The Synoptic Problem is that when you compare the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) you find some stories and teachings of Jesus that are the same, but their are particulars in each gospel that are unique; Matthew has content that it alone has, same with Mark, etc. So, New Testament scholars have devised a hypothesis called the four source hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, all three authors borrow from what is called the "Q" source (it is called that, but no one knows it real name), Luke borrows from a source called "L" but borrows from Mark also (Mark is the first of the gospels), Matthew borrows from a source called "M" but also borrows from Mark. So Mark, Q, L, and M are the four sources that the Gospels borrow from.
|This meme captures the core of Mark's message, that most people do not understand who he is.|
2. Spell out in as much length as you can the figures in Mark's Gospel who appear not to understand who he (Jesus of Nazareth) is. Then explain who does appear to understand. Which figures appear to understand but incompletely.
It is safe to say that the Jewish leaders (the Pharisee's, Sadducee's, and Scribes) have no idea who Jesus is and perhaps more importantly do not seem to care who he is. They simply see him as a threat to their leadership and in the case of the Sadducee's a threat that Rome may eventually take an interest in and may attack the wrong type of attention. However, the most interesting people who do not recognize who Jesus are the twelve and the Jesus's own family. You would expect those who had abandoned all to follow him would understand that he was not just a great teacher; he was the Son of God and the expected Jewish Messiah. But it seems the twelve, at least according to Mark, never fully comprehend this, if at all.
Those who do seem to understand are those who Jesus heals. Those who partly understand would be those such as the apostle Peter, who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, but Peter thinks this means that Jesus will overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to its ancient greatness, a belief shared by most Jews of that time. So, Peter's understanding is incomplete.
3. What was Mark's view of the messiah? What kind of person was he supposed to be? What was he supposed to do? Why would would this view have been seen as unusual, or even wrong, by most Jews of his day?
Mark's view of the Messiah was a man who would suffer for the sins of the world, be slain by his enemies, and would be resurrected (returned to life without the possibility of dying again) after a brief period of death. He would also be a great teacher, and someone who would show how he had come to fulfill the law. This was an unusual view because this is nearly the exact opposite of what the Jews were expecting. They were expecting a descendant of King David to come who would defeat the Romans and return Israel to its former splendor; they had no interest in the type of messiah that Jesus of Nazareth was presenting himself as. It should be remembered though that there is a good possibility that Mark himself was not Jewish, so his expectations of the Messiah may not have aligned with those of the Jews.
4. Some people have argued that Mark is almost exclusively interested in Jesus' death and Resurrection, and that everything else in the Gospel is leading up to that. Do you agree? If so, give your reasons as fully as you can. Do you disagree? Again, give your reasons.
I would agree with the first assertion, that Mark is almost exclusively interested in Jesus' death and resurrection, but I would also add that this is also the major theme of the Synoptic Gospels. After all, the "glad tidings" or "good news" is that Jesus conquered death, and because he did so so will the rest of humankind. Mark ends with the Resurrection rather than the ascension or visitations of Jesus to the apostles as the other gospels do, so a good case can be made that the life, suffering, death, and Resurrection are Mark's primary interest.