Mark 3:21, 31-35
Family in New Testament Culture
The Formations Teaching Guide and Formations Study Guide refer to the Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh. This is one of the most helpful resources I have found for understanding many gospel passages. Our American cultural norms, values, and ways of perceiving, are often different from those of Mediterranean New Testament culture. This resource sheds much light on some passages that might otherwise be misunderstood. I would be happy to loan you my copy any time you would like. I would encourage you to take a look.
Here is some social-science commentary on our Mark 3 passage:
Surrogate Family, 3:31-35
The household or family provided the early Christian movement with one of its basic images of Christian social identity and cohesion. In antiquity, the extended family meant everything. It not only was the source of one’s status in the community but also functioned as the primary economic, religious, educational, and social network. Loss of connection to the family meant the loss of these vital networks as well as loss of connection to the land. But a surrogate family, what anthropologists call a fictive kin group, could serve the same function as the family of origin, and thus the Christian community acting as a surrogate family is for Mark the locus of the good news. It transcends the normal categories of birth, class, race, gender, education, wealth, and power. For those already detached from their families of origin (e.g., noninheriting sons who go to the city), the surrogate family becomes a place of refuge. For the Galilean disciples envisioned in the Markan story, giving up one’s family of origin for the surrogate Christian family , as Mark portrays Jesus demanding here, had unimaginably great rewards: “a hundredfold now in this age… and in the age to come eternal life” (10:30).
(Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, pp. 201-202)
Additionally the Formations Study Guide notes:
The emphasis on family is compounded when we take into account the cultural emphasis on honor and shame in ancient Mediterranean societies. In Judaism and many other ancient cultures, everything rises or falls on honor, the status within society that one’s peers confer— or withhold— based on one’s compliance or noncompliance with behaviors deemed “honorable.” Honor, or the lack thereof, was a family affair. The dishonorable behavior of one family member dishonored everyone in that family (p. 7).
Reading the Scripture
Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:
o The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the library and the church office.)
o WatchWord Bible, New Testament on DVD is available in the library. (These videos display and read the text in Contemporary English Version with background pictures, video and sound. Not exactly dramatized or all that exciting, but could be another way to read the text.)
• In Mark 3:33 Jesus asks a good question, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” What does Jesus’ question imply about our concern and care for those outside of our biological family and even for those in other parts of the world? Consider our church family, our Boyle County family, our Nada family, and our Morocco family.
• Bring a church pictorial directory to class. Pass it around and invite class members to thumb through the directory looking at the pictures. Note, “according to Jesus these are your brothers and sisters.”
• Genealogy: “Do you know your family tree? How far back can you trace your family tree? Who is the most famous relative that you know of in your family genealogy?”
• According to the Formations Study Guide (p. 6) it was circumcision that made a boy a member of the covenant family. What makes one a member of the LABC family? Besides official church membership, how do you know someone is a member of the LABC family? Who is not a member of the LABC family?
• The family as the building block:
o “Family was the social safety net of Israel and the key to economic survival” (Formations Study Guide, p. 7). Who in our community are without the family social safety net? How are these families and individuals cared for? Who ministers to people without family support?
o “Religious and moral training took place primarily in the home” (Formations Study Guide, p. 7). In our mobile society many families live some distance from their extended family. Some children grow up in single parent homes. How can the church serve as extended family?
o Learn about the work of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass: Big Brothers Big Sisters targets the children who need us most, including those living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty and coping with parental incarceration. Starting something begins with finding a great match between a Big and a Little. Making these matches, and performing all the background work involved with them, is possible because of donations from people like you. It's also why we're able to offer such a wide variety of programs that pair children, ages 6 through 18, with role models in one-to-one relationships. Learn more here: http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.dpIMK4OAJmG/b.4360249/k.BF09/Home.htm
• Have parents completely given over responsibility for educating their children to the school and church? How can the home serve as an important center for spiritual formation?
• Plan an intergenerational activity with a children’s class, youth class or a class older or younger than yours. Share a meal together. Plan a game. Share stories about childhood favorites.
• Make a Family (Sunday School class photo). Someone will be available on this Sunday to take a picture of your class if you would like.
• Share some famous quotes on family. See the attached sheet at the end of this session.
• There’s a cute Apple I-Pad Mini commercial of a girl singing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” to her grandfather. See the web page. It could be used to illustrate family and intergenerational family relationships in 21st Century America.
I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.
• For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)
• Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) in Keith’s office
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
― George Burns
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“The capacity for friendship is God's way of apologizing for our families.”
― Jay McInerney, The Last of the Savages
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
― Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance
“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family. ”
― Jim Butcher
“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career. ”
― C.S. Lewis
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.”
― Ellen DeGeneres
“Parents are like God because you wanna know they're out there, and you want them to think well of you, but you really only call when you need something.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we're related for better or for worse...and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”
― Rick Riordan, The Sea of Monsters
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
― Mother Teresa
“One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated
Mark 3:21, 31-35