Jesus the Rejected Synagogue Teacher- an Excerpt from Jesus against the Scribal Elite

The following is an excerpt from Jesus against the Scribal Elite, by Chris Keith.


Mark portrays Jesus as a powerful teacher whose contemporaries did not expect him to be a synagogue teacher because he was a member of the manual-labor class.

Cover ArtDespite consistent identifications of Jesus as outside scribal-literate circles, sometimes his audiences nevertheless allow him to teach in a synagogue and thus experience the benefits of his healing and exorcistic ministries. And despite scribal-literate authorities’ disapproval of Jesus (2:6–7, 16, 24; 3:6, 22) and despite, or possibly because of, his critiques of them (2:17, 25; 3:23–27), his popularity increases in Galilee.

The words of Mark 1:39 describe Jesus’s successful early teaching career: “He went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons” (more fully 1:21–28; 3:1–5). As this summary statement indicates, Jesus’s reputation as a synagogue teacher grows from his performance of these powerful deeds while occupying the social space of a scribal-literate teacher. Jesus’s career in this regard is so successful that a synagogue leader himself, Jairus, comes to Jesus for the healing of his daughter shortly before Jesus’s return to his hometown (5:22–43).

Once Jesus attempts to occupy this social space in his hometown among those who know him best, however, their expectation that he is not a synagogue teacher receives reinforcement from their knowledge that he is a carpenter.

The rejection in Mark 6 is not rooted in the fact that Jesus dared to present himself as a teacher or their general dislike of him. He had, in fact, earlier attracted a large crowd in his hometown in 3:19–20. Their rejection is rooted specifically in the fact that he, as a carpenter, put himself in the position of a scribal-literate Torah authority in the synagogue.

©2014 by Chris Keith. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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