A Concise Outline of Mark's Gospel/Script: Studies in Mark, Pt. 69

*Note: Subsequent to writing this post in 2008, I have presented several papers/lectures at scholarly conferences advancing these ideas. Please find those papers for further details on this topic.

I have suggested in previous posts that The Gospel According to Mark was, in the main, a performance piece. Instead of arguing that it should be viewed from an oral perspective or a textual perspective, my view is that both must be given consideration. At this point in time, it is my position that what we know as Mark’s account, functioned as a type of script. There are clues within the text (e.g. “let the reader understand”, all of the explanations of Hebrew and Aramaic customs and phrases, the many Latinisms, borrowed Greco-Romanisms, etc.) that have led me to this conclusion. There are also contextual factors (e.g. the great emphasis in the ancient world on the theater, drama, comedy, tragedy, etc.) that act as contributors to my conclusions.

I take the position that The Gospel According to Mark was performed in myriad settings by numerous persons, to diverse audiences. (This also makes me question even more, the whole notion of “getting back to the originals”!) Anyway, given my view, I have been attempting to work out an overview or outline of the script. Below, I have, in the flavor of a play or drama, provided a concise outline of the structure:

Act 1: Mk. 1.1-3.34
Interlude 1: Mk. 4.1-34
Act 2: Mk. 4.35-6.57
Interlude 2: Mk. 7.1-23
Act 3: Mk. 7.24-9.29
Interlude 3: Mk. 9.30-50
Act 4: Mk. 10.1-12.44
Interlude 4: Mk. 13.1-37
Act 5: Mk. 14.1-16.8 (9-20)

Roughly, the structure I have found is built according to 5 Acts and 4 Interludes. The 4 Interludes are the sections where Jesus takes the opportunity to teach at some length. In my view, when one is working through the stage act or the story Mark has provided, they will notice that as each section comes to a climax, before the next section begins, there is an Interlude between scenes. These Interludes are always points where Jesus gives a teaching discourse. This fits well for a stage act or performance. Mark has placed four Interludes between his five Acts which creates a type of rhythmic flow, almost a cadence, to his performance. This may have also helped with memorization.

I’m not sure if I’m on to something here or not. There are scores of outlines that have been developed for Mark’s Gospel. Usually, it is divided into seven sections but I’m not sold on that approach. For the time being, I’m going to keep working on this as I think it merits more attention. Any thoughts?


  1. I guess I'm perusing your Mark studies. ...

    Would love to see your performance of Mark sometime, whenever it happens. Perhaps a video would be in order? Perhaps an english version as well - for us non-greek admirers of Mark?

    (I've also wondered in the past whether Mark was written to be performed ...)

  2. Larry,
    Glad you're finding the studies "perusable" (if that's even a word...maybe I just coined it, I don't know). I'd love to do this too; I was just thinking about it last night when I was reading about one of the first people to do this, Alec McCowen. To read some of the reviews of his performance is a joy. Now, guys like Max Mclean and Robert Brock both are doing this now and have DVDs of their performances (both of which I asked for at Christmastime a couple of years ago). If you ever get a chance, buy or rent one; they are pretty nifty.

    The closest I've come to doing this is actually preaching the entire text. In other words, instead of writing a sermon, when I started my year long sermon series on Mk at the church I used to serve at, the first two weeks were devoted to actually reading/performing the text without expounding on it. So, I read/acted right through Mk in 2 sunday morning services. I think churches / pastors should do this much more than they do these days. It is a way to keep the text living and fresh while at the same time reconnecting with our heritage and doing things the way they would have.

  3. Michael, thinking about the gospels as performance pieces, I thought you might enjoy this. Bruce Kuhn is a broadway actor who has done several national and international pieces, and training, with InterVarsity. He has a performance of Luke that is pretty good, even if KJV. http://www.brucekuhn.com/luke.html

  4. Tim, thanks for the link. When I was teaching up at Cedar, I took a couple of DVD's of Mac McLean and another guy who perform Mk. The latter guy (his name slips my mind right now) does his in NKJV.

  5. Tim, thanks for the link. When I was teaching up at Cedar, I took a couple of DVD's of Mac McLean and another guy who perform Mk. The latter guy (his name slips my mind right now) does his in NKJV.