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Mark 2's Testimony in 'The God Who Speaks'

Tuesday, March 1, 2022 @ 7:35 AM Mark 2's Testimony in 'The God Who Speaks' ATTENTION: Major social media outlets are finding ways to block the conservative/evangelical viewpoint. Click here for daily electronic delivery of The Stand's Daily Digest - the day's top blogs from AFA.

M.D. Perkins Research Fellow of Church and Culture MORE

(Editor's note: Pictured above is Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee where the events of Mark 1 and 2 occur.)

Peter’s House and the Challenge of Biblical Filmmaking

When you make a documentary, all kinds of decisions must be made that the audience will never know took place.

The obvious ones are the choice of interview subjects, what clips find a place in the movie, how to connect thoughts through other people’s words, and what to show while someone is talking. But what happens when what someone says – on the surface – could miscommunicate? What happens what someone says has a lot more packed into it than there is time to explain?

This is one of the many challenges I faced while editing The God Who Speaks (available for a limited time for free streaming through – register for a free account today).

Peter’s House and Mark 2

There is a moment in The God Who Speaks when renowned New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace says:

One of the remarkable things about the gospels that we have in our New Testament – as well as the whole Bible – is that the Bible subjects itself to historical verification. It puts itself at risk of inquiry. Unlike the gospel of Thomas, the Quran, unlike the Bhagavad Gita or the Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha that are talking head theology.

The Bible says, “Jesus did this at a certain place, here’s the guy’s name whom he healed or here’s the house where he did it at.” Like in Mark 2, when you had these 4 men who lift parts of the thatched roof at Peter’s house and they drop this paralyzed man right in front of Jesus and He heals the man and he walks out. I’ve been to Peter’s house; it’s in Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

You can see the very place where Jesus stood when He was lecturing to this crowd that was packed and the actual door that this man walked out of. That’s historically verifiable stuff, you don’t have that in these other documents.

This is one of the great quotes of the documentary – an important reminder of the Bible’s uniqueness and veracity. The only problem? Mark 2 does not directly mention “Peter’s house.”

As the documentary structure was taking shape during the editing, I began weighing every statement more and more carefully. That’s when “Peter’s house” jumped out at me. I had never remembered that story expressly taking place at Peter’s house but, then again, there are hundreds of details I had never noticed about certain Bible passages before. As you might imagine, my heart sank when I came to Mark 2 and saw no direct reference to Peter’s house in the text.

But the problem wasn’t that Dr. Wallace had given the wrong chapter reference – as if the healing of the paralytic in Capernaum had happened in chapter 4 instead of chapter 2. He was spot-on with the reference but the text simply did not say “Peter’s house.”

Digging into Mark 2

When I read Mark 1 together with chapter 2 it began to make a little more sense as to why the location for the healing of the paralytic might be Peter’s house. It is established in Mark 1:29 that Simon Peter and Andrew live in Capernaum and Jesus goes to their house to heal Peter’s mother-in-law. In Mark 1:32, it says that at sundown people were bringing the sick and demon-possessed to him for healing. Mark 1:33 (ESV) says, “And the whole city was gathered together at the door.” This event most certainly is taking place at Peter’s house. So, what about chapter 2?

After Jesus returns from a ministry trip across Galilee, he returns to Capernaum. Mark 2:1 (ESV) reads, “And when he [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.” This text can either mean one of two things: Jesus had a house in Capernaum where the miracle will happen, or, Jesus had a place where he stayed in Capernaum where the miracle will happen.

Since Jesus says in Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” evangelical scholars rule out the option that Jesus owned a house in Capernaum. By deduction, this leaves the option that Jesus stayed with someone. The most likely choice would be that he stayed with Peter and Andrew. It not only makes sense logistically, but the text says that “it was reported that he was at home.” This means that Jesus is in a place that the townspeople associate with Jesus when he is in Capernaum. At this point, it now seems obvious that we are talking about Peter’s house.

Archeological Evidence

Archeological evidence cannot tell us in what house this miracle occurred. But it can give us some historical context and help confirm the whole event.

In 1982, Biblical Archeology Review spoke about the materials of Peter’s house:

Although slightly larger than most, the house [Peter’s house] was simple, with coarse walls and a roof of earth and straw. Like most early Roman-period houses, it consisted of a few small rooms clustered around two open courtyards. Despite later proving to be one of the most exciting Biblical archaeology discoveries, the house appeared quite ordinary.

This means that Peter’s house – as with most houses in first-century Capernaum – had a thatched (straw) roof. Archeologists say this was because of the drystone black basalt walls common in Capernaum home construction. This type of wall was not strong enough to support a second floor. Once again, the Bible is confirmed.

Dr. Wallace’s Statement about Mark 2 and Peter’s House

The point of what Dr. Wallace was saying is that the biblical narratives subject themselves to scrutiny and verification and they can hold up under such scrutiny. We just tested that statement ourselves.

When the Gospel of Mark would have been written, the early readers/hearers would know that they could go to Capernaum and find a place where the healing of the paralytic happened. They could ask around and find people who saw it with their own eyes. In other words, it didn’t happen in a “void” where there was not enough detail to verify it. It is all written as a history where things take place in real places and with real people.

So did Dr. Wallace misspeak when he said that Mark 2 says that the healing of the paralytic takes place at Peter’s house? Technically, yes, he misspoke. Mark 2 does not directly tell us that the healing took place at Peter’s house. However, Dr. Wallace did not give us false information. He did not lead us astray. He was condensing the implications of the biblical narrative and the archeological evidence that confirms the text. He knew more than he was sharing in that brief statement.

As I read more on this topic, I learned that it seems to be the consensus opinion that the Mark 2 healing took place at Peter’s house. This is not a point of controversy among evangelical scholars.

Although I would have loved to include all that information in The God Who Speaks, it gets well beyond the point of the movie. I admit I did wrestle with whether to include that part or not in the final film. After careful consideration, however, it seemed right to include it. What Dr. Wallace was conveying was ultimately true and the careful viewer is always encouraged to dig deeper.

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