Chapter 8- Sample Observations
This chapter provides a few sample observations on Mark 2:1-12.
These samples will have much more value to you if you study the passage
quoted in the next section, then write out some of your own observations
before reading the samples. At this point write out only observations.
You should set aside at least one hour to study the passage and write out
your observations. As you do so, remember the following.
Keep the distinction between observation and interpretation clearly in
Do not try to make striking observations. Concentrate your efforts
on being accurate rather than being spectacular.
Do not bother writing out observations on the mechanics of the English
text. Of course, for those who can study the Bible in the original
languages, that is by far the best. But if you study the Bible in
an English translation, your Bible study can still be very meaningful and
rewarding. However, you should be aware of some aspects of the English
translation that are not in the original manuscripts. For instance,
the earliest known manuscripts of the New Testament books were written
entirely in letters the same size without spaces between the words.
Also, they were written without our modern English type of punctuation,
without paragraphs, without quotation marks, and without chapter and verse
divisions. Thus the translators and editors must supply all these
as they feel they best fit their understanding of the text. (The
chapter divisions that appear in our present Bibles were added to the text
in the 1200's, and the verse divisions in the 1500's.) It is not
wise to base your interpretation of a passage solely on such things as
capitalization of a certain word, punctuation, sentence and paragraph divisions,
quotation marks, or verse or chapter divisions. Don't waste your
time making observations of such aspects of the English translation.
Such observations are pointless because they do not come from the original
manuscripts. Thus, they form a flimsy basis for interpretations.
Also, don't waste your time observing certain superficial aspects of the
text that are unique to the English language, including the longest or
shortest word in a passage, the longest or shortest sentence, the middle
sentence of a paragraph or the middle word of a sentence, etc. These
are all pointless.
Focus your efforts on writing out observations of relationships
between facts and patterns of relationships. Do not be satisfied
merely to write out isolated facts that would be obvious to any reader
at first glance. (Concerning Mark 2:1-12, such obvious observations
might include, "This happened in Capernaum," or "There was a crowd there,"
or "Jesus healed the paralytic.") Naturally, you will observe such
things easily the first time you read the passage. Since these facts
are so easily accessible, you may not even need to write them down.
Later, of course, you will probably combine such obvious aspects of the
text with your other observations to help form the basis for some of your
interpretations. Your interpretations will be based on all you know
about the passage, both the obvious (which you may not have written out)
and the not-so-obvious (which you have written out). Most of your
observations should be observations of relationships and patterns, not
merely isolated facts.
The text of Mark 2:1-12 that follows is respaced, based on thought
units within the sentences. (We explain the reason for respacing
a passage and give some guidelines regarding respacing in chapter 17.)
The purpose at this point is not to try to be exhaustive, but only to
illustrate a few observations and some possible interpretations based on
Mark 2:1-12 (NASB)
Observations on Mark 2:1-12
- Jesus sees their (plural) faith, yet he responds
by addressing just one man, the paralytic (v. 5).
- The passage does not say why the paralytic was brought to Jesus,
and no words of the paralytic are recorded (entire passage).
- The paralytic obviously needed physical healing, but Jesus
forgave his sins first (vv. 3-5).
- Jesus' question to the scribes was not "Which is easier to do?"
(forgive or heal), but "Which is easier to say . . . ?" (v. 9).
Also, Jesus' question to the scribes contrasted something that could not
be checked (saying "your sins are forgiven") with something that could
be checked (saying "arise . . .") (v. 9).
- The labels for inner functions differ from our customary usage.
We often say that thinking is in the head or mind while feeling is in the
heart. However, Mark and Jesus talk about perceiving in the spirit
and reasoning in the heart (v. 8).
- The scribes' response to Jesus' statements and to the healing
is not recorded (that is, no scribal response is singled out or distinguished
from the general response of "all" the people recorded in v. 12), although
Jesus asks them two questions and the crowd's response to the healing is
recorded (entire passage).
Possible Interpretations and Questions Based on These Observations
The first three interpretations below are negative. They are meant
to show two things: (1) that interpretations must be based on the
evidence from the text rather than on assumptions that are brought to the
text, and (2) that all varieties of interpretations must be considered
before you come to a conclusion. Obviously, these interpretations
are far from exhaustive.
It is especially important that you understand what an observation is and
how it differs from an interpretation, because, in the actual Bible study
procedures suggested in chapters 17 and 18, observation and interpretation
are not differentiated for you. It is impossible to organize the
actual steps of Bible study so that a certain set of steps incorporates
only observations, while the next set of steps incorporates only interpretation.
Rather, varying degrees of both observation and interpretation may at times
enter into many of the steps. Since you cannot neatly separate them
in your procedure, it is all the more important that you can separate them
in your thinking. You need to know during any step of the procedure
when you are observing and when you are interpreting so that you can truly
make your observations the basis of your interpretations.
- First (based on observations 2 and 6): We cannot interpret
this to mean that the paralytic did not speak, or that the scribes did
not have a distinct response. Nor can we assume that the scribes
are included in the "all" of verse 12. All we can say is that no
speech of the paralytic and no distinct response of the scribes is recorded.
Both the paralytic and the scribes may have said much more than
is recorded in this passage. Arguments and interpretations that are
based on silence of the record are often very weak. (We say more
about the dangers of using arguments from silence in chapter 13.)
- Second (based on observation 1): Again we need to be very careful
lest we try to get too much out of this observation. For instance,
we cannot conclude that the paralytic himself did not have faith, for he
be included in the word their. Also, we cannot conclude that
Jesus did not address the men who brought the paralytic. To conclude
this would be another argument from silence.
- Third (based on observations 2 and 3): It could easily be assumed
that the paralytic was brought to Jesus so that he could be healed.
But it is also possible that the paralytic was brought simply so
that he could hear Jesus teach. Was this why Jesus responded to their
faith by forgiving his sins? When we combine all the information
in the passage with the information from the context and from the parallel
accounts of this incident in Matthew and Luke, it appears quite likely
that the paralytic was indeed brought so that he could be healed.
The point is: don't assume anything. Don't take anything for granted.
Consider a wide variety of ways of putting the evidence together.
All the different interpretations that come to your attention, from whatever
source, should be tested against the evidence of the text.
- Fourth (based on observation 4): Whereas it is debatable whether
forgiving sins or healing is easier, there is no question that saying
"your sins are forgiven" is easier than saying "arise, . . . walk."
Telling someone his sins are forgiven is easy because it can be said without
anyone being able to check. There is no visible evidence available
for people to see whether you have authority in that realm and whether
what was spoken has actually taken place. However, it is not easy
to tell a paralyzed person to walk because everyone can readily see if
you have authority in that realm by simply watching to see if the paralyzed
person gets up and walks. Although Jesus had authority in both realms,
he knew that the scribes could not check up on him in the realm of forgiving
sins, which they had questioned. So he showed them his authority
in another supernatural realm, healing, in which they could easily check
his authority. Having seen a demonstration of Jesus' authority in
one supernatural realm, the scribes would logically be forced to consider
the possibility of Jesus having authority in the other.
Back to Index | Next Chapter
Direct Bible Discovery copyright © by Ronald W. Leigh. All rights reserved.