is possessed (3.21)

The point of showing all of this is to bring to the fore the fact that in Mark’s account, there is a mounting aggression towards Jesus on behalf of both the spiritual and religio-political realms; they both want control over Him and want to shut Him up. In short, because He is drawing so many people to Him and the people are listening, they want Him dead. And why not, if He’s taking their fame and authority away from them (1.27)? What all of the forces are trying to do then, is to shut Jesus down and shut Jesus up. He, then, is the strong man that everyone wants bound! Yet, He will not be intimidated by these people; He will keep professing that He is God in the flesh—even though He knows His end.

Now, one of the other telltale signs that Jesus is the “strong man” comes in the parables directly after the “strong man” analogy (e.g. ch. 4). For example, in the parable of the soils, Jesus uses the soils not as a sermon on inner-spiritual growth (God help us) but He uses it as a way to tell talk about the types of people He has confronted thus far on His mission. Moreover, He is using it to tell His disciples that if they preach that He is God, they too will face these same people and types of opposition. This is why in 6.11 He tells them that from time-to-time, they will simply have to “shake the dust off of their shoes” and move on.

To spell it out: 1) the soil near the path represents satan and demonic forces, 2) the rocky, shallow soil represents the crowds who only come to Jesus for a miracle, not discipleship, 3) the soil among the thorns represents those close to Jesus who try to hold Him back from carrying out His ministry, for example, His family (see: 3.31-34), and 4) the good soil represents those who are willing to follow Him despite hardships.

Again, Jesus is using this parable to tell His disciples the types of hardships that He has encountered and that if they are serious about preaching the Good News that Jesus is God, they will encounter these hardships too. As with Jesus, the rest of society will try to tie them up and plunder them—perhaps even kill them.

The point, then, is that from a narrative standpoint, it makes no sense that the “strong man” is satan whom Jesus is attempting to bind; it is the other way around. Also, from a theological standpoint, when we follow the satan equals “strong man” theory, we are led back to Pope Gregory’s atonement theory—a sad theory indeed.


  1. "Honestly, I must say that I am shocked at such conclusions."

    But isn't that the context? Jesus has just go on about how he couldn't be working for Satan because he was working against satan, and how could satan stand if he were working at odds with himself?

    Then, to launch into "No, first the strongman has to be bound up so that deeds can be done..."

    Do you not see this story as connected to the preceding verses?

  2. Dan,

    Absolutely I see this story as connected to the preceding verses. In fact, I see it as connected to the stories that come before and after it as well.

    I would suggest, as I did in my post, that the context is a repeated and progressive violence against Jesus in Mark's account. Even the people are violent against Him here. If you look at the immediate context, they were saying that Jesus had demons in Him. Jesus replies that such statements are illogical. As you note, He couldn't be working for satan.

    The enemy, though, satan, is not working against himself, my point is that what he is doing is working against Jesus. The violence shows us that over and over again. Mark goes to great lengths to get us to see this. This is why we can say that satan is trying to bind Jesus up or stop Him.

    I guess my question is the same as yours: Do you not see this story as connected to the preceding verses? I would also ask, Do you not take this story in its literary context (especially all of the stories leading up to it)?

    In a way, it almost sounds like your argument agrees with mine but in a way it doesn't. Can you clarify at all?

  3. Here's how I'm reading that passage:

    Scribes see Jesus driving out demons.

    Scribes say, "By the power of the devil, he drives out demons!"

    Jesus says, "That doesn't make sense. If satan were driving out demons, he'd be undoing his own work."

    Jesus gives an allegory, saying, "it'd be like someone who wants to rob a house. First, he'd have to tie up the strongman at the house. Then he could plunder the house. I'm like that thief, tying up the strongman so that I can act against him. You scribes are suggesting the strongman is tying up himself - it doesn't make sense!"

    Which, I suppose is the traditional reading. Seems logical to me. To be honest, I don't think I'm getting your angle on it.

    I like a great deal your laying out of the progression of violence/opposition to Jesus, but it doesn't seem to naturally fit into this story.

    Also, I was wondering where you got this: "Jesus having to deceive satan to gain followers" from that passage?

  4. Dan,

    Your reading does make sense! I don't rule it out totally. It is the traditional reading but I'm not so sure that it is the correct one. By the way, the way you broke it down was good. Here's my angle, also in a more dissected form:

    The scribes see Jesus driving out demons.

    The scribes say that He is driving out demons by the power of satan.

    Jesus says, "That doesn't make sense, if satan were driving out satan, he'd be undoing his own work."

    Jesus gives a string of analogies, the are:

    1. "You've seen kings divide their kingdoms up among thier sons, has that ever worked? No! The sons always get greedy and want their brother's land. When this happened, tha kingdom has turned against itself or turned in on itself. If satan's minions warred against their leader or one another, it would be the same thing. Thus, your comments are illogical."

    2. "You've all seen sibling rivalries in some families. We know that such rivalries are forbidden because they bring shame to the family; nonetheless, they still happen. When shame is heapend on the whole family, there is bound to be division. If I were really part of satan's household, one of his minions, as you say, I would do everything possible not to destroy the house or bring shame on it, but to build it up. Again, your comments are illogical."

    3. "You all know of military leaders. Would a leader send his troops to kill other troops? Not so much. If he did, he would only be bringing his kingdom to its own knees. If I am a soldier of satan, would it make sense for satan to send me to kill his soldiers or to even try to kill him? No. Again, you're being illogical. I cannot be working for satan. Besides, you've heard me time and time again, say that I am building a "new" kingdom, my own--not satan's or anyone else's."

    4. "And it is precisely this kingdom that satan wants to stop; He is just as opposed to my "new" kingdom as I am to his kingdom. I am trying to put an end to his and he is trying to put an end to mine. And friends, that is exactly what you see going on here (and what has been going on since I stepped onto the scene). No, I am not working for satan, you are. You are working with him to try to stop my kingdom from expanding; you, along with satan, are trying to bind me. You plot in secret to kill me; you try to dissuade people from following me -you try to plunder me of my followers and you come here to my house and try to prevent me from building my kingdom. You see how powerful this movement is and you want to stop it; you see how strong I am and all you can do is plot to stop me so that you can get the glory for yourselves; shame on you and your house, O political and religious leaders."

    Now, after all of this, Jesus tells a bunch of parables about His kingdom expanding (in a most unstoppable way), as is fitting (see: all of ch. 4).

    Thus, Jesus is telling them that they can't stop Him, that they are really the one's working on satan's behalf and that the expansion of God's kingdom will happen; they can't stop it, bind it, undercut it or whatever else.

    The thing about satan having to deceive Jesus is the analogy one takes if they take a traditional reading of the story. It goes this way: Jesus is a thief who has to deceive and plunder satan to gain followers. I don't agree that this is the analogy that is being used.

    Make sense?

  5. I think I see what you're saying. Interesting take.

    Still prefer the traditional view (whodathunk?!!)

  6. Dan,

    Perhaps you can help me find the apparent weaknesses in my theory here. I guess what I am saying is, What makes the traditional view stronger or what could make my view stronger? Just wondering. Sometimes another set of eyes is a big help. After all, I am setting forth a new way of looking at this passage. Is there a reason I shouldn't stick with it? If so, why?

    I enjoy discoursing with you.

  7. I'm not sure I can answer. It may be one of those things that it's just the way I've read it and had it read to me for so long I can't see anything else, but I think it's just that your approach doesn't seem intuitively correct.

    The traditional view seems to "flow" better from what Jesus was describing to the analogy.

    It's like Ched Myers' take (if you've read it) on the parable where a king goes away and gives his three servants talents to invest. The traditional thinking is that the King represents God. It's how the story flows and it makes some sense.

    But then Myers turns it upside down and says that the King represents the ways of the world - where greed rules and if you don't help me make money then there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth for you!!

    When Myers' explains it, it makes some sense (and indeed, I'm inclined to lean towards accepting his interpretation there), but it's not the obvious interpretation.

    That probably doesn't help much at all...

  8. Hmmm,

    In other words, you could accept it and it's not inherently flawed but you're just hesitant because it is not clearly, 100% convincing? Is this right?

  9. hey I left a comment down on your paost on Mark 4 a couple post down.

  10. Brian,

    I responded to your post. Good thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and chatting. I hope you will continue to do that. I will visit your site in a few minutes.

  11. I tend to view this verse along with 1:13. Jesus goes into the wilderness and it is here that he defeats the Satan. The second part of this verse seems to point to Psalm 91 and the Messianic and eschatological hopes it contained.

    In this sense, the analogy that Mark uses of a thief does not necessarily (or at all) require deception on the part of Jesus. I don't think that he is trying to insinuate that Jesus is duplicitous, only that he has defeated Satan.

    I think that if you were to use this argument you would have to prove historically and sociologically that what Jesus really meant in the first century by the use of this story was deception on the part of the thief first, and then move to the rest of the text. And further how that should then change our understanding on such terminology that describes Jesus like "Athief in the night."

  12. Scott,
    Your point is well taken but I must say, I disagree. What I did was exactly what you say is needed, I explained the passage from a socio-historical standpoint. The difference between this verse and 1.3 is that in 1.3, JC is not fighting over believers, He is just being tempted by satan (He isn't even battling or fighting him according to Mk.) In the "strong man" passage, the context has to do w/persons being stolen away and released. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't really see that your reading of ch 1 has lot to do w/this statemen of JC's here.

    Also, I don't think an explanation between JC being compared to a thief in other passages is necesarry here; I have no problem w/that in other contexts. The problem w/it here is that the issue has to do (if we read it yours and the majority way) that JC must steal back believers; I don't think that's what that passage is suggesting. When JC comes like a thief in the night, He will not come for believers but unbelievers (to judge them). After judgment, He will setup the new earth. So, in my opinion, that argument just does not work. It will take much more convincing to get me to commit to the traditional understanding.

    By the way, I hope I didn't sound rude or arrogant here, I was in a hurry and typing fast but I did want to reply. Keep reading and keep challenging! It is always welcomed and appreciated.

  13. Ok, perhaps I wasn't clear. What I need is for you to show me how this makes Jesus a deceiver:

    But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

    ESPECIALLY, in view of of the verses that immediately precede this and 1:12; 24-25; 3:10-11. Did the Jews view HaSatan as weak? Were things good in the world before Jesus showed up? Is Satan viewed as having no power before Jesus?

  14. Scott,
    My argument is that it reminds me of the "deception (atonement) theory" purported late in Church history. There, JC must trick (decieve) satan to win people to Himself, persons whom satan has already stolen from Him. In your interp. JC does this by unexpectedly breaking into satan's house and stealing from him.

    I am arguing that it is the other way around, in fact, satan is the one trying to steal (trick) JC's followers. It is clear to me that up to this point in Mk, there has been a continual onslaught by satan, demons and evil persons, all who want to rid Jesus of having a following.

    My question to you is: How do you explain all of that away? Put differently, what do you do with all of the attacks by satan, demons and evil people leading up to this point, people who want to squash Jesus' following--to steal away His followers--and ultimately kill JC, who is percieved as a strong, mighty and miraculous person?

  15. Scott,
    to answer your questions:
    no, no and no.
    again, satan and his forces (demons and evil religious and political persons) all want to "tie up" Jesus (e.g. kill Him) and end His powerful ministry.

  16. Mark is my favorite book. I've probably read about 20 commentaries on it over the past 10 years or so. Personally, I think your interpretation makes wonderful sense. Thanks for the enlightenment!

  17. Larry,
    Are you aware of "The Mark Group" on Facebook that I started? We have nearly 100 people in it and it is continually growing; it is a great group. You should join!

    As for Mk, it is my favorite too.

    As for this interpretation, I'm reading through Brendan Byrne's new commentary right now and actually, he takes a similar view, which I find interesting. Thanks for reading and commenting, I hope you continue to interact with some of my posts here and perhaps, even with The Mark Group (if you've already joined that group, forgive me, I haven't looked at the entire list yet!).


  18. I've returned. I guess this issue has intrigued me. I believe the Greek word for 'strong' is used only twice in Mark. The first time is in Mark 1:7 where Jesus is the 'stronger' one.

    Don't know if that helps.

    Also, I'm curious with the way Mark uses the word 'bind' in Mark 15 re. Jesus and Barabbas. One unrighteous 'bound' man is set free while the righteous 'bound' man dies (... substitution?). The upshot is that in the end the strong man finds himself being 'bound' for death by his enemies - no doubt, both spiritual (Satan) and physical enemies. ... Fortunately Jesus triumphs/is vindicated via resurrection.

    Anything there for you?

    I would also consider the chiastic structure of this section. There's chiasm throughout (crowd - family - scribes - family - crowd); as well as in the scribal section (the 2 questions are answered in reverse order); the answers are chiastic as well. 3:27 stands out at the center -?- and almost appears as an insertion (non-chiastic)? ... perhaps the insertion will allow for the possibility of an interpretation which won't follow smoothly from the answer just prior?

    Just twiddling with it.

    Has anything come of your desire/attempt to write a paper?

    Noticed your entry is almost 2 years old.

  19. Larry,
    Great to hear from you, you offer some excellent points, I think.

    The uses of "strong" and "bind" that you highlighted make sense and certainly seem to offer creedence to the argument I'm attempting to make!!!

    Could you clarify a bit on how the chiastic structure of the "strong man" bit in ch. 3 adds force to the argument?

    Finally, I actually started writing the paper and then got sidetracked with 3 other papers and a load of book reviews, so, I'll have to come back to it some time. I submitted to papers to regional SBL and they told me I could present either. 1 was the paper I did present ("A 'New' Reason for Jesus' Death: Reading Mark Socio-Culturall") but the other one was: "Binding Up New Evidence In The 'Strong Man' Debate: Reading Mark Inner-Textually". So, I've been working on that paper, slowly but surely! Hopefully, I'll finish that one (along with another I'm writing on Mk. 6) up some day.

    Thanks again for these thoughts and "inner-textual" evidences.

  20. Back.

    Glad you like the ideas re. 'strong' in 1:7 and 'bound' in ch. 15.

    My 3rd idea is probably a little weaker.

    My idea is that the structure of this overall passage may reveal that 3:27 may be a stand alone verse slipped in at this point - which then may allow an interpreter some license as he attempts to interpret it in its Markan context. Ie., 3:27 need not be interpreted entirely with 3:23-26 in mind. The structure may free the interpreter up here a little bit.

    So here goes ...

    IMO, 3:20-35 is a 5-part chiasm (I happen to think 4 of the first 5 sections of Mark are 5-part chiasms - including Joanne Dewey's for the controversies in 2:1-3:6). The chiasm is: A - crowds (v.20), B - family (21), C - scribes (21-30), B' - family (31), A' - crowds (32-35).

    If you then look at the C section on scribes you find that the 2 scribal statements and Jesus' answers are arranged chiastically: A - 'you're possessed' (22a), B - 'you're power comes from Satan' (22b), B' - 'Satan wouldn't give me his power' (23-26), A' - 'I'm not possessed' (28-30). Heavily paraphrased.

    And if you look at those 2 answers Jesus gives you find that they're chiastic as well: B' (23-26): a - Satan ..., b - 'if a kingdom', b' - 'if a house', a' - Satan; A' (28-30): sins - forgiven - blasphemes - blasphemes - forgiveness - sin.

    Everything seems so chiastically driven. Further, 23-26 does a nice job answering the 2nd question while 28-30 does a nice job for the 1st. It's 3:27 that seems to in some sense jump out a little bit. Further, it's organized with regular old parallelism rather than chiasm. I guess to me, structurally speaking, the verse seems to show signs of later compositional addition :-) ???. This would then perhaps give an interpreter some license to interpret it a little out of the normal flow of the previous verses.

    (My own 'later' inserted note (easy to do on a computer): by the above "later compositional addition" I don't mean to imply that the addition occured a long time later. It could have been minutes later for all I know - a part of the same sit down writing session ;-).)

    Now, (bypassing my own insertion) does that make any sense?

    I do believe there's another section of Mark which also has this same structure where 2 questions/statements and the answers are chiastically arranged and where the answer seems to once again have a possible 'added' center. Maybe I can find it. (Currently my Mark notes are under the house in a file box. Did my 'chiastic' study years ago.)

    Anyway, that's it. A pretty minor thot perhaps - and perhaps/likely not quite what you're looking for for you're paper, nevertheless ... I was just thinking.

    Take care.

    (An aside. Personally, I think 3:13-19 was positioned by Mark just before this chiasm because he saw a potential connection with 3:35: 3:13-19 - 'be with Him and do His will' with 3:35.), making it a belated 7-part chiasm. :-)

  21. Larry,
    I realize it has taken me longer than usual to reply, my apologies for that.

    RE your latest comments, you're right that I'm a bit more hesitant to go down this route with you, though, if your argument were proven to stand, it may have some merit.

    I do not see this section as a chiasm; to me, it is more linear, as is the whole of Mk. But you are right, Dewey & others like Telford emphasize chiastic structures in Mk. I tend to see the macro-structure differently and of course, that shades how I see the micro-structures (e.g. linear vs. chiastic).

    However, now that I think about it, the chiastic arrangement could possibly assist my arguments further...still, I'm not there at this moment.

    By the way, you should check out the first few chapters of Brendan Byrne's new commentary because he takes the chiastic view too. This may help solidify some of your thoughts further.

    Thanks for sharing Larry and while I am not totally in agreement with you, you have some good thoughts.

  22. Thanks for your reply.

    I understand your hesitancy towards a chiasm in 3:20-35. It's perhaps not the strongest chiasm, tho some seem to see it there.

    Thanks for the recommendation on the Byrne commentary. I'll probably order it.

    I did think of the other passage I thot had the same basic pattern as 3:21-30 (the 'C' section in 3:20-35). It's Mark 13. 2 questions on the destruction of the temple answered in reverse order (When?, Sign? ... Sign answered (5-23: abomination of desolation), When answered (28-37: only the Father knows). These 2 answers then once again have the 'mysterious'? 'inserted' additional information (not directly related to the 'temple destroyed' question), 13:24-27 - i.e., concerning Jesus' return.

    I guess I see Mark doing the same thing in Mk. 3 and 13. 2 statements (Mk. 3) / 2 questions (Mk. 13) both requiring a response/answer from Jesus. The answers are given chiastically (in reverse order to the questions). The answers are sufficient in themselves. The middle 'additions' seem to go beyond and/or above? the statements/questions made/asked.

    In both passages, the 'additions' are strong statements - particularly if you're right on your interpretation of 3:27. That to me would be a bold statement: Satan attempting to bind Jesus so he can plunder His house. It's tied to the beginning where Jesus is referred to as the 'strong' one (1:7) and to the end, where Jesus is 'bound' (ch. 15). Equally bold/strong is 13:24-27 re. Jesus returns.

    Currently I'm reading Lane's classic commentary on Mark. He does a nice job of dividing Mk. 13 into the 3 sections I see. He also seems to see 13:5-23 as being related to 28-37 (answers the questions), with 24-27 being a little bit 'different'. That's my take on his views anyway.

    I guess I would also see Mark's frequent? use of intercalation as an indication of Mark's willingness to insert info into the middle (e.g., a story inside of a story). I suppose as well that Mark's intercalations could be viewed as an indication that he may like or be influenced by the chiastic (or envelope?) approach.

    Like chiasm, I wonder if Mark would have viewed the center of his answers a good place to put something strong? The center of a chiasm being a privileged place.
    The center of his answers being a privileged position as well? Hmmm. Perhaps really going to far.

    A few additional caveats. 1) My approach re. Mk. 13 may also be an aid in interpreting 13. 13 being a rather difficult passage? Particularly, re. Jesus' return. 2) In my view, 13:5-23, as well as 13:24-27 are chiastic. If you wish to them, that let me know and I can email them to you. 3) If I'm seeing the structure in Mk. 3 and 13 correctly, does 2 occurences of a similar pattern indicate a Marcan tendency? If so, what does that tendency indicate? (Hey, a chiasm!). 4) Are there other places in Mark where 2 statements/questions requiring answers are chiastic?, or not chiastic?, where there may be a similar pattern? ???

    Have a good one.


    Unrelated, but I like it:

    A 2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit MET HIM,
    B 3 and he had his dwelling among the TOMBS.
    C And NO ONE WAS ABLE TO BIND HIM anymore, even with a chain;
    D 4 because he had often been bound with SHACKLES
    E and CHAINS,
    E' and the CHAINS had been torn apart by him,
    D' and the SHACKLES broken in pieces,
    B' 5 And constantly night and day, among the TOMBS and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones.
    A' 6 And seeing Jesus from a distance, HE RAN UP AND BOWED DOWN BEFORE HIM;

  23. Oops. The chiasm I tacked on is Mark 5:2-6.

  24. I guess I kind of went far afield on your 'strong man = Jesus' theory, getting into some structural issues.

    I've been thinking about my example of Mk. 13 as an example of a similar structure to Mk. 3. I've concluded that I was wrong. I think I've misread Mk. 13. Doh!

    I do still like a chiastic approach to Mk. 3. I also think there are other nice chiasms within Mark (2 in Mk. 13).

    Overall I think Mark was organized as a chiasm that can be read helically (see Breck, "The Shape of Biblical Language"; Ps. 150 could be an example of a helically constructed chiasm). I know, it's way out there, but nevertheless it's what I think.

    I kind of see Mark as being organized so that it can be read 2 different ways: 1st linearly, 2nd chiastic.

    But there I go again, off the topic. Sometimes I run at the mouth.

    Take care.

  25. Larry,
    You are definitely not "way out there" with your view of Mark as a chiasm. Numerous scholars have suggested this very thing. Many are prone to finding these kind of concentric / circular patterns within Mk. Although, I take a different route, there may certainly be some force to a number of your arguments. Of course, a major shift has occurred over the last 100 years in Markan studies where emphasis has moved from forms/structures/etc. to the socio-literary elements (which sometimes speak of forms).