"Astonished at his teaching": The structure and authority of Jesus' sayings in the Gospel of Mark

Sara Fletcher Harding, Marquette University


Since the first half of the twentieth century, form critics have identified small, independent units in the Synoptic gospels and categorized them according to specific forms. The application of form criticism to the smallest unit of Jesus' speech, the saying, raises significant questions about the relationships between the form, content, and function of a saying. Jesus' sayings have been classified by form critics according to their content and function. However, these types of classifications do not consider the formal syntactic structure of the sayings. Tradition historians, literary critics, and scholars applying rhetorical analysis also have made significant contributions to an understanding of the content and function of Jesus' sayings. However, except for the work of Ernst Käsemann and Richard A. Edwards, there has been little interest in the structure of Jesus' sayings and their function. This is surprising since a saying's structure may be the determining factor for a saying's function in its literary context. This study is guided by the hypothesis that a traditional saying has an authoritative structure which forms the sayings compositional core and is distinct from its content. While the content of a saying is independent of its structure, the structure of a saying determines its function in any given literary context. In this study, I analyze six sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark (2:17a; 2:27; 4:22; 8:35; 10:25; 12:17) and apply a four-stage analysis in order to identify each saying's structure and function. I begin with a survey of previous scholarship and then identify the sayings structure and structural parallels. Next, I determine the incorporation and function of the parallel structures in their literary contexts. I conclude with an analysis of the structure's incorporation and function in the Gospel of Mark.

Recommended Citation

Harding, Sara Fletcher, ""Astonished at his teaching": The structure and authority of Jesus' sayings in the Gospel of Mark" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9929159.