Here are three sample chapters from the Gospel of Mark, newly rendered into American English.
C H A P T E R E L E V E N
Getting close to Jerusalem, near Bethphage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives, Jesus asked two of his students to find a pony he could ride.
“If anybody asks you why you’re taking the pony, just say ‘The master needs it and will return it shortly’.” And that’s what happened.
The students took their coats and tossed them over the pony’s back so Jesus could ride it. And then other people started pitching their garments onto the road that Jesus’s pony was cantering on. Still others cut palm leaves from trees and flung those onto the road too.
A chorus rang out chanting, “Yi-Ha! Holy is he who comes in the name of God! Holy is the coming kingdom of David’s son! Yi-Ha! Heavens Above!”
Then Jesus trotted on pony-back into Jerusalem, stopping at the Temple and entering it, but since it was late, he decided to retreat back to Bethany with his twelve students.
The next morning, on the way back to Jerusalem, Jesus was hungry and thought to eat figs from a tree that he saw at some distance. But when he got up to the fig tree, there were no figs on it because, after all, it wasn’t fig season!
Even so, Jesus cursed the tree and predicted it would never bear fruit again. His students actually overheard this.
Jesus then entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple and started a commotion by kicking over tables and throwing out all the people who were buying and selling things like sacrificial doves. At one point he wouldn’t even allow anyone to carry anything to and fro inside the Temple.
He was quoting the ancient poet Isaiah, who spoke on behalf of God:
Intended for prayer
You have made a
And Jesus was talking about other matters too.
The Temple religious authorities saw the ruckus and heard Jesus quoting Isaiah, and they would have killed him on the spot, but they were afraid to make a move. The entire crowd was in rapt attention at Jesus’s words.
Later, in the evening, Jesus and his students left the Temple and the city.
The next morning, on the way back to Jerusalem, Jesus’s students saw that the fig tree he cursed yesterday was a dead stalk today, and Peter pointed it out to Jesus.
Jesus said, “Trust God on these matters. Say to a mountain, ‘Hurl yourself into the sea!’ And then notice what happens. If you don’t doubt that the mountain will march itself into the ocean, that mountain will march itself into the ocean. When you beg God for something, believe that he’s already giving it to you, and then you’ll get it.”
“But,” he went on, “when you do beg something of God, make sure that you have forgiveness in your heart for anyone who has offended you. This will predispose God to forgiving you and to granting your request.”
And so they entered Jerusalem and the Temple a third time. Various religious authorities as well as a few of the smugly pious were waiting there for Jesus.
One of them asked Jesus by whose rule he was doing the things he was doing, and Jesus rejoined with his own query: “If you answer my question I’ll answer yours: Did John splash people in the Jordon by heaven’s rule or by his own rule?”
The religious authorities and the smugly pious consulted each other quietly, off to the side: “Suppose we say by heaven’s rule: then Jesus will chide us for not getting splashed by John. Suppose we say that John splashed by his own rule: then this sizeable crowd of John aficionados may very well hurt us.”
So they answered Jesus’s question: “We don’t know.”
And that left Jesus the option of saying, “Then I won’t tell you by whose rule I do the things I do.”
C H A P T E R T W E L V E
Before the Temple authorities and the smugly pious left the building, Jesus began a little story-time for them:
“A man plants a vineyard, fences it in, and provides all the necessary accessories for it, like a wine press and a watch tower. Then he rents it out and goes abroad. Later, the man sends a servant to collect the rent and the profits from the sale of the wine. But the renters beat the servant about the head and face and send him off without a cent. A second servant comes for the rent and the profits. He’s also roughed up, and insulted, to boot. A third servant comes and this one is murdered. A fourth and a fifth come, and more come later, and all meet like fates, either beatings or death. Finally, the vineyard owner sends his son to collect the money, thinking it’s unlikely that the renters will harm the son. But the renters just see an opportunity to keep the land by killing its inheritor, the son. So they kill the son. What is the vineyard owner to do now? I’ll tell you what he does: he comes and he executes those renters, and then he up and gives the vineyard away to someone else.”
By way of explaining this story-time, Jesus then quoted a psalm by one of the ancient poets:
Builders once disowned
A rock that was a cornerstone
It dawned on the listeners that Jesus’s story-time was about them and so they wanted to take him into custody that instant, but they were afraid because of the crowd. So they left , for the time being…
Returning, the Temple authorities and the smugly pious had devised a plan to trap Jesus in a trick question.
“Teacher,” they said, “it’s obvious that you play no favorites with people but treat everyone equally, and that what you teach about God is true…What have you to say about taxes? Should we pay taxes to the emperor or not?”
Jesus spotted their cunning and exposed it for what it was: “Why are you trying to trick me into saying something controversial? Pull out a coin.” They did so. Then Jesus said, “Whose profile decorates the coin?” They said, “The coin has the emperor’s visage on it, of course.” Jesus said, “Then give it back to the emperor because it’s plainly his! And then give to God what is plainly God’s.” The Temple authorities and the smugly pious were bowled over by the cleverness of Jesus’s reply.
Certain members of the Sadducees sect heard that Jesus believed in life after death, which they rejected on the grounds that Moses’s Torah taught no such belief. And so, attempting to catch Jesus in a contradiction, they asked him this: “Teacher, Moses taught that if a man dies without having had a child, the man’s brother should marry the widow in order to produce children. What if seven brothers die in succession, all having married the same woman? After she dies, whose wife is she in the afterlife? Which of the seven brothers, all rightfully husbands to the one lady, gets her?”
Jesus replied, “You really expose your ignorance with this question: ignorance of scripture and ignorance of God’s power. Look, in the afterlife, people don’t marry, but they live like angels do in heaven. As for Moses and the afterlife: we all know how God spoke to Moses in that bushfire and referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, three patriarchs who lived and died centuries before Moses was born. God was not telling Moses that God is a God of dead people but of people who are living in the afterlife. And that’s why you’re absolutely wrong.”
One of the Temple authorities overheard this exchange and thought well of Jesus’s response and so he asked Jesus which of God’s commandments was the best one.
Jesus replied, “The best of God’s commandments says God is a solitary being and we should love God with our whole existence and all our strength. The second best of God’s commands says we should cultivate affection for other people as we cultivate affection for ourselves. None of the other commandments comes close to being better than these two.”
The man who asked the question was moved to agree, and he added that these two commands were better than any animal sacrifice. Jesus considered that a wise statement and said to the man, “You are close to knowing what God is all about.”
After such cross-examinations and Jesus’s wise responses, no one would even dare to ask him another question.
And so Jesus started teaching: “Religious sages say that the liberator will be a son of King David, but David himself said (coaxed by God’s holy exhalation):
God said to my master
‘Sit to my right as I put
Your rivals beneath your foot’
Here David calls the liberator “my master,” language he would likely not say to a son.”
The listeners got a jolt of glee out of this statement.
Jesus went on: “Watch out for the smugly pious. They like to make a show of their apparel, and they like to be greeted with dignified titles when they’re out and about, and they like to scoop up front-row seats at the synagogue, and they presume to sit in places of honor at various parties. They actually rob widows blind. And then they prattle these long and drawn out prayers, all for the sake of appearances. They’re in for a greater condemnation than most.”
Just then Jesus pointed out to his students a line of people who were putting money offerings into a Temple collection bin. Wealthy people put in sizeable sums, but there was this poor widow who put in a single solitary cent. At this Jesus told his students, “No lie, this woman put in more than all the rest, because the others gave from plenty and she gave from scarcity. It was probably all she had to live on.”
T H I R T E E N
One of Jesus’s students marveled over the magnificence of the Temple’s gigantic cut stones and the height and majesty of all its buildings. Then Jesus said, “Everyone of these stones in this great edifice will collapse and fall one day.”
Later, when they were all sitting on the Mount of Olives, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Jesus in confidence when the Temple would fall and what signs would foretell such events.
Jesus then spoke at length of the end-time:
“Don’t be duped. Plenty of men will come and say they are me and will in fact hoodwink quite a lot of people. You’ll hear about wars here and there, but don’t be upset: these things must happen before the end. Nations will fight nations. Governments will fight governments. Earthquakes will occur. Famines too. Even at this, it’s only the beginning of birthing pangs. You yourselves will be stood before tribunals. You’ll get beat up in places of worship. You’ll even make your case in front of secular rulers. All because of me, so that my message is spread to every country. Before you’re seated in the witness stand, don’t give a moment’s thought to what you’re going to say. And when you’re in the stand, just speak your mind because God’s holy exhalation will provide your thoughts and your words in that minute. A brother will betray a brother and get him killed. A father will do similarly of his child. Children too will see that their own parents are executed. You yourselves will be loathed simply because you use my name. And those who can endure this treatment will be rescued. When you see a blatant sacrilege in a place where it should never occur”––(reader, note well)––”then those who live in Judea should high tail it to the mountains. If you’re up on your roof when it happens, jump down and run and don’t go inside your house to collect anything. If you’re out in a field, just run, and don’t go back to fetch a coat or something. It’ll be bad luck if you’re pregnant or nursing an infant then. And pray that it doesn’t happen in winter! At that time, the degree of suffering will surpass all the suffering that occurred in the world up till then and all the suffering to come after. In fact, if God doesn’t interrupt events at that time, no one will survive. But because God chose a select few for rescue, he will interrupt the events of those days and cut them short. Someone at that time might say the liberator is here or the liberator is there. Don’t fall for that. There will be fake liberators and bogus prophets leading all manner of people off course, even some of God’s chosen ones. So be vigilant! That’s it! I’m telling you everything I have to say on the matter. Some of our ancient poets said of the last days:
After the pain
Sun is dark
Moon scarcely lit
Stars buckle and stream
Cosmos tremble in the extreme
Then! Then! Then! Then all will see a human child riding upon cirrus clouds, intensely strong and glowing in effulgence. That human child will send out ethereal agents to collect those whom God has chosen: collect them from every point on the globe and every point in the heavens. Take a hint from the fig tree: when it sprouts leaves you know summer is coming. So too with the things I’m saying: when you see these things start to occur, you’ll know that the end is very, very near. Now get this: These end-time events will take place before the present generation of people has died. Then heaven and earth will die. But my words will never die. Even though I say that the end is near, no one really knows the exact day or the exact hour it will happen. Not even God’s ethereal agents in heaven know. Not even God’s son knows. Only the Father God knows. Just stay on the alert since it could happen any time. Let me end with a tiny story-time about this: Say the master of a house leaves that house for a while and puts various servants in charge of different duties while he’s gone. And then the master puts another man on constant guard as superintendent of the servants. Stay awake, everybody! No one knows when the master will return home: evening? midnight? morning? Suppose the master shows up suddenly and finds everybody sleeping when they’re suppose to be awake and about their duties? My point? I’ll say it to you again and I wish I could say it to everyone: Stay wide awake!”