Orality and the Gospel of Mark

I just read a great paper for comparing the composition of the Gospel of Mark to a temple front where figures were sculpted, aka a frieze. Here’s a pictorial representation of what a seven-part division would look like with the main image of the gospel. Most memorized lectures at this time would have been as long or longer as Mark and would have been composed in the same manner according to Prof. Shiner.
image

Textual divisions as Prof. Shiner has used:
# # Section / sub section
I. First triplet: calling and commissioning the disciples
a. Call one (1:16–20), marking the beginning of section one (1:16–2:12)
b. Call two (2:13–14), marking the beginning of section two (2:13–3:12)
c. Commissioning (3:13–19), marking the beginning of section three (3:13–35)
II. Major discourse one: The parables (4:1–34)
III. Second triplet: boat stories
a. Stilling of the storm (4:35–41), marking the transition to section one (4:35–6:44)
b. Walking on the water (6:45–52), marking the transition to section two (6:45–8:26)
c. Discussion in the boat (8:14–21), marking the end of section two
IV. Third triplet: Passion predictions
a. Preface: Peter’s confession (8:22–30)
b. First Passion prediction (8:31), marking the beginning of section one (8:31–9:29)
c. Second Passion prediction (9:30–32), marking the beginning of section two (9:30–10:31)
d. Third Passion prediction (10:32–34), marking the beginning of section three (10:32–52)
V. Fourth triplet: entries into Jerusalem
a. The triumphal entry (11:1–10), marking the beginning of the first section (11:1–11)
b. Second entry; cursing the fig tree, part one (11:12–15a), marking the beginning of section two (11:12–18)
c. Third entry; cursing the fig tree, part two (11:20–27a), marking the beginning of section three (11:20–12:44)
VI. Second major discourse (13:1–36)
VII. Passion narrative (14:1–16:8).

A better mnemonic device for fitting the material to the pediment image according to Prof. Shiner would be:

Subsection IA
Section marker: call story by the sea (1:16–20)

A. Teaching in Capernaum (1:21–28)
B. Healings at Simon’s house (1:29–34)
C. Jesus’ fame and the reason for his coming (1:35–39)
D. Cleaning the leper (1:40–45)
E. Healing the paralytic (2:1–12)

Subsection IB
Section marker: call story by the sea (2:13–14)

A. At dinner with Levi (2:15–17)
B. Fasting (2:18–20)
C. Double parables of new and old (2:21–22)
D. Plucking grain on the Sabbath (2:23–27)
E. Man with the withered hand (3:1–6)

Subsection IC
Section marker: By the sea and commissioning the twelve (3:7–19a)

A. Jesus’ family (3:19b–21)
B. Scribes say Jesus has Beelzubul (3:22)
C. Triple parables in rebuttal (3:23–27)
D. Unforgivable sin (3:28–30)
E. Jesus’ family (3:31–35)

What this shows is that there was tremendous time taken in structuring the narrative which most likely was delivered to an audience several times before committed to paper to achieve the the best audience reaction. The material Mark used was compiled in his memory and organized over time. Stories were added in sometimes to help balance two sides of the structure such that if one side had five stories, the other reflected side would also have to have five stories (a chiasm).

I now know this as a type of method of loci where each part of the story would be stored at specific locations on the front of the temple. But I could also make an argument that instead of a method of loci or location peg system, the people on the frieze would be used to store the parts of the story making it more of a method of subjects or a subject peg system.

I hope this might help people who are moving towards memorizing any gospel and to take the time to work from an outline and store the images in a peg system of some type. This is also great advice for anyone memorizing longer texts in general.

Here’s my reference:
Shiner, W. (2011). Memory Technology and the Composition of Mark. In R. A. Horsley, J. A. Draper, & J. M. Foley (Eds.), Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory, and Mark (pp. 156–165). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

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