Elizabeth Struthers Malbon: The Key to the Markan Plot

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, In the Company of Jesus: Characters in Mark’s Gospel (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000), 17.

Conflict is the key to the Markan plot. As Markan characterization does not depend on psychological development within the characters, so the plot does not turn on high suspense and complicated intrigue among the characters. The plot moves by conflicts between groups of characters, or, rather, between God or Jesus and groups of characters. There are multiple conflicts, along several dimensions. The kingdom of God is in conflict with all other claims to power and authority. Jesus is in conflict with demons and unclean spirits. Jesus and the Jewish authorities are in continuing conflict over issues of authority and interpretation of the Law (Torah). Jesus and the disciples are in conflict over what it means to be the Messiah and thus what it means to follow him. All the conflicts have to do with power and authority. Where do ultimate power and authority lie? How should human power and authority be exercised? But all the conflicts are not the same. The disciples, for example, are not portrayed and evaluated by the implied author in the same way as the Jewish leaders are. And, of course, the Markan Jesus responds to the disciples very differently from the way he reacts to the other groups with whom he comes into conflict.

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