Ana səhifə

The Call of Levi

Yüklə 68.5 Kb.
ölçüsü68.5 Kb.
Using Methods of Interpretation
The Call of Levi (Mark 2:13-17)

Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’.
This scripture quote is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Christ in the USA, and are used with permission. All rights reserved
HISTORICAL CRITICISM tries to reconstruct the historical situation out of which the writing arose and how it came to be written. It means detecting the actual sense, i.e., what the author actually meant to say. This method is fundamental to all other forms of interpretation. It involves determining the date and place of composition, as well as the authorship (including both the identity of the author and the author's method of composition). It also seeks to determine to whom the work was addressed and the circumstances that existed between the author and the audience. Unless there are clear indications in the text the method makes use of archeological evidence and non-biblical writings from the same period to determine the dating.

SOURCE CRITICISM has emerged as a sub-discipline of historical criticism. It inquires about the written and/or oral sources used by a biblical author, and the historical and cultural settings of such sources.
Historical situation: out of which the writing arose and how it came to be written.

  • A community of Christians under the threat.

    • Followers of ‘The Way’ were becoming increasingly isolated by the Jews and becoming less comfortable in the synagogue where strict Jewish Law regarding who was clean and therefore able to participate in rituals was observed.

    • Roman authorities required people to worship the Emperor as God which Christians would not do, leading to persecution.

  • Some members of the community were questioning who could sit at the Eucharistic table did it include those considered unclean?


  • 60-75AD, most likely to between 68 and 73

    • There is some evidence that it was just after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70AD

Place of composition:

  • Most scholars would suggest Rome

    • Some suggest that it would have been a Jewish community somewhat nearer to Palestine.

  • There is no suggestion that it was written in Palestine itself.

    • Makes inexact statements about Palestinian geography.


  • Nothing in the Gospel specifically identifies the author.

  • By tradition (from 2nd century) Mark was referred to as a follower and interpreter of Peter. He accompanied Paul on the first missionary journey as secretary/recorder.

  • A Greek speaker; the text shows classical and every-day Greek.

  • Not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry; leaves out details that an eyewitness would include. Was written after eyewitnesses are likely to have died.


  • Author drew on pre-shaped traditions both oral and written about Jesus.

    • This included a passion narrative.

  • Mark notes that Jesus taught the crowds. The method shows that Jesus taught through what he did not just what he said.

To whom the work was addressed:

  • A Christian community centered in Rome.

  • Dealing with persecution and issues of inclusion particularly of those who were considered in Jewish society as ritually unclean.

Circumstances that existed between the author and the audience:

  • Discipleship is not easy – need to welcome all and will be suspected by the authorities.

  • The author is in a position to guide the audience in seeing that the stories about Jesus show his inclusion of all.

The written and/or oral sources used by a biblical author:

  • Drew on pre-shaped traditions both oral and written about Jesus.

  • There appears to be a Mark only source, ‘Q’ sayings were also used.

Historical and cultural settings:

  • Because it was on the trade route Capernaum would be expected to be the location of a tax collection point placing Levi, a tax collector there naturally there.

  • As a tax collector Levi was unable to participate in the rituals required of good Jews because he dealt with money.

  • Levi would also be considered suspicious to have any place in the plan of God because as a tax collector he collaborated with the Roman authorities.

  • Tax collectors were not trusted and had a reputation for being cheats.

Meaning to the original audience:

  • The passage would have been used by early Christians to explain the presence amongst them of persons that would have traditionally been seen as suspicious outsiders/sinners.

  • Discipleship is not easy – need to welcome all and will be suspected by the authorities.

Meaning to people today:

Literary Criticism

LITERARY CRITICISM examines a text as a finished piece of literature. It analyses the use of the language, examines the style, recognises the various literary genres, studies the unity and integrity of a text, asks questions about character portrayal and interaction, analyses the plot, the mood, how tension is introduced and resolved, and the literary perspective of the text. Its main focus then is what can be learned from what is said in the text itself, rather than how the text came to be written or what we can learn about the text from outside evidence.

NARRATIVE CRITICISM is a branch of literary criticism and assumes that the work of source, form, and redaction criticism has already been done. It focuses on the unified narrative, the story being told and how it is told. It tries to distinguish the real author (the person who actually wrote) from the implied author (the one who can be inferred from the narrative), and the real (first) audience from the implied audience (those the author has in mind when writing). It tries to highlight the author’s main interest and counters the excesses of historical investigation.
Use of the language:

  • Crisp. Mark does not go into great detail but presents characters and their interactions quickly and concisely.

  • Connects the call aspect to the controversy using the word ‘and’. This is a feature of Mark’s Gospel reflecting popular story-telling techniques of the time.


  • Complementary stories. Levi is called despite him being a ‘sinner’, Levi responds and becomes a disciple. Why Levi is able to be a disciple despite his occupation is explained in the controversy story that follows.

  • Rapid movement from call to controversy.

Creates a sense of urgency illustrating that to respond to the call of Jesus as a disciple will mean creating/being involved in situations that traditional Judaism will find controversial.
Literary genres:

  • Within the overall genre of Gospel – Good News about God’s action in Jesus Christ.

    • Using traditions at the author’s disposal sayings, parables, controversies, healing stories and probably a passion narrative.

    • The life of Jesus is presented as the parable par excellence of the Reign of God.

  • Includes ‘calling’ genre

    • A glance, the call, the response; which is modeled on the stories of callings in the Old Testament thus Jesus calls with the same authority as God.

  • Includes ‘controversy’ a genre in which the rabbis were trained. Usually has the following pattern

    • An action or saying of Jesus provokes audience amazement – the debate begins – the real point is make in this case that it is necessary to make a choice to be a disciple because it is a choice that may have uncomfortable consequences.

Where the extract is located in the text as a whole:

  • The earliest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark.

  • Part of Mark’s presentation of the Galilean Ministry of Jesus which covers Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing in the northern region of Galilee.

  • In the second section of the Galilean Ministry. Having called disciples and gained a following around Galilee Jesus is meeting strong opposition from Jewish leaders.

Character portrayal and interaction:

  • The opponents of Jesus take offence at his sharing a meal with ‘tax collectors and sinners’.

    • As a tax collector Levi was in the service of Herod Antipas and would have been suspected of financial dishonesty and disloyalty to the Jewish call.

    • Sinners were persons whose occupation or life-style prevented them from full observance of Jewish law.

  • The call in the first part of the text is to follow Jesus to be a disciple. In the second part of the text the call is to conversion of heart and seeking forgiveness, so that the tasks of discipleship may be taken up.

  • The scribes consider they are righteous but in fact they are not because they fail to acknowledge God as their source of righteousness.

Analyses the plot:

  • Mark is concerned about discipleship. This text is early in the Gospel during Jesus ministry in Galilee. This is when Jesus is establishing his ministry. He is distinguishing his ministry from that of John the Baptist and teaching by his actions the meaning of discipleship. Galilee is the place where Jesus is heard and people follow him but the section builds up until Jesus begins the journey to Jerusalem which is the place where he is betrayed, dies and rises.


  • Galilee which is the place of the initial proclamation of the kingdom and of the manifestation of Jesus as a person of power.

  • Is welcomed in Levi’s house but there is opposition by the religious of his presence. May reflect the differences in welcome experienced by Christians in their ‘house churches’ when compared to the synagogue.

The mood, how tension is introduced and resolved:

  • The mood is one of excitement. The number of disciples is growing and they are starting their ministry with Jesus.

  • The call of Levi, a ‘sinner’ introduces tension because the reader knows that this will upset the Jewish authorities who had strict guidelines about who was acceptable to participate in the rituals of the synagogue and to socialise with.

  • The tension is resolved in the immediacy because Jesus states his mission but is part of the build up toward the journey to Jerusalem.

Distinguish the real author (the person who actually wrote) from the implied author (the one who can be inferred from the narrative):

  • Real author an unidentified ‘editor’ who gathered the different traditions and gave them shape

  • Implied author knows the Jewish Scriptures but explains Jewish customs to non-Jews.

  • Narrator is anonymous writes as an eyewitness to those events that even the followers of Jesus do not know about, even though he is not an eyewitness. Knows the inner thoughts of both Jesus and other participants in the Gospel such as Peter. Presents asides to readers that communicate important information and controls the perspective being presented.

  • Written to deepen the faith of the members of the Christian community.

  • By showing how the traditions about Jesus related to their belief in the saving powers of the death and resurrection the audience is equipped to face persecution and resist the temptations of the world.

Meaning to the original audience:

  • The text would have been somewhat confusing originally because by including Levi a ‘sinner’ in the eyes of the society Jesus is discredited.

    • This suggests that the early Church is recording something that did happen because it would have been against their best interests in times of stress with the synagogue to include such a story about Jesus.

  • There is also an aspect of comfort and encouragement.

    • It is OK for the community to include those not included in synagogue worship ‘sinners’ and outcasts. In fact Jesus encourages and welcomes it. It is a sign of discipleship.

Meaning to people today:

  • This passage reminds the reader that there is a price of fidelity to the Gospel.

    • The disciple will encounter opposition and conflict from those whose values are challenged by the justice and compassion of the Gospel.

  • Jesus’ compassion and commitment to include those on the ‘outer’ of society guide today’s readers on the nature of church and its mission.

    • The church must welcome everyone to the ‘table’ i.e. The Eucharistic celebration.

    • The mission of the church is to bring the ‘Good News’ to all people ever sinners and those on the margins of society.


Biblical Interpretation Example – The Call of Levi

Verilənlər bazası müəlliflik hüququ ilə müdafiə olunur © 2016
rəhbərliyinə müraciət