Thematic Cohesion Mk9:38-41

clayton stirling bartholomew c.s.bartholomew at
Mon Aug 7 14:38:45 EDT 2000

Thematic Cohesion Mk9:38-41

 Mk9:38-41 has numerous discourse features which indicate a high level of
thematic cohesion with the preceding context. But a casual reading of
Mk9:38-41 leaves one with the impression that it is a misplaced fragment of
discourse just plugged into this spot. In other words, the semantic
structure of Mark 9, after only a superficial glance, seems to become a
little incoherent in this section. John's question and Jesus' answer do not
seem to have anything to do with what Jesus was just talking about.

However, the discourse indicators seem to support a high level of thematic
cohesion. What are some of these indicators?

verb initial clause - Mk 9:38 has no pragmatic constituent in the slot
before the verb which is used for point of departure and other pragmatic

anaphora - John's addressee in his question is indicated with AUTWi.

location - the location has remained the same

time - the time is the same

participants - the participants are the same

action - the action is still a private discussion between Jesus and the

The only major change is the speaker who introduces the topic. John is a new
speaker.  So we have a lot of cohesion here which leads me to suspect that
we also have thematic cohesion even though it is not completely obvious
where the thematic cohesion is to be found.

W. B. Swete suggests that John is feeling a little guilty about the way the
disciples treated TINA EN TWi ONOMATI SOU EKBALLONTA DAIMONIA in light of
Jesus comments in Mk 9:37 hOS AN hEN TOIOUTWN PAIDIWN DEXHTAI  . . . The
action of the disciples was a failure to accept hEN TOIOUTWN PAIDIWN.

If we accept Swete's suggestion then Mk 9:38 is thematically cohesive with
both the preceding and the following context. The warning which we find in
Mk 9:42 KAI hOS AN SKANDALISHi hENA applies directly to the behavior of the
disciples as described by John in Mk9:38.

The fact that the discourse indicators in Mk 9:33-41 point to a high level
of cohesion even when the semantic structure looked broken at this point led
me to stop and take a more detailed look at the thematic development.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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