UBC Theses and Dissertations
Opening and entering the Gospel of Mark : Jesus in the house Wall, Scott
Recent studies of the historical Jesus have placed greater emphasis on the spaces and places that were the context for the New Testament Gospels. This study adopts such an emphasis by exploring the ‘dominant architectural marker’ in Mark’s gospel: the house. An investigation of the archaeology, anthropology, and social environment of 1st-century Palestine is used to examine the boundaries present in that society. By utilizing the theories of ‘liminality’ as conceived by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner, this thesis hypothesizes that the thresholds of houses in Mark’s gospel represent the powerful social boundaries present in Palestine at the time of Jesus. Thus, when the Gospel frequently depicts Jesus opening or entering ‘houses’, it shows that he is superseding these boundaries, and sacralizing and purifying the space. A study of 1st-century houses in Palestine reveals that they were bounded spaces, evidenced in ‘closed’ archaeological forms and social purity regulations. Mark’s depiction of ‘gatherings’ around Jesus reveals the dynamics of social boundaries by examining ‘who’ was typically allowed to assemble in a house. A detailed investigation of several Markan passages shows that Jesus disregards these boundaries by allowing ‘outsiders’ access to the house. It is concluded that passage through a door or over a threshold represents a bridging of ‘different or opposing categories’, showing then that the presence of crowds and individuals gaining access to Jesus despite the prominent architecture of separation speaks powerfully about the authorial desire to show Jesus as ‘opening’ all of the ‘house of Israel’. Jesus is seen as disregarding the liminal social restrictions in order to restore access to the divine for those previously marginalized. Jesus’ actions in these houses reveal a ‘purifying’ theme, culminating in Mark’s account of Jesus’ act of cleansing the Temple. The final chapter of the thesis considers possible links between Markan use of the house and later Christian communities. Turner’s notion of communitas is applied in order to show that Markan depiction of liminal boundaries may have been significant to early Christian communities in conflict with surrounding societies.
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