Gospel of Mark

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Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark is traditionally the second New Testament Gospel, ascribed to Mark the Evangelist. It narrates the life of Jesus from John the Baptist to the Ascension (or to the empty tomb in the shorter recension), but it concentrates particularly on the last week of his life (chapters 11-16, the trip to Jerusalem). Most scholars date it to the late 60s or the early 70's, and, contrary to the traditonal view, regard it as the earliest of the canonical gospels,<ref>Brown 164</ref> and a source for material in the other synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke.


[edit] Content

[edit] Authorship and Provenance

Beginning of a Latin Gospel of Mark, Book of Durrow (7th century).

The gospel itself is anonymous, but as early as Papias in the early 2nd century, a text was attributed to Mark, a disciple of Peter, who is said to have recorded the Apostle's discourses. Papias' authority in this was John the Presbyter. While the text of Papias is no longer extant, it was quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea:

This, too, the presbyter used to say. ‘Mark, who had been Peter's interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord’s sayings and doings. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of his followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter’s. Peter used to adapt his teachings to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some of the things as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only – to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no misstatement about it.<ref>Papias, quoted in Eusebius History of the Church, trans. G.A. Williamson (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1965). 3.39.15 / pp. 103–4.</ref>

Irenaeus confirmed this tradition,<ref>Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1, also 10:6.</ref> as did Origen,<ref>cited in Eusebius, History of the Church, 6:14</ref> Tertullian,<ref>Tertullian, Against Marcion 4:5</ref> and others. Clement of Alexandria, writing at the end of the 2nd century, reported an ancient tradition that Mark was urged by those who had heard Peter's speeches in Rome to write what the apostle had said.<ref>cited in Eusebius, History of the Church 6:14</ref> Following this tradition, scholars have generally thought that this gospel was written at Rome. Among recent alternate suggestions are Syria, Alexandria, or more broadly any area within the Roman Empire.

It has been argued that there is an impending sense of persecution in the Gospel, and that this could indicate it being written to sustain the faith of a community under such a threat. As the main Christian persecution at that time was in Rome under Nero, this has been used to place the writing of the Gospel in Rome.<ref>Brown et al., pp. 596-97.</ref> Furthermore, it has been argued that the Latinized vocabulary employed in Mark (and in neither Matthew nor Luke) shows that the Gospel was written in Rome.<ref>e.g. σπεκουλατορα ("soldier of the guard", 6:27, NRSV), ξεστων (Greek corruption of sextarius ("pots", 7:4), κοδραντης ("penny", 12:42, NRSV), κεντυριων ("centurion", 15:39, Mark 15:44–45).</ref> Also cited in support is a passage in First Peter: "The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son."<ref>1 Peter 5:13</ref>; Babylon being interpreted as a derogatory or code name for Rome, as the famous ancient city of Babylon ceased to exist in 275 BC.

However, the Rome-Peter theory has been questioned in recent decades. Critics argue that the Latinisms in the Greek of Mark could have stemmed from many places throughout the Western Roman empire. Additionally, the passage in First Peter is considered inconclusive, Mark (Marcus) being a common name in the 1st century. Furthermore, some scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark contains mistakes concerning Galilean topography, supporting that the author, or his sources, were unfamiliar with the actual geography of that area, unlike the historical Peter. Finally, some scholars dispute the connection of the gospel with persecution, identified with persecution at Rome, asserting that persecution was widespread, albeit sporadic beyond the borders of the city of Rome.

It is generally agreed among contemporary scholars that the Gospel of Mark was the first gospel written, where the traditional view, popular amongst the Church fathers and especially Augustine of Hippo, holds that Mark was composed second, after the Gospel of Matthew (see Augustinian hypothesis). This assertion of Markan Priority is closely associated with the Two-Source Hypothesis, Q hypothesis, and the Farrer hypothesis (see below).

[edit] Date

There is wide scholarly agreement that Mark was written sometime between the late 60s or the early 70's.<ref>Brown 164</ref> There are vocal minority groups that argue for earlier or later dates. However, as most scholars believe that either Matthew or Luke was written around the year 80 and used Mark as a source, they find a date past 75 unlikely.<ref>Brown 164</ref> There is no definite way to determine how early it was written, as most scholars reject the assertion of Callaghan and Thiede as lacking sufficient evidence.

Mark 13:1-2, known as the "little apocalypse", remains a controversial passage regarding the dating of the text. Exegesis is often employed to show correspondences between the passage and the calamities of the First Jewish Revolt of 6670. The passage predicts that Herod's Temple would be torn down completely, and this was done by the forces of the Roman general Titus.<ref>Josephus, Jewish War VI; note that the Western Wall, which still stands, was not a part of the Temple proper, but rather part of a larger structure on which the Temple and other buildings stood.</ref>

If Jesus' prophetic remarks do indeed concern the destruction of the Temple, then two options appear concerning the text's date. Either Jesus correctly predicted the event, which would allow for a date of composition prior to 70, or the events were put into the mouth of Jesus after the fact by the Gospel's author, entailing a post-70 dating of the text. Because the text does not observe the fulfillment of this prophetic passage, some of those accepting the passage's veracity argue that the text must date before 70.

Two papyrologists, Fr. Jose O'Callaghan and Carsten Peter Thiede, have proposed that lettering on a postage-stamp-sized papyrus fragment found in a cave at Qumran, 7Q5, represents a fragment of Mark (Mark 6:52–53; thus they assert that the present gospel was written and distributed prior to 68. Computer analysis has shown that their disputed reading of the letters shows that only Mark matches these twenty letters and five lines among all known Greek manuscripts.<ref>Brown 164</ref> Most papyrologists, however, consider this identification of the fragmentary text, and its supposition that early Christians lived at Qumran, to be dubious. It is written on a scroll, and all known early papyrus Gospel manuscripts come from codices. <ref>Brown 164</ref> It is true that no other known Greek work matches its wording, but no extant copy of Mark matches it exactly either, as it misses the phrase "to land" found in 6:52–53. It also could come from an unknown Greek work or a Christian could have left a copy of Mark there around the time the Qumran community was destroyed.<ref>Brown 164</ref>

Tradition associated the text's composition with the persecution of Nero, which would allow for a date circa 65.<ref>Brown et al., pp. 596–97.</ref> Additionally, tradition held that Mark was written after the deaths of Paul and Peter.<ref>Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses 3.1.1</ref> Some point to internal evidence in the Gospel, contrasting 13:1–2 with more specific passages in Luke and Matthew, hesitating to assign a date later than 70–73, the latter year being when Jerusalem was finally and fully sacked.

[edit] Audience

The general theory is that Mark is a Hellenistic gospel, written primarily for an audience of Greek-speaking residents of the Roman Empire. Jewish traditions are explained, clearly for the benefit of non-Jews (e.g., Mark 7:1–4; 14:12; 15:42). Aramaic words and phrases are also expanded upon by the author, e.g., ταλιθα κουμ (talitha koum, Mark 5:41); κορβαν (Corban, Mark 7:11); αββα (abba, Mark 14:36).

Alongside these Hellenistic influences, Mark makes use of the Old Testament in the form in which it had been translated into Greek, the Septuagint, for instance, Mark 1:2; 2:23–28; 10:48b; 12:18–27; also compare 2:10 with Daniel 7:13–14. Those who seek to show the non-Hellenistic side of Mark note passages such as 1:44; 5:7 ("Son of the Most High God"; cf. Genesis 14:18–20); Mark 7:27; and Mark 8:27–30. These also indicate that the audience of Mark has kept at least some of its Jewish heritage, and also that the gospel might not be as Hellenistic as it first seems.

The gospel of Mark contains many literary genres. Paul's letters were already surfacing around 40–60, and the Gospel of Mark came at a time when Christian faith was rising. Professor Dennis R MacDonald writes:

Whether as a response to the Jewish War (66–70) or to the deaths of the earliest followers of Jesus, or to the need of a definitive version of Jesus' life, or to objectionable theological trends, the author of the Gospel of Mark recast traditional materials into a dramatic narrative climaxing in Jesus' death. It is not clear precisely what kind of book the author set out to compose, insofar as no document written prior to Mark exactly conforms with its literary properties. Its themes of travel, conflict with supernatural foes, suffering, and secrecy resonate with Homer's Odyssey and Greek romantic novels. Its focus on the character, identity, and death of a single individual reminds one of ancient biographies. Its dialogues, tragic outcome, and peculiar ending call to mind Greek drama. Some have suggested that the author created a new, mixed genre for narrating the life and death of Jesus.<ref>Dennis R MacDonald, Early Christian Literature</ref>

[edit] Mark and the Synoptic Problem

The first three, or synoptic, gospels are closely related. For example, out of a total of 662 verses, Mark has 406 in common with both Matthew and Luke (known as the "double tradition" material), 145 with Matthew alone, 60 with Luke alone, and at most 51 peculiar to itself, according to one reckoning. The commonality goes beyond the same selection of what stories about Jesus to tell but extends to the use of many of the same words in how they are told. The synoptic problem is an investigation into whether and how the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke used each other or common sources.

Most researchers into the synoptic problem have concluded that Mark was written first and used by Matthew and Luke ("Markan priority"), as first proposed by G. Ch. Storr in 1786 and popularized by the critical scholarship that began in the mid-19th century. Another hypothesis known as the Augustinian hypothesis follows the traditional view that Matthew was the first Gospel, followed by Mark and then Luke. The other major alternative to Markan priority is the Griesbach hypothesis, which holds that Mark was written third as an abbreviating combination of Matthew and Luke.

There are two solutions to the synoptic problem that are based on Markan priority. Firstly, the Farrer hypothesis, that Mark wrote first followed by Matthew then Luke, each writer using the work of his predecessors. Secondly, the more dominant Two-Source hypothesis (2SH) posits that the gospels of Matthew and Luke also draw extensively from a now-lost "sayings" collection—called Q, after German Quelle, "source". Most supporters of the 2SH do not think there is a literary connection between Mark and Q,<ref>e.g. Udo Schnelle (1998 p 195), who wrote that "a direct literary connection between Mark and Q must be regarded as improbable" and looks to connections through the oral tradition. see: [1]</ref> but a couple of active scholars, such as Burton Mack,<ref> Burton Mack (1993 pp 177–79); he discusses "a myriad of interesting points at which the so-called overlaps between Mark and Q show Mark's use of Q material for his own narrative designs. see: [2].</ref> have argued that Mark had some knowledge of Q.

To further complicate the matter, in recent years there have been various hypotheses postulating other sources for Mark, generally proposed to explain certain difficulties with the two source hypothesis. It is argued that Mark gave an order and plot to the material found in his sources, and also added some parenthetical commentary.<ref>e.g. Daniel J. Harrington, who wrote, "Mark had various kinds of traditions at his disposal: sayings, parables, controversies, healing stories and other miracles, and probably a passion narrative. Some of these traditions may have been grouped: controversies (Mark 2:1–3:6), seed parables (Mark 4:1–34), miracles (Mark 4:35–5:43), etc. Mark gave an order and a plot to these sayings and incidents, connected them with bridge passages, and added parenthetical comments for the sake of his readers." Brown et al. 597</ref> Lastly, one scholar, Michael A. Turton, has argued that the Gospel of Mark is Midrash, or a sermonic commentary of the Tanakh (Old Testament). According to Turton, Mark contains over 150 citations or allusions to the Tanakh, with the bulk of the Gospel episodes being derived from stories of First and Second Kings about Elijah and Elisha.<ref>[3] This is an uncommon point of view.</ref>

[edit] Losses and early editing

Mark is the shortest gospel. An axiom adopted by some readers, though not by professionals generally, is: "A shorter version generally means an earlier form." Judicious editing of unwanted material, however, may also produce a shorter document.

Manuscripts, both scrolls and codices, tend to lose text at the beginning and the end, not unlike a coverless paperback in a backpack. These losses are characteristically unconnected with excisions. For instance, Mark 1:1 has been found in two different forms. Most manuscripts of Mark, including the 4th-century Codex Vaticanus, have the text "son of God",<ref>Greek grammar and article use allow an English translation of the Son of God, a son of God, or merely Son of God.</ref> but three important manuscripts do not. Those three are: Codex Sinaiticus (01, א; dated 4th century), Codex Koridethi (038, Θ; 9th century), and the text called Minuscule 28 (11th century).<ref>Novum Testamentum Graece</ref> Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament states: "Since the combination of B D W all in support of [Son of God] is extremely strong, it was not thought advisable to omit the words altogether, yet because of the antiquity of the shorter reading and the possibility of scribal expansion, it was decided to enclose the words within square brackets."

Interpolations may not be editorial, either. It is a common experience that glosses written in the margins of manuscripts get incorporated into the text as copies are made. Any particular example is open to dispute, of course, but one may take note of Mark 7:16, "Let anyone with ears to hear, listen," which is not found in early manuscripts.

[edit] Ending

Starting in the 19th century, textual critics have commonly asserted that Mark 16:9–20, describing some disciples' encounters with the resurrected Jesus, was added after the original autograph. Mark 16:8 stops at the empty tomb without further explanation. The last twelve verses are missing from the oldest manuscripts of Mark's Gospel.<ref>Ehrman, Bart (2005). Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. HarperSanFrancisco, pg.[citation needed]. ISBN 0-06-073817-0.</ref> The style of these verses differs from the rest of Mark, suggesting they were a later addition. In a handful of manuscripts, a "short ending" is included after 16:7, but before the "long ending", and exists by itself in one of the earliest Old Latin codices, Codex Bobiensis. By the 5th century, at least four different endings have been attested. (See Mark 16 for a more comprehensive treatment of this topic.)

Irenaeus, c. 180, quoted from the long ending, specifically as part of Mark's gospel.<ref>Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.10.5-6, "Furthermore, near the end of his Gospel, Mark says: 'thus, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven, and sits on the right and of God.'" c.f. Mark 16:19</ref> The 3rd-century theologian Origen quoted the resurrection stories in Matthew, Luke, and John but failed to quote anything after Mark 16:8, suggesting that his copy of Mark stopped there, but this is an argument from silence. Eusebius and Jerome both mention the majority of texts available to them omitted the longer ending.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Critics are divided over whether the original ending at 16:8 was intentional, whether it resulted from accidental loss, or even the author's death.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Those who believe that 16:8 was not the intended ending argue that it would be very unusual syntax for the text to end with the conjunction "gar" (γαρ), as does Mark 16:8, and that thematically it would be strange for a book of good news to end with a note of fear (εφοβοντο γαρ, "for they were afraid").<ref>N. B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ (1944) pp. 86-118; also J. B. Tyson, Journal of Biblical Literature 80 (1961) pp. 261-268. A relevant commentary: P. W. van Horst, "can a Book end with GAR? A note on Mark 16:8", in Journal of Theological Studies, new series 23 (1972) pp. 121-124. For an online overview, see this indopedia.org article</ref> Some of those who believe that the 16:8 ending was intentional suggest a connection to the theme of the "Messianic Secret". This abrupt ending is also used to support the identification of this book as an example of closet drama.

[edit] Secret Gospel of Mark

A Mar Saba letter ascribed to Clement of Alexandria, copied into a book at the Mar Saba monastery and published by Morton Smith in 1973, contains references to a previously unknown Secret Gospel of Mark that gives information about the Gospel of Mark's possible Roman origin. While most Clement scholars agree that the letter sounds authentic, a number of scholars remain unconvinced that an early Secret Mark existed, asserting that the "Mar Saba letter" is a modern-day forgery. Where and if it should fit in the history of the Gospel of Mark is still debated.

[edit] Characteristics

The Gospel of Mark differs from the other gospels in content, language, and detail.

[edit] Characteristics of Marks' content

The narrative can be divided into three sections: the Galilean ministry, including the surrounding regions of Phoenicia, Decapolis, and Cæarea Philippi (1-9); the Journey to Jerusalem (10); and the Events in Jerusalem (11-16).

  • Unlike both Matthew and Luke, Mark does not offer any information about the life of Jesus before he begins his ministry, including neither the nativity nor a genealogy.
  • Son of Man is the major title used of Jesus in Mark (Mark 2:10, 2:28; 8:31; 9:9, 9:12, 9:31; 10:33, 10:45; 14:21, 14:41). Many people have seen that this title is a very important one within Mark’s Gospel, and it has important implications for Mark’s Christology. Jesus raises a question that demonstrates the association in Mark between "Son of Man" (cf. Dan 7:13–14) and the suffering servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12—"How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt?" (9:12b NRSV). Yet this comparison is not explicit; Mark's Gospel creates this link between Daniel and Isaiah, and applies it to Christ. It is postulated that this is because of the persecution of Christians; thus, Mark's Gospel encourages believers to stand firm (Mark 13:13) in the face of troubles.
  • Jesus "explained everything in private to his disciples" 4:34 (while only speaking in parables to the crowds).
  • The Messianic Secret, Jesus' command to unclean spirits and to his disciples that they not reveal his identity, is stronger in Mark than in the other gospels.<ref>Wrede, Wilhelm. The Messianic Secret in the Gospels. 1901. ISBN 0-227-67717-X</ref>
  • To the question "Are You the Christ?", Jesus gives the direct answer, "I am": Mark 14:62; cf. Mark 15:2, Matthew 26:63-64, 27:11, Luke 22:70, 23:3, 23:9, John 18:20, 18:33-37.
  • Mark is the only gospel that has Jesus explicitly admit that he does not know when the end of the world will be (Mark 13:32). The equivalent verse in the Byzantine manuscripts of Matthew does not contain the words "nor the Son" (Matthew 24:36) (but it is present in most Alexandrian and Western text-type).<ref>Metzger, Bruce M. (1994). Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testamanet, Second edition, Freiburg, Germany: UBS, p.51-52. ISBN 3-438-06010-8.On Matthew 24.36: "The omission of the words ["neither the Son"] because of the doctrinal difficulty they present is more probable than their addition by assimilation to Mk 13.32."</ref> See also Kenosis.
  • "No sign will be given to this generation" 8:12; Matthew and Luke include "except for the sign of Jonah" Matthew 12:38-39, Luke 11:29.

[edit] Characteristics of Mark's language

The phrase "and straightway" occurs nearly forty times in Mark; while in Luke, which is much longer, it is used only seven times, and in John only four times.<ref>Easton's Bible Dictionary: Mark, Gospel according to</ref> The word law (nomos) is never used, while it appears 8 times in Matthew, 9 times in Luke, 15 times in John, 19 times in Acts, many times in Romans. Latin loanwords are often used: speculator, sextarius, centurion, legion, quadrans, buleuta, praetorium, caesar, census, flagello, modius, denarius. Mark has only a few direct Old Testament quotations: 1:2-3, 4:12, 7:6-7, 11:9-10, 12:29-31, 13:24-26, 14:27. Mark mostly uses the present tense, even when describing past events, Luke changes about 150 of these verbs.<ref>Complete Gospels, Miller, p.11</ref> Mark frequently links sentences with and, Matthew and Luke replace most of these with subordinate clauses.

[edit] Other characteristics unique to Mark

  • 8:1–9 - Feeding of the four thousand;
  • 8:10 - Crossing of the lake;
  • 8:11–13 - Dispute with the Pharisees;
  • 8:14–21 - Incident of no bread and discourse about the leaven of the Pharisees.

[edit] Notes


[edit] References

  • Ehrman, Bart D., Misquoting Jesus, Harper Collins, 2005.
  • Brown, R., et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, 1990.
  • Bultmann, R., History of the Synoptic Tradition, Harper & Row, 1963.
  • Dewey, J., “The Survival of Mark’s Gospel: A Good Story?”, JBL 123.3 (2004) 495-507.
  • Grant, Robert M., A Historical Introduction to the New Testament Harper and Row, 1963: Chapter 8: The Gospel Of Mark
  • Holmes, M. W., "To Be Continued... The Many Endings of Mark", Bible Review 17.4 (2001).
  • Mack, Burton L., 1993. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian origins, HarperSanFrancisco.
  • McKnight, E. V., What is Form Criticism?, 1997.
  • Perrin, N., What is Redaction Criticism?
  • Perrin, Norman & Duling, Dennis C., The New Testament: An Introduction, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1982, 1974
  • Schnelle, Udo, 1998. The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings (M. Eugene Boring translator), Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998.
  • Stephen Neill and Tom Wright,The Interpretation of The New Testament 1861-1986, Oxford University Press, 1990, 1989, 1964
  • Telford, W. (ed.), The Interpretation of Mark, Fortress Press, 1985.
  • Tuckett, C. (ed), The Messianic Secret, Fortress Press, 1983

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Gospel of Mark

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