Mark 7:1-23

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

Notice when you are telling this story that a major section is a comment by the storyteller directly to the audience explaining Jewish customs. This has been an area of controversy in the interpretation of Mark. The general assumption is that this is a sign that Mark is writing for Gentile readers. I think it is a way of including Gentiles in the potential audiences of the Gospel so that they will not be confused about the dispute going on between Jesus and Pharisees. They were not necessarily the dominant group in the audience, but Mark is actively seeking to include them. Therefore, when telling this story use a tone of inclusion and of welcoming various people into its hearing.

Another issue is how to present the words of the Pharisees. I suggest that you present them very sympathetically. That is, present them on the assumption that the listeners can identify with them and that they have those same questions.

Now the questions in regard to the dietary laws and the washing of hands are very interesting because we have largely adopted Jewish practice in the ancient world in our customs now in regard to washing our hands and washing food and washing pots and pans. We have confirmed that this is good hygiene and that people are healthier and do not get as many diseases if they wash their hands and wash their dishes and their pots,which was not the general custom in the ancient world. So there's a way in which Jewish custom and tradition anticipates the developments in modern cleanliness.

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