What are we to make of these dispute stories? Adele Yarbro Collins says that the main issue is not to pass down Yeshua’s principles of interpreting the Torah. As she notes, “the legal premises and practices are not at all elaborated” (p. 183).
As we explore these stories, we will find her words to be quite accurate. Yeshua’s opponents have problems with some of his practices and those of his disciples. Yet we cannot say for sure why they oppose Yeshua on this or that issue. Their arguments are not made known. And even Yeshua’s arguments against them are short and ambiguous. We could go further and say Yeshua’s arguments are mysterious, perhaps even part of the Messianic secret theme.
As much as we would like to have a set of clear principles from Yeshua about how to interpret the Torah, we get in these stories only a few general ones.
So, if the dispute stories in Mark are not about honing in on principles for interpreting the Torah, what are they about. Collins says that these stories, as typical of all of Mark’s gospel, reflect “primary interest in the identity and authority of Jesus.”
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My book Yeshua in Context: Sketches of the Life and Times of Yeshua the Messiah will be released later in 2010. Stay tuned for news and some ways to be involved.