Study Guide

Gospel of Mark Fate and Free Will

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Fate and Free Will

Jesus is a walking oracle. He's always tossing out prophecies, many of which actually come true in the course of the narrative. We're probably supposed to think that several others will be fulfilled beyond the story's end in 16:8, too (for example, 13:1-37 and 14:28). In some cases, these prophetic words have their source in the scriptures (9:12; 14:21, 27), which are read as authoritative guides for the future (1:2-3).

What's the long and short of it? Fate, where God is the silent mover. Certain things "must" (an important word in Mark) happen, but where exactly humans are free to will their own actions is an open question. Does Jesus imply, for example, that he could choose otherwise in 14:36?

One thing is for certain: humans are responsible for their actions even when they are fated. Sorry, Judas.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. A lot of prophecies are fulfilled in Mark. How does this affect the way we read the words on the page? Are we always on the lookout for some foreshadowing?
  2. How are characters throughout the story held responsible for actions that they're fated to perform? This is quite a paradox—can we resolve it?
  3. How is the concept of fate supposed to impact Mark's ideal readers? As proof? As comfort? As warning?
  4. What is the relationship between God and fate in Mark? Scripture and fate?

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