Essay reviews: The Gospels According to Mark, by Jorge Luis Borges
by D.H. Darwin
Created on: April 10, 2008 Last Updated: April 11, 2008
Nineteenth-century American poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes said "Men are idolaters, and want something to  throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will" (Fitzgerald 391). This analysis of religion is consistent with Jorge Luis Borges' story The Gospel According to Mark's. It is evident from its title that Borges' story is related to the Bible's Gospel of Mark. The New Testament dates from nearly two millennia before Borges' time, and his story takes place, far away from the Holy Land, in Argentina. The true Gospel chronicles the life and deeds of Jesus Christ according to his disciple Mark. Borges relates a short period at the end of Baltasar Espinosa's life. Borges' story has many distinct similarities and references to the Bible's Gospel. These similarities constitute the main themes of The Gospel According to Mark: an analysis of the people's view of Jesus, a critique of several aspects of religion, and a further critique of humanity and human nature. An important aspect of Borges' The Gospel According to Mark is its analysis of people's view ofJesus Christ, particularly in the Bible's Gospel of Mark. This examination is vital to Borges' critiques of religion and human nature. The Gutres perceive Espinosa as a Christ figure because of his teaching and healing. They go on to further the similarity by becoming like followers. In the Gospel of, one of Jesus' predominant roles is that of a teacher. For example, in Mark 4:1, Jesus "teach[es] [his doctrine] by the sea sideand there gather[s] unto him a great multitude." He goes on to teach further, as far away as Jordan and Judea (Mark 10:1). Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus continually teaches his doctrine. The Gutres see Espinosa as a teacher as well. During the storms at the ranch, he begins reading to the Gutres. He discovers a Bible and reads them the Gospel of Mark, which the Gutres listen to "with mute fascination" (Borges 437). The similarity here is evident; Jesus taught his followers his doctrine, and Espinosa "teaches" the Gutres essentially the same doctrine. The enthusiasm for Jesus' teaching brings "great multitudes" (Mark 4:1). Similarly, "the Gutreswolf down [their dinner] in order to arrive sooner at the Gospel" (Borges 437). This shows how important the Gospel becomes to them.The Gutres' comparison of Espinosa to Jesus continues in seeing him as a healer. In the Bible's Gospel, Jesus heals the sick to prove his divinity. In Mark 2:4 to 2:12, Jesus miraculously heals "one sick of the palsy." He continues to heal people; for example, in Mark 4:25 to 4:29, a woman who has had "an issue of blood twelve years" touches his clothing "and straightway the fountain of the blood [is] dried up." In The Gospel According to Mark, the Gutres' young girl's lamb gets cut, and instead of using the Gutres' primitive methods, Espinosa treats it with medicine (Borges 437). To the less civilized Gutres, this cure seems as miraculous as Jesus' healing.
The Gutres impression of Espinosa leads to a further comparison: Jesus' followers to the Gutres themselves. Jesus has twelve disciples, as well as many followers. For example, in Mark 6:33, the people see the apostles and "r[u]n afootout of all [the] citiesand c[o]me together upon [Jesus]." In the same way, after Espinosa has "taught" the Gutres and healed their lamb "the Gutrestrail [Espinosa] through the rooms and along the hallway" (438). The Gutres become so convinced of Espinosa's likeness to Jesus that they re-enact the crucifixion. When Jesus is on his way to be crucified "some beg[in] to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him" (Mark 14:65). When the Gutres are about to crucify Espinosa, "they curse him, sp[i]t on him, and dr[i]ve him to the back of the house" (439). This completes the likeness of Espinosa and Jesus with an...
Cited: Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Gospel According to Mark." Short Fiction: An Introductory Anthology, Second Edition. Ed. Gerald Lynch and David Rampton. Toronto: Nelson, 2005. 435-439.
"The Gospel According to Mark." Holy Bible. Columbia: Thomas Nelson Bibles. 429-439.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. London, 1651. Google Book Search: Oxford University Press. Ed. J.C.A. Gaskin. 1998. 9 April 2008 < http://books.google.ca/books?id= DhlOzCmNYj8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=leviathan&client =firefox -a&sig=ID5xLXbHdcr-ynZcHhxl2PcnBvw#PPP9,M1>
Holmes, Oliver Wendell. "Religion." The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations. Ed. Robert I. Fitzhenry. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1993. 391.
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