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The bounding lion Mark’s style, structure and narrative technique

Whenever Aslan does appear in the Narnia stories, he dashes from place to place as he is needed in great leaps and bounds: ‘he rushes on and on, never missing his footing, never hesitating’ (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Puffin/Penguin, 1959, p. 150). So too in Mark’s first chapter. The opening stories concern John the Baptist’s ministry and preaching (1.4–8) and the baptism of Jesus (1.9–11), both substantially briefer than Matthew or Luke’s account. Then we have a brief mention of temptation (1.12–13) with no narrative – although there is the interesting note, unique to Mark, that Jesus was ‘with the wild beasts’! Then, lion-like, Jesus bounds off into his work – proclaiming the kingdom of God and repentance (1.14–15), forming a group of disciples (1.16–20) and engaging in a teaching and healing ministry, the man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue (1.21–28), Peter’s mother-in-law (1.29–31), many others who are sick or possessed (1.32–34), going round the towns and synagogues of Galilee (1.35–39) and healing a leper (1.40–45). The sheer pace of it all is unrelenting. This material occupies several chapters in Matthew and Luke, but here Jesus rushes around just like a bounding lion. It all happens ‘and immediately’, ‘at once’ or ‘straight away’, which are all translations of kai euthus, which occurs 11 times in chapter 1 alone (vv. 10, 12, 18, 20, 21, 23, 28, 29, 30, 42, 43), and is linked with ‘make his paths straight’ (eutheias, 1.3). No wonder he had to get up very early to pray in v. 35! This pace continues, with euthus occurring over 40 times in Mark, about as often as the rest of the New Testament put together…

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