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Lab

Look at other miracle stories in Mark's Gospel. Can you see any similarities in form - and what are the differences?

Try to think in terms of form and structure, rather than simply the narrative (story). Is their structure amenable to memorisation and constant repetition? Also have a think about the different types of settings in which they could be used. 

Mark 1

[29] As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. [30] Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. [31] He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  (NRSV)

 

Mark 4

[35] On that day, when the evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." [36] And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. [37] A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. [38] But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" [39] He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. [40] He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" [41] And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"   (NRSV)

 

Mark 7

[32] They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. [33] He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. [34] Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. [36] The Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. [37] They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."  (NRSV)

 

Compare these Miracle Stories from the Jewish and Greco-Roman traditions

A Miracle Story from the Jewish Tradition

Like Jesus of Nazareth, Hanina ben (son of) Dosa also lived in the first century (only a few years after Jesus' death). He was one of a number of figures who have been accredited with miraculous powers. Compare the forms of miracle story that you have so far encountered with this one relating to Hanina.

Look particularly at the form this account takes. Does its use of repetition make memorisation and retelling easier creating a sense of rhythm?

Another story about R [Rabbi] Hanina b Dosa: He went to learn Torah from R Yohanan b Zakkai, and the son of R Yohanan b Zakkai was sick. 

He said to him. Hanina, my son, ask mercy for him that he may live. He put his head between his knees; and he asked mercy for him, and he lived.

R Yohanan b Zakkai said: If ben Zakkai had squeezed his head between his knees all day, no notice would have been taken of him.

His wife said to him: Is Hanina greater than you?

He said to her: No, but he is like a servant before the king, and I am like a nobleman before the king.

Babylonian Berakot 34b

Translation by Francis Martin

This story has been adapted to the written form - nevertheless can you detect its underlying form?

A Miracle Story from Hellenistic (Greek) Literature

Here too is a miracle which Apollonius worked: A girl seemed to have died just in the hour of her marriage, and the bridegroom was following her bier lamenting as was natural, his marriage left unfulfilled, and the whole of Rome was mourning with him, for the maiden belonged to a consular family.

Apollonius then witnessing their grief, said: "Put down the bier, for I will stay the tears that you are shedding for this maiden." And withal he asked what was her name. The crowd accordingly thought he was about to deliver such an oration as is commonly delivered as much to grace the funeral as to stir up lamentation; but he did nothing of the kind, but merely touching her and whispering in secret some spell over her, at once woke up the maiden from her seeming death; and the girl spoke out loud, and returned to her father's house, just as Alcestis did when she was brought back to life by Hercules. And the relations of the maiden wanted to present him with the sum of 150,000 sesterces, but he said that he would freely present the money to the young lady by way of a dowry. 

Now whether he detected some spark of life in her, which those nursing her had not noticed - for it is said that although it was raining at the time, a vapour went up from her face - or whether life was really extinct, and he restored it by the warmth of his touch, is a mysterious problem which neither I myself not those who were present could decide.

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius. 4.45.

Translation by Francis Martin

Both stories have been taken from:

Francis Martin (compiler and editor). Narrative Parallels to the New Testament. SBL Resources for Biblical Study 22. Atlanta: Scholars Press. 1988

 

A Miracle Story from the Jewish Tradition

Like Jesus of Nazareth, Hanina ben (son of) Dosa also lived in the first century (only a few years after Jesus' death). He was one of a number of figures who have been accredited with miraculous powers. Compare the forms of miracle story that you have so far encountered with this one relating to Hanina.

Another story about R [Rabbi] Hanina b Dosa: He went to learn Torah from R Yohanan b Zakkai, and the son of R Yohanan b Zakkai was sick. 

He said to him. Hanina, my son, ask mercy for him that he may live. He put his head between his knees; and he asked mercy for him, and he lived.

R Yohanan b Zakkai said: If ben Zakkai had squeezed his head between his knees all day, no notice would have been taken of him.

His wife said to him: Is Hanina greater than you?

He said to her: No, but he is like a servant before the king, and I am like a nobleman before the king.

Babylonian Berakot 34b

Translation by Francis Martin

 

A Miracle Story from Hellenistic (Greek) Literature

Here too is a miracle which Apollonius worked: A girl seemed to have died just in the hour of her marriage, and the bridegroom was following her bier lamenting as was natural, his marriage left unfulfilled, and the whole of Rome was mourning with him, for the maiden belonged to a consular family.

Apollonius then witnessing their grief, said: "Put down the bier, for I will stay the tears that you are shedding for this maiden." And withal he asked what was her name. The crowd accordingly thought he was about to deliver such an oration as is commonly delivered as much to grace the funeral as to stir up lamentation; but he did nothing of the kind, but merely touching her and whispering in secret some spell over her, at once woke up the maiden from her seeming death; and the girl spoke out loud, and returned to her father's house, just as Alcestis did when she was brought back to life by Hercules. And the relations of the maiden wanted to present him with the sum of 150,000 sesterces, but he said that he would freely present the money to the young lady by way of a dowry. 

Now whether he detected some spark of life in her, which those nursing her had not noticed - for it is said that although it was raining at the time, a vapour went up from her face - or whether life was really extinct, and he restored it by the warmth of his touch, is a mysterious problem which neither I myself not those who were present could decide.

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius. 4.45.

Translation by Francis Martin

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