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Bemidji author reflects on Gospel of Mark

Bemidji author Gerald C. "Jeb" Monge's book, "A Spiritual Memoir (Reflections on Mark)," presents the Jesus that Mark envisioned in the Gospel of Mark. Monge, a former Lutheran pastor, describes himself as a spiritual man rather than a religious one. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Gerald C. "Jeb" Monge describes himself as not a religious man, but a spiritual man.

In that context, he has written "A Spiritual Memoir (Reflections on Mark)" to present the Jesus that Mark envisioned and to encourage readers to consider Jesus as an influence in their lives.

Monge, 69, grew up in a Norwegian Pietistic home in Tracy, Minn. He questioned religion as a student at the University of Minnesota studying philosophy. However, he spent four years at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul and became a Lutheran pastor. In 1980, he left the ministry and went to financial consulting for small business owners. He retired to Bemidji in 1995. But he never stopped studying the Gospels.

"Even though I went into business, I never stopped studying theology and philosophy," Monge said.

In the introduction of "A Spiritual Memoir," Monge explains his impression of religion versus spirituality: "A spiritual person seeks meaning in relationship to God and others. Whereas the religious person focuses more on the group to which he belongs."

Monge said Mark's was the first of the Gospels, written about 70 A.D., about 40 years after Jesus died. He said Matthew and Luke based their Gospels on Mark's, but aimed their writing for different audiences. He said Matthew wrote for the Jews and Luke for the Gentiles.

"The Jesus I see in Mark is a good teacher and a very good philosopher," Monge writes in his introduction. "What makes him different is that he is the embodiment of the message he is teaching. That is what makes him so unique."

Monge noted that Mark writes the first chapters of his Gospel telling of Jesus' life, but spends the last half of the book on the last week of Jesus' life.

Monge said there is a theory that Mark was a follower of Jesus as a teenager, and that Mark refers to himself in Chapter 14:51-52 in his account of Jesus' arrest: "A certain young man followed him, having a linen cloth thrown around himself, over his naked body. The young men grabbed him, but he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked."

"He got scared and ran away," Monge said.

No one knows, and as Monge writes, there is no proof of Jesus' resurrection or other tenets of faith.

"The only thing we can do is to continue to study and remain open to the newness we experience in our journey," he writes.

Monge has previously published two plays and some poetry. He will hold two book signings 1-4 p.m. July 25 at Book World, 410 Minnesota Ave. N.W., and 1-3 p.m. Aug. 8 at B. Dalton in Paul Bunyan Mall.

"A Spiritual Memoir," 299 pages, 2009, $27.95, was published by Publish America.