Final Examination of Jonathan Bi Fan Cai
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Friday, September 23, 2011 3:10p.m., Caldwell Room 125
John Paul Heil, S.S.D.
Jesus the Shepherd: A Narrative-Critical Study of Mark 6:30-44
Although there have been a number of important studies in the recent past concerning Mark’s first feeding story, the only miracle story of Jesus recorded by all four gospels (Matt 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), there has not been a thorough and comprehensive narrative-critical analysis on the response of the implied audience to Mark’s uses of the OT allusions in 6:30-44. This study investigates the literary elements such as setting, character, and plot within the passage to illustrate how the audience is expected to respond to the OT allusions and how the story functions within the Gospel of Mark as a whole.
Chapter One provides a brief survey of literature on the state of current research concerning Mark’s first feeding narrative. Chapter Two employs the redactional-critical method to analyze the Greek text. It shows that the author of Mark has reworked his traditional sources to achieve his theological and literary goals. Chapter Three focuses on the issue of intertextuality of Mark’s first feeding story. The analysis of three examples of OT allusions and an intertextual reading of Mark 6:30-44 and 2 Kgs 4:42-44 demonstrate that both the author and the audience of Mark shared a similar literary and cultural background. The audience was able to identify the OT allusions and the feeding narrative type-scene from the OT Elijah-Elisha narrative cycle. Chapter Four is a full-scale study of Mark’s first feeding story using narrative-critical analysis. It shows that there are two storylines in Mark’s first feeding story: one dealing with the interaction and conflict between Jesus and the disciples and the other dealing with the tension and interaction between Jesus and the crowd. The narrator has skillfully woven these two storylines together and created suspense, expectation, conflict, and resolution for the audience. Chapter Five concludes the investigation with a summary of the dissertation and indicates its contributions to the interpretation of Mark 6:30-44.
This dissertation has fulfilled the need of applying the narrative-critical method to interpret Mark’s first feeding story as a narrative unit within its literary context. The major themes that emerge from this story are the feeding in the wilderness, the compassionate shepherd, the eschatological banquet, and the regrouping of God’s people. Although Mark’s first feeding story is episodic in nature, it fits into the overall kerygmatic program of the evangelist. The audience has heard the story at a key point structurally within the larger narrative of the Gospel of Mark. Through the deeds and teachings of Jesus, the audience has received a three-dimensional Jesus as the God-sent compassionate shepherd who seeks, gathers, and tends God’s people in the wilderness.