2014-07-13

Mark, Canonizer of Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

dykstra1Until recently I have had little interest in arguments that our apparently earliest written gospel, the Gospel of Mark, was composed as an attempt to teach the ideas of Paul as found in his letters. After reading Mark, Canonizer of Paul by Tom Dykstra I am now more sympathetic to the possibility that the author of this gospel really was writing as a follower of Paul.

Dykstra introduces his argument by pointing out how curiously uninterested the author of the Gospel of Mark is in the contents of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus is said to teach with authority and crowds are said to be impressed with his teachings but exactly what he taught in the synagogues or to those who crowded around to hear him in a house is left unsaid. Jesus does teach a lot of parables warning hearers of the consequences of not believing the gospel but the content of that gospel, the detail of what they must believe, is never stated. About the only teaching Mark’s Jesus is said to have delivered is little more than “Keep the commandments”.

Then there is the curious ending: why does Mark virtually leave the resurrection details out of the story altogether?

Dykstra sums up his argument:

The explanation I offer in this book can be summarized as follows. Mark’s primary purpose was to defend the vision of Christianity championed by Paul the Apostle against his “Judaizing” opponents. He undertook this defense because epistles written in the Apostle’s name were no longer deemed adequate, possibly because Paul himself was no longer around to personally defend his authority. Mark didn’t report any new teachings of Jesus because none were available to him: his main sources were the Old Testament, the Homeric epics, and Paul’s epistles, not the disciples or oral tradition. And so he wrote a Gospel that implicitly validated the authority of Paul and his epistles. . . .  My goal in this book is mainly to present the evidence for a literary relationship between Mark and Paul’s epistles. (p. 23, my bolding)

This situation makes sense, Dykstra suggests, if Paul had died and his teachings were in danger of being eclipsed by his opponents.

In chapter two and relying primarily upon Michael Goulder’s argument in St. Paul vs. St. Peter: A Tale of Two Missions Dykstra presents a scenario of a sharp divide between two different types of gospels. Goulder was reviving (and responding to criticisms of) an 1831 interpretation by Ferdinand Baur.

Peter’s mission believed that the heavenly kingdom had already arrived and believers were already enjoying the resurrected life, while Paul stressed that the resurrection was yet to come and believers’ present life was more like the crucifixion. . . . Peter’s mission stressed tongues and visions and gifts of the spirit, while Paul’s stressed love and charity; Peter’s mission stressed the need to give away all of one’s possessions since the end had already come, while Paul’s mission advised people to keep working and earning a living. As will be seen, some of these differences are reflected in the text of Mark’ Gospel. (p. 35)

If the evangelist wanted to create a narrative to bolster the embattled teachings and authority of Paul he would need to project a dispute of his own and Paul’s day back into that narrative. The narrative would also need to show that apostles who came prior to Paul, even those claiming to be his brothers and those who were reputed as “pillars” in the church, failed to understand Jesus.

The conventional view of the Gospel of Mark is that it was put together by someone who collected a lot of traditions, especially oral traditions, about Jesus. Dykstra draws upon Thomas Brodie’s critique of the oral tradition source thesis and covers the same sort of detail that I have also covered in this blog:

Dykstra adds to “unfounded”, “unworkable” and “unnecessary” a fourth: Unhelpful

The desire to attribute as much historical accuracy as possible to the gospels is understandable, but this desire has been unhelpful in the quest for understanding this literature, because it has helped to perpetuate a deeply flawed paradigm in modern biblical scholarship. Under the influence of the oral tradition and form criticism paradigm, scholars studying the gospels have ripped apart these carefully constructed literary masterpieces and examined pieces of them out of context as if that were the best way to understand the text. (p. 64)

Pauline Themes in Mark

The second part of the book spotlights “Pauline themes in Mark”. The chapter headings prepare us for the details:

  • Defending the Gentile Mission
  • Presenting Jesus as the Crucified One
  • Discrediting Jesus’ Disciples and Family
  • Alluding to Paul in the Main Parables and the Ending
  • Appropriating Paul’s Language and Example
Map showing the routes of Apostle Paul's journeys.

Map showing the routes of Apostle Paul’s journeys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) — Like Paul Jesus traversed the sea to reach the gentiles.

Mark’s Gospel is certainly different from the other canonical gospels in that it is the only gospel in which Jesus is clearly portrayed as visiting gentile lands — especially the Decapolis on the other side of the lake — with intent to teach and heal.  (He visits Tyre and Sidon in Matthew, too, but in that gospel he also instructs his disciples not to go to the gentiles but only to Israel and tells the woman there that he is not sent to any but Israel. In Mark he gives a different message — telling the woman, as Paul also wrote, that Israel must receive the favours first.) Even the Lake of Galilee is, uniquely in Mark, called a “Sea” that Jesus crosses back and forth as if to demonstrate an equal treatment of Jews and gentiles. Was the evangelist flagging to his readers that he was using this lake as a symbol of the Mediterranean Sea? At the same time Jesus is said to reject Jewish legalism and we know of Mark’s editorial comment explaining that Jesus declared all foods clean. There are two miraculous feedings in the gospel, one in Jewish territory where 5000 are fed with a few loaves of bread and fish and another on the other side of the “Sea” where 4000 are fed. Could the author not decide which tradition was the true one? Or was he pointing to both Jews and gentiles partaking of the same communal meal?

If the Gospel of Mark is short on Jesus’ teaching content it places significant stress upon Jesus as the one who has come to suffer crucifixion. The crucifixion is intimated from the opening chapter and becomes explicit in repeated prophecies from chapter 9 onwards. In the Gospel of Mark we sense that the original readers/hearers were themselves suffering persecution. Jesus is upheld as their pioneer and comforter and the one who will reward them and make all their current sufferings worthwhile. In this world now they suffer persecution (Mark 13) but they will be delivered when Jesus returns at the parousia. There is no resurrection appearance in this gospel.

In the letter to the Galatians Paul is set against three Jerusalem pillars, Peter, James and John. One of these is “the brother of the Lord”. Those same three are singled out as Christ’s inner disciples in the Gospel of Mark and they are set up to fail miserably. Even those brothers of Jesus in the gospel are said not to believe in or understand Jesus. All twelve disciples with Peter as their head flee from Jesus in the hour of persecution. Recall in Paul’s letter to Galatians Peter was condemned for weakly turning back from following the gospel Paul preached when representative from James turned up.

The key parable in Mark is the one about the sower and the seed. Dykstra points to several significant overlaps with Paul’s own seed, sowing and bearing of fruit imagery. The major parable towards the end of the gospel, the story of the wicked husbandman, likewise overlaps with key images in Paul’s letters — the beloved son, the heir, the inheritance. The parable might even be extended to refer to not just the demise of the Jerusalem priestly-political leaders but also the end of the Peter-James-John leadership of the church.

Then we have that famously inconclusive ending of Mark.

What the ending of Mark would make clear is that no apostle, neither Paul nor any of the others, was the first to see the resurrected Lordnor any of the others, was the first to see the resurrected Lord at the tomb or anywhere near Jerusalem. No resurrection sighting whether by Paul or Peter or James or John could thus bestow the Lord’s authority more effectively than any other. Moreover, for a resurrection appearance to be valid it would have to happen “in Galilee,” that is, by an apostle who was committed to the combined Jewish-Gentile messianic community. In this way the “last” and “least” of the apostles truly became the “first” and the “greatest.” (p. 140)

I am only outlining the main themes that Dykstra addresses; for details read the book (though I’ll no doubt explore some of them in more depth in future posts). It would be futile to cover all the examples of the vocabulary found in common in both Paul’s letters and Mark’s gospel. But note the significance of the word “gospel” itself and the requirement to “believe” it, and the theme of insiders versus outsiders. Dykstra further believes the gospel uses Paul’s life as the basis for what we read of John the Baptist and Jesus. In one place he writes

The parallels between Mark chapter 7 and Galatians 2:11-14 are too dense to be coincidental. Paul’s disputes with Peter are echoed in the disputes between Jesus and Peter; when messengers from James arrive at Antioch a conflict ensues just as a conflict ensued between Jesus and scribes who came from Jerusalem.

The Genre of Mark

Dykstra follows all of this with a section on the genre of the Gospel of Mark. A strange deju vu crept over me as I was reading this: much of Dykstra’s argument and references coincide with some of the posts I have written on genre here. Indeed, I was flattered that three posts of mine were referenced in a footnote:

So I won’t repeat “myself” here, except for this where Dykstra’s own stress is more evident:

Genre is a function of your intention. . . . It is the context in which a text is presented that is the primary determinant of generic expectations and assumptions. (pp. 169-170)

trobisch1This segues into a discussion of David Trobisch’s The First Edition of the New Testament.

From a broad survey of the earliest manuscripts that preserve New Testament books, Trobisch concludes that a spontaneous and haphazard process could not have resulted in the uniformity of certain characteristics that we find in the manuscripts. This leads to the conclusion that the manuscripts derive from a single archetype, which in turn suggests that a single editor or publisher deliberately created the entire package at some very early date. In other words, the earliest evidence we have that witnesses to how the New Testament texts were presented to their readers indicates that they were presented as scripture, in a New Testament counterpart to what was destined to become seen as the Old Testament. Trobisch’s theory turns the entire field of canon history on its head: instead of a long history of independent writings gradually being assembled into a whole, the whole is promulgated at once, and htere’s a long history of ultimately failed attempts to dispute parts of it. (pp. 172-173)

Trobisch’s book is one I have yet to cover in posts here. It is certainly thought-provoking.

The Gospels, then, may well have been composed in order to be read as a new Scripture. Paul’s letters may well also have been collected to serve as Scripture. I bypass here the details of the discussion and why the gospels are not “historiography” but cohere with a “Scripture genre” that correlates with certain Jewish Scriptures.

Finally Dykstra addresses the question of what all this means for historicity.

Interesting book. Worth a read. Several questions and alternative scenarios have been raised in my mind. I like to work with some fresh ideas.

 

 

48 Comments

  • A. R
    2014-07-13 19:34:32 UTC - 19:34 | Permalink

    You wrote:

    “Mark’s Gospel […] is the only gospel in which Jesus is clearly portrayed as visiting gentile lands.” I have two question ins response:

    1) What about Matthew 15:21-28 (Syrophoenician woman)?
    2) Just to be clear about this, are the the gentile lands in which the feeding of the 4000 is told to take place are the Decapolis?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-07-13 20:18:31 UTC - 20:18 | Permalink

      Yes, I overstated my point, there. Will correct it, thanks. Matthew’s gospel has Jesus instruct his disciples to avoid gentiles and go only to the tribes of Israel. Mark’s gospel is about giving the two peoples more or less equal time, one might say. Yes, Decapolis. The crossing of the “Sea of Galilee” is to-ing and fro-ing between gentile and Jewish territory. The miracles performed on each side tend to mirror each other. Galilee itself in Isaiah is said to be the land “of the nations” — and Mark’s gospel in many ways has been shown to be based tightly around Isaiah.

      • A. R
        2014-07-13 20:58:47 UTC - 20:58 | Permalink

        Thank you for your reply. I think that you should also edit your post to specifically mention that the gentile land you referred to are the Decapolis. It wasn’t clear to me from the beginning and I had to reread the relevant parts of Mark to understand the argument, I’m guessing that probably some other readers had the same problem.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2014-07-14 08:43:05 UTC - 08:43 | Permalink

          Done, thanks. I also noticed that in the Matthew visit to Tyre and Sidon Jesus explicitly tells the gentile that he is only sent to Israel, while in Mark Jesus says he is obligated to do his favours for the Jews first. Now that’s just what Paul said in Romans, too, isn’t it!

  • Tom Nelligan
    2014-07-13 19:36:53 UTC - 19:36 | Permalink

    It’s an excellent book and I had the pleasure of meeting Tom in Chicago a few years ago. I did my thesis on Mark’s use of 1 Corinthians under Tom Brodie at the Dominican Institute in Limerick, Ireland. The book is coming out early next year. Dykstra’s book certainly made me re-evaluate my own position.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-07-13 20:19:25 UTC - 20:19 | Permalink

      Do let us know when it is available.

    • Wentham
      2014-07-14 12:22:58 UTC - 12:22 | Permalink

      Tom: Any update on Brodie’s banishment for heresy? Many admired his work here.

      • Tom Nelligan
        2014-07-16 13:15:13 UTC - 13:15 | Permalink

        It’s ongoing. He’s not allowed to teach or preach, but that’s common knowledge. He’s hoping to resolve the issue one way or another but it looks like that won’t really happen. He is, however, upbeat and doing well.

  • 2014-07-13 20:32:59 UTC - 20:32 | Permalink

    Mark[‘s] main sources were the Old Testament, the Homeric epics, and Paul’s epistles

    To those sources I would like to add a life history of Julius Caesar, because one of Jesus’ lake crossings involve going from Capernaum (Julian counterpart Corfinium) to the country of the Gerasanes or Gergesenes (Julian counterpart Ceraunians), later edited in Matthew to Gadarenes, and because the passion and journey of Jesus to Golgotha (Julian counterpart Capitoline Hill) is based on a Roman imperator’s triumph and the events surrounding the crucifixion itself appear to be derived from the funeral of Julius Caesar, where a wax image of Caesar’s body was mounted on a cruciform tropaeum.

    In the letter to the Galatians Paul is set against three Jerusalem pillars, Peter, James and John. One of these is “the brother of the Lord”. Those same three are singled out as Christ’s inner disciples in the Gospel of Mark and they are set up to fail miserably.

    Curious that “James the brother of the Lord” in gMark is actually James Ben Zebedee of the “Grant that we may sit” fame, and NOT James Ben Joseph, the physical brother of Jesus (who, along with the rest of the family, thought that Jesus had gone barking mad).

    The Gospels, then, may well have been composed in order to be read as a new Scripture. Paul’s letters may well also have been collected to serve as Scripture…. Finally Dykstra addresses the question of what all this means for historicity.

    I haven’t read the book (yet) but from your review it appears that Dykstra is going to come down on the side of historicity, despite that fact that now “oral passing on of tradition” was needed to compose any of the gospels — something that is lost entirely upon Ehrman, McGrath and the late Maurice Casey, to name a few.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-07-14 08:53:36 UTC - 08:53 | Permalink

      From what I recall Dykstra’s only indication of a date for the Gospel of Mark is that it is best explained some time after Paul is apparently no longer around to defend his teaching against his rivals.

      As for historicity, I confess I did tend to skim the last few pages where he was discussing such questions as historicity. They interested me less than the main thesis. I guess any author presenting such a thesis is obligated to try to explain a few things like that for the benefit of believers.

  • Kunigunde Kreuzerin
    2014-07-13 20:53:01 UTC - 20:53 | Permalink

    It’s nice that you have changed your opinion. Otherwise I would never have been quite sure.

  • Mark Erickson
    2014-07-14 04:46:29 UTC - 04:46 | Permalink

    Lots of explanatory power in this thesis. When does Dykstra date the Pauline corpus, actual and pseudo, and GMark?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-07-14 08:58:15 UTC - 08:58 | Permalink

      I don’t recall any specific discussion of dating these — except to say that GMark was some time after Paul’s ideas were under serious threat, presumably because he was no longer around. Maybe others who have read the book recall some of these details. Table of contents does not help. And no index. It ought to be illegal to publish a book without a detailed index.

      • Sili
        2014-12-27 04:28:51 UTC - 04:28 | Permalink

        And no index. It ought to be illegal to publish a book without a detailed index.

        Agreed.
        And for once I actually wanted an index of scriptural quotations. Exactly to see how much of the Corpus Mark appears to draw from. As I recall the only disputed epistle that Dykstra suggests is alluded to is Colossians. I don’t remember seeing Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians or the Pastorals. That in itself suggests placing Mark in the first century to me.

        I’m no more than an amateur, but having just finished the book it’s one of the best I’ve read on the subject. It’s refreshing to see the text treated as coherent literature for a change.

  • Aaron
    2014-07-15 00:30:23 UTC - 00:30 | Permalink

    So the ‘Secretary’ of Peter is actually the ‘Secretary’ of Paul, and Paul’s ‘Companion’ Luke, subordinates Paul to Peter in Acts. How the church kept a straight face through that I have no idea.

  • Aaron
    2014-07-15 00:33:52 UTC - 00:33 | Permalink

    But if GMark is pro-Pauline, then what about Marcion’s GLuke?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-07-15 09:17:55 UTC - 09:17 | Permalink

      These theses are just the beginning of many new questions like this.

      As I understand Marcion’s gospel, it was an “ur-Luke” — not the canonical Luke we know. Joseph Tyson (I posted on his views here) is the most recent scholar (that I know of) to argue our Luke is heavily redacted by an anti-Marcionite. How much of that original ur-Luke was “pro-Pauline” I couldn’t say without revisiting those posts.

      Did that early form of Luke precede Mark? Or is our canonical Mark a redacted version of something very much like that early Luke? Mark as it stands now would not have had Marcion’s approval, as I understand the situation, because of its heavy references to the fulfilment of OT prophecies. Besides, Luke 3:1 is almost certainly the original beginning of some gospel.

      There are other questions to ask, many of them. I hope Roger Parvus can find the time to complete his series of posts sooner rather than later.

  • Jaime
    2014-07-15 22:15:07 UTC - 22:15 | Permalink

    >>Presenting Jesus as the Crucified One

    Does Mark ever say outright that Jesus was crucified?

    He has Jesus speak prospectively in the third person about “the Son of Man” being put to death. And in the crucifixion scene, the language Mark uses can be interpreted as implying that “Simon of Cyrene” rather Jesus was actually executed (perhaps not the most natural interpretation, but technically feasible).

    If Mark’s Gospel was indeed a “carefully constructed literary masterpiece”, surely such ambiguities could not have been accidental?

    I do get the sense that multiple characters have been conflated together in producing the final redacted version of Mark we have today.

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  • Grabrich
    2014-12-28 21:25:22 UTC - 21:25 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    I wasn’t sure where to post this, but this seemed the most recent relevant blog post. {Incidentally, it would be useful if you had a limited forum, of sorts, where readers could post questions and answers, as well as point out any interesting articles/news reports/documentaries, etc., i.e. items that aren’t replies to specific Vridar blog posts, per se.}

    Anyhow, do you ever check out some of the threads on the International Skeptics forum (formally the randi.org forum)? One in particular that I’ve been following (on & off) is the “Historical Jesus II” thread. I’m specifically intrigued by poster “dejudge”. He (she?) comes across as rather “in your face”, I suppose, but his comments (though repetitive) are interesting. He’s as hardcore mythicist as you can get.

    But he doesn’t accept the view that the Pauline corps was written before the gospels (specifically Mark). Here is one of his recent posts:

    http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showpost.php?p=10388485&postcount=2353

    Any comments?

    Richard G.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-12-28 22:10:09 UTC - 22:10 | Permalink

      Thanks for the suggestions and the link. Will consider.

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  • Roger Parvus
    2015-02-01 04:55:24 UTC - 04:55 | Permalink

    In chapter 1 of Dykstra’s book he notes that his approach to understanding Mark is not entirely new. In the 19th century there was a German scholar named Gustav Volkmar who “argued that the Gospel of Mark was an allegorical presentation of Paul’s teaching and Paul’s life” (p. 24). If anyone is interested and can read German, Volkmar’s two books on the subject can be read online here and here . As far as I know the books have never been translated into English. However, there is a new book out with an article by Anne Vig Skoven (pp. 13-27, “Mark as Allegorical Rewriting of Paul: Gustav Volkmar’s Understanding of the Gospel of Mark”) that can be previewed for free at Google books here. On page 52 of the same book two other scholars are mentioned—Carl Holsten and Moritz HermanSchulze—who “agreed with Volkmar on the idea that the second Gospel is an apology for Paul by transferring Pauline theology back into the saying and doings of Jesus.”

  • Giuseppe
    2015-02-01 08:05:14 UTC - 08:05 | Permalink

    Hi Roger,

    I was thinking about the Lena Einhorn’ research about the shift in time from the Egyptian to Gospel Jesus.

    I guess that the logic of Egyptian was this:

    1) this seditious was called Egyptian because he was considered a New Moses.

    2) according the bible, Jeshua was the New Moses.

    3) therefore: the Egyptian was considered a new Jeshua (=Jesus).

    Thomas Brodie argues that ”Paul” was considered a New Moses for the pagans:

    A key purpose in composing the epistles with Paul’s name was to build a new Moses, a figure who, like Moses of old, would bring God’s word to the people, in Paul’s case to all the people…
    (Beyond the Quest, p.153)

    Then I wonder: perhaps that the extreme act of Reductio ad Paulum (the leterary process so well described by Dykstra and Volkmar, i.e.: ”the idea that the second Gospel is an apology for Paul by transferring Pauline theology back into the saying and doings of Jesus”) was precisely to convert a New Moses kata sarka for Jews (the ‘Egyptian’) into the New Moses kata pneuma for Gentiles (Paul) by applying that chronological shift like described by dr. Einhorn?

    How do you reply?

    Very Thanks,
    Giuseppe

    • Roger Parvus
      2015-02-02 04:09:16 UTC - 04:09 | Permalink

      Hi Giuseppe,

      You’re asking the wrong guy. As you know, I think the “Paul” who wrote the original epistles was Simon of Samaria and that he did not view Moses as a hero. He did not see Moses as someone who—to use Brodie’s words—brought God’s word to the people. According to Simon what Moses brought was a Law instituted by inferior angels, and the purpose of that Law was to enslave.

      • Giuseppe
        2015-02-02 06:44:20 UTC - 06:44 | Permalink

        I understand and I apologize. I ask you: If Simon did not think of no way to identify himself with Moses, however the Simonian author of Mark, with his habit to allegorize everything about ”Paul”, could be free of associate Simon to the semi-blasphemous figure of a ”New Moses” for the pagans Torah-free (in opposition to a rebel Jew ”New Moses” and Torah-slave like the Egyptian)?

        The pattern of Ehinorn seems interesting…

        This raises the more general question: what criteria do you think the original (Simonian) Mark had to respect to invent his allegory (especially when he used the OT)? Only mere satirical tastes anti-Pillars and/or anti-Zealots? A kind of Simonian ”Charlie-Hebdo” ante-litteram?

        Feel free of reply when you desire, if in a comment or in your future official post.

        Very Thanks,
        Giuseppe

        • Roger Parvus
          2015-02-02 13:51:06 UTC - 13:51 | Permalink

          No need for apology, Giuseppe. I just meant to point out that you already know what I think of the idea that the Paulines were written in order to present Paul as a new Moses. My ideas about those letters are laid out in the Simonian series. I think the original zigs present Abraham—not Moses— as the model believer, and that any zags that praise Moses and his Law are likely subsequent proto-orthodox corrections.

          Similarly, if proto-Mark was a Simonian allegory, I don’t see how it could have been written to present Jesus as a new Moses. Moses was likely a hero to the Revelation community (Rev. 15:3) and definitely to the proto-orthodox (e.g., gMatthew), but not to Simon of Samaria or the gnostics who followed him.

          • Giuseppe
            2015-02-02 16:34:53 UTC - 16:34 | Permalink

            for the letters ok, but for proto-Mark I would have a question:

            Similarly, if proto-Mark was a Simonian allegory, I don’t see how it could have been written to present Jesus as a new Moses.

            the point I intend is not ”present Jesus (i.e. Paul) as a new Moses”, not under the sign of continuity, but is more polemical, or better, antithetical (a little à la Marcionite view): the possibility that, for proto-Mark, Paul/”Jesus” was even superior to any Old or New Moses and then allegorizes him insofar he freed all, Jews and Greeks, from archontic Torah (something that the Old or New Moses never would desire yesterday, today and tomorrow).

            • Roger Parvus
              2015-02-02 17:08:48 UTC - 17:08 | Permalink

              Giuseppe, you already know what I think: the Jesus of proto-Mark is the crucified Son described in the Vision of Isaiah combined—for the public ministry—with his subsequent manifestation in Simon/Paul. He frees mankind not only from the Law of Moses, but also from death and the whole physical world made by inferior angels. So in my opinion any view of the proto-Markan Jesus that makes him just some kind of antithetical version of Moses is too narrow and fails to do justice to what Simonian Christians believed about the Son of God.

              • Bee
                2015-04-07 02:32:44 UTC - 02:32 | Permalink

                Yes. Though many saw the OT and Moses as too materialistic. So rejection of Moses and materialism were related.

      • Scot Griffin
        2015-02-02 07:58:45 UTC - 07:58 | Permalink

        “According to Simon what Moses brought was a Law instituted by inferior angels, and the purpose of that Law was to enslave.”

        Interesting. My view is that the Primary History as it has essentially come down to us was constructed c. 200 BCE to legitimize the Seleucid centralization of the cult of Yahweh in Samaria (something that appears to be supported by the archaeology), and John Hyrcanus and the Hasmoneans hijacked the “Samaritans'” legacy, rewriting certain key portions of the Primary History to legitimize Jerusalem as the proper location of the cultic center. The idea that a Samaritan, who shed their canon of Judges through Kings but maintained the Five Books of Moses (almost all scholars would argue that the Samaritans never had Judges through Kings, but they need to think through the implications of the available evidence a bit harder), would view Moses as anything but a hero is somewhat shocking. Indeed, the story of Jesus appears to be nothing more than a retelling of the story of Moses. If Moses’ message was meant to enslave, the purpose of Jesus’ message must have been the same.

  • Giuseppe
    2015-02-02 09:01:48 UTC - 09:01 | Permalink

    I read that :

    For Paul, the threat of factionalism was one that could already be found in the narratives of Moses and the Israelites, and he seems to have anticipated these narratives already in the first chapters of 1 Corinthians before he in chapter 10 explicitly keyed the present factions among the Corinthians to the factions among the Israelites.

    Moreover, Paul himself played a crucial role in this strategy of identification: just as he seems to propagate a memory of Moses as struggling for reconciliation among the Israelites in the wilderness, so he pictures himself as continuing the struggle of Moses in his own day.

    (Finn Damgaard, Recasting Moses, p.107-108)

    Then I can imagine easily that this circumstantial (auto-)identity Paul=Moses moved later the pauline ‘Mark’ in II CE to use the life of a ‘New Moses’ kata sarka (the josephian ‘Egyptian’), properly dated back at time of Paul (see the Einhorn’s case), as skeleton of his Gospel about Paul, making of this new invented figure (”Jesus”) the true New Moses against all the old Jew views about who would be the true Messiah and the Second Moses (exemplified once and for all by ‘Egyptian’ figure).

    This would explain easily all parallels, via chronological shift, highlighted by Lena Einohrn, more than suppose, like does dr. Einhorn herself, the strict identity ”Egyptian = Historical Jesus”.

    How do you think about?

    Giuseppe

  • Giuseppe
    2015-02-04 17:15:06 UTC - 17:15 | Permalink

    Hi Roger,

    I’m beginning the reading of Adamczewski’s commentary ‘The Gospel of Mark’.
    Precisely, I have finished the Introduction, where the author explains which criteria, according to him, must force any scholar to accept the Reductio ad Paulum in Mark.

    One of these criteria is ‘…the criterion of the complete use of a source. It points to the cases in which the whole source text was sistematically used in the later text’ (p.27).

    This raises (for me) the question: if Mark is substantially midrash on Paul ( Adamczewski call it not midrash but ”hypertextual sequential reworking” but the outcome is that), precisely on ALL Paul – the Saint Paul that we read today -, in other terms, if you find a Mark that copies from Paul even where you think that in Mark there is not used the voice of Paul but of interpolator, then isn’t there the risk (for you view) that the letters are never been interpolated (since that Mark was using even what you call interpolations)?

    This is a problem even for who thinks that in all Pauline epistles only 1 Tess 2:14-16 is later interpolation. You see what Carrier replies to me about a particular point raised from me by reading Dykstra.

    What do you think about this criterion and his implications?

    This opens to the concrete possibility that Mark was based on Paul’s letters that are *already* interpolated from a Catholic interpolator before that Mark wrote. And if I remember of Marcion’s priority hypothesis, this causes me many suggestions…

    thanks,

    Giuseppe

    • Roger Parvus
      2015-02-06 18:52:29 UTC - 18:52 | Permalink

      Hi Giuseppe,

      IMHO it is more likely that gMark was written after the Simon/Paul’s letters had already been interpolated by a proto-orthodox Christian. But as you know I also suspect that gMark is a proto-orthodox reworking of an earlier Simonian allegory (an urMark or proto-Mark).

      In regard to 1 Thess 2:14-16: The sentiments expressed there may be Simonian rather than proto-orthodox. The proto-orthodox expected that Israel would convert before the end but I’m not sure if the Simonians shared that belief. (See part 15 of the Simonian series.) If the passage is an interpolation, it may from the hand of a Simonian like Menander rather than someone of proto-orthodox persuasion.

  • Roger Parvus
    2015-04-06 17:01:44 UTC - 17:01 | Permalink

    On page 87 of Dykstra’s book he addresses a problem that gMark-as-Pauline-allegory faces: the lack of any mention of circumcision in that gospel. In a footnote he says that Joel Marcus “is one of many scholars who cites the lack of reference to circumcision as evidence that Mark is not a Paulinist” (see Marcus’ Mark 1-8, p. 74). The circumcision controversy was so big for Paul that it is indeed hard to see how a gospel about his teaching and life could have omitted it.

    Dykstra argues that the author of gMark did deal with the circumcision problem but only in an indirect manner, and that was because

    Mark could not make such a blatant anachronism as to portray Jesus addressing circumcision directly. Circumcision did not become an issue until after Paul established Gentile communities and Paul’s opponents demanded that members of those communities be circumcised, so it would be obvious to Mark’s audience that a circumcision controversy would not fit in a narrative about Jesus. (p. 87)</blockquote)

    But I hesitate to fully go along with that explanation. Other big Pauline controversies are expressly represented in gMark even though they are apparently anachronistic. There is, for instance, the declaration in Mk. 7 that all foods are clean. And table fellowship with Gentiles seems to be addressed in the episode where Jesus is criticized for eating with sinners and tax-collectors. Dykstra himself is aware of these anachronisms, for later in the book he writes that

    if Jesus’ earthly ministry actually happened as Mark portrays it, the history of Paul’s Gentile mission and the opposition it encountered would be incomprehensible. How could it be that neither Paul nor anyone who worked with him, nor his opponents, knew about Jesus’ determined endorsement of a mixed community sharing table fellowship together? How is it that everyone somehow forgot that Jesus explicitly “declared all foods clean” (7:19)? In the pitched battles Paul waged against his Judaizing opponents in his epistles, any one of the many stories about Jesus’ conflicts over Law observance would have been devastating evidence of the rightness of Paul’s side, yet none are ever mentioned.

    It is as if before Mark was written, nobody had ever heard of any of Jesus’ sayings or parables, even those directly related to the very controversies that Christian leaders were grappling with. (pp. 229-30)

    Stopping the Bleeding

    So I am wondering if Paul’s rejection of circumcision is in fact allegorically present in gMark after all. In particular, I am wondering if the woman whose bleeding is stopped by Jesus in Mark 5:21-43 allegorically represents Israel or Jewish Christianity. In Galatians Paul used the women Sarah and Hagar for an allegory about covenants. And some think that in chapter twelve of Revelation the woman with a crown of 12 stars who gives birth to a son is an allegorical representation of the Revelation community, or of its prophets/visionaries who revealed the son’s birth. So perhaps we have something similar in Mark 5. The episode does bring in the number 12 inasmuch as it says the woman was bleeding for 12 years.

    Moreover the stopping of the bleeding appears to be in some way connected with the bringing back to life of a daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. The story of her revival sandwiches the other episode and has noticeable ties to it. The girl is said to be 12 years old. She is a daughter of the ruler of the synogogue, though not necessarily physically related, for Jesus had just called the bleeding woman “Daughter” too (Mk. 5:34). In his letters Paul refers to his converts as his children. And in the case of both healings the role of faith is emphasized. The bleeding woman touched Jesus’ clothing thinking that mere physical contact would save her, but Jesus corrects that saying: “Your faith has saved you.” And to the ruler of the synagogue he says: “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

    So perhaps the young girl allegorically represents the Gentile God-fearers who to some degree attached themselves to churches/synagogues but were reluctant to receive circumcision. The idea could be that faith must replace bloody circumcision if Christianity was not to lose interested Gentiles.

  • Roger Parvus
    2015-04-06 17:07:05 UTC - 17:07 | Permalink

    Let me try that again.

    On page 87 of Dykstra’s book he addresses a problem that gMark-as-Pauline-allegory faces: the lack of any mention of circumcision in that gospel. In a footnote he says that Joel Marcus “is one of many scholars who cites the lack of reference to circumcision as evidence that Mark is not a Paulinist” (see Marcus’ Mark 1-8, p. 74). The circumcision controversy was so big for Paul that it is indeed hard to see how a gospel about his teaching and life could have omitted it.

    Dykstra argues that the author of gMark did deal with the circumcision problem but only in an indirect manner, and that was because

    Mark could not make such a blatant anachronism as to portray Jesus addressing circumcision directly. Circumcision did not become an issue until after Paul established Gentile communities and Paul’s opponents demanded that members of those communities be circumcised, so it would be obvious to Mark’s audience that a circumcision controversy would not fit in a narrative about Jesus. (p. 87)

    But I hesitate to fully go along with that explanation. Other big Pauline controversies are expressly represented in gMark even though they are apparently anachronistic. There is, for instance, the declaration in Mk. 7 that all foods are clean. And table fellowship with Gentiles seems to be addressed in the episode where Jesus is criticized for eating with sinners and tax-collectors. Dykstra himself is aware of these anachronisms for later in the book he writes that:

    if Jesus’ earthly ministry actually happened as Mark portrays it, the history of Paul’s Gentile mission and the opposition it encountered would be incomprehensible. How could it be that neither Paul nor anyone who worked with him, nor his opponents, knew about Jesus’ determined endorsement of a mixed community sharing table fellowship together? How is it that everyone somehow forgot that Jesus explicitly “declared all foods clean” (7:19)? In the pitched battles Paul waged against his Judaizing opponents in his epistles, any one of the many stories about Jesus’ conflicts over Law observance would have been devastating evidence of the rightness of Paul’s side, yet none are ever mentioned.

    It is as if before Mark was written, nobody had ever heard of any of Jesus’ sayings or parables, even those directly related to the very controversies that Christian leaders were grappling with. (pp. 229-30)

    Stopping the Bleeding

    So I am wondering if Paul’s rejection of circumcision is in fact allegorically present in gMark after all. In particular, I am wondering if the woman whose bleeding is stopped by Jesus in Mark 5:21-43 allegorically represents Israel or Jewish Christianity. In Galatians Paul used the women Sarah and Hagar for an allegory about covenants. And some think that in chapter twelve of Revelation the woman with a crown of 12 stars who gives birth to a son is an allegorical representation of the Revelation community, or of its prophets/visionaries who revealed the son’s birth. So perhaps we have something similar in Mark 5. The episode does bring in the number 12 inasmuch as it says the woman was bleeding for 12 years.

    Moreover the stopping of the bleeding appears to be in some way connected with the bringing back to life of a daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. The story of her revival sandwiches the other episode and has noticeable ties to it. The girl is said to be 12 years old. She is a daughter of the ruler of the synogogue, though not necessarily a flesh-and-blood daughter, for Jesus had just called the bleeding woman “Daughter” too (Mk. 5:34). In his letters Paul refers to his converts as his children. In the case of both healings the role of faith is emphasized. The bleeding woman touched Jesus’ clothing thinking that mere physical contact would save her, but Jesus corrects that saying: “Your faith has saved you.” And to the ruler of the synagogue he says: “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

    So perhaps the young girl allegorically represents the Gentile God-fearers who to some degree attached themselves to churches/synagogues but were reluctant to receive circumcision. The idea could be that faith must replace bloody circumcision if Christianity was not to lose interested Gentiles.

  • Giuseppe
    2015-04-06 18:59:13 UTC - 18:59 | Permalink

    Hi Roger,
    …May an alternative be that the centrality of circumcision in Paul’s letters (as motive of conflict Paul vs Pillars) was ”seen” and interpolated into them after the writing of Gospel of Mark ? Maybe because the original conflict regarded more crucial questions – which God is the true God – only later limited by proto-catholics to a little conflict about mere ”circumcision” (as part of making peace between paulines and judaizers).

    Giuseppe

    • Roger Parvus
      2015-04-08 13:51:54 UTC - 13:51 | Permalink

      Perhaps, Giuseppe. As Jesus says somewhere: “All things are possible to those who invoke interpolation.”

      But in my opinion your suggestion doesn’t fit the kind of corrections I see in the Pauline letters. If I understand you rightly, you are proposing that the interpolator inserted whole fictitious scenarios. That is, he created arguments for Paul and then went back and tampered with those arguments. In Galatians, for instance, you would have him first manufacture a fictitious argument for Paul against circumcision, and then go back and insert his own awkward correctives into the argument. And all he would have to show for his effort is a confusing mishmash that still leaves scholars trying to figure out how to make sense of the whole thing. No, I think that if an interpolator had fabricated both sides of the argument he would have seen to it that the resulting passage was much more clear. I suspect the inconsistencies result from his trying to retain as much as possible the words that Paul used to argue against circumcision and the Law.

      • Giuseppe
        2015-04-08 15:19:29 UTC - 15:19 | Permalink

        hi Roger, you write:

        So perhaps the young girl allegorically represents the Gentile God-fearers who to some degree attached themselves to churches/synagogues but were reluctant to receive circumcision. The idea could be that faith must replace bloody circumcision if Christianity was not to lose interested Gentiles.

        This agrees whit what I read about Mark 5:35-43, in Adamczewski’s book:

        The story … illustrates the main idea of the Pauline text Gal 2:2 d-f, namely that of Paul’s communicating the contents of his Gentile-style gospel in private to the Jewish Christian Jerusalem leaders, after some hesitation whether he might run, or had run, in vain.
        The opening statement of the story (Mk 5:35) depicts the situation of hesitation whether Jesus’ going to Jairus’ house might perhaps be in vain. Since Jesus was earlier described as having begun to go to Jairus’ hose (Mk 5:24a), the image of some Jews, who came from the ‘ruler of the assembly’, as saying that there is no sense in Jesus’ going further (Mk 5:35) by means of the hypertextual procedure of interfigurality illustrates the opinion of some Jewish Christians, presumably the followers of James (cf. Gal 2:4.12), that Paul ran in vain (Gal 2:2e). The image of Jesus’ overcoming their doubts (Mk 5:36) illustrates Paul’s intended negative answer to the Jewish Christians doubting opinion (‘lest perhaps’: Gal 2:2e).

        The list of three disciples: Peter, James, and John (Mk 5:37) as being allowed to witness the power of the resurrection in a special way in the private house of the Jerusalem leader (Mk 5:38a.40c-43) illustrates Paul’s statement that he communicated the contents of his gospel in private to the Jewish Christian Jerusalem leaders (Gal 2:2d), in particular to James, Cephas and John (cf. Gal 2:9).
        The inserted remark that the doubting members of the household of the Jewish leader said that there was no sense in Jesus’ having come there (Mk 5:38b-40a) … illustrates Paul’s thought that some Jewish Christians, presumably the followers of James (cf. Gal 2:4.12) expressed their opinion that Paul had run in vain (Gal 2:2f). The image of Jesus’ overcoming their doubts by putting them all outside (Mk 5:40b) illustrates Paul’s intended negative answer to the Jewish Christian doubting opinion (‘lest perhaps’: Gal 2:2e; cf. 2:5).

        The use of Aramaic in Mk 5:41, which is surprising in the context of the fact that the whole gospel was written in Greek, additionally illustrates Paul’s idea of his communicating his gospel to the Jewish Christian leaders in private (Gal 2:2d). According to Mark, this communication presumably occurred in Aramaic (Mk 5:41). Mark could have deduced this idea from the fact that Paul’s interlocutors in that private meeting, namely James, Cephas, John, and Barnabas (Gal 2:9), bore Hebrew or Aramaic names.
        The narratively superfluous rermark concerning twelwe years (Mk 5:42) evidently links the story Mk 5:35-43 to the rpeceding story Mk 5:24b-34. In this way, the evangelist illustrated Paul’s thought that he communicated the same gospel, which he preached to the Gentiles (Gal 2:2c), first in public to the Jerusalem community as a whole (Gal 2:2b; cf. Mk 5:24b-34) and then, in a private meeting, to the Jerusalem leaders (Gal 2:2d-f; cf Mk 5:35-43).
        The strict order that no one should know it (Mk 5:43ab) again illustrates Paul’s statement that he discussed the legitimacy of his gospel only with the Jerusalem leaders (Gal 2:2d-f). On the other hand, the narratively redundant order to give to the girl somewhat to eat (Mk 5:43cd) most probably alludes to the idea of Jewish-Gentile communion, especially including table fellowship (Gal 2:9-10.12).

        (The Gospel of Mark, p. 78-80)

        The idea of strict sequentiality between Gal and Mark, at least for Mark 1-7, would raise a doubt in your view of our Mark being the correction of simonian proto-Mark, because the construction apparently reveals the hand of a single author everywhere in Mark. There is always the possibility that a catholic interpolator has managed to camouflage all deftly, though, alas, this in my eyes is just a mere possibility, and the book of Adamczewski convinced me that there is nothing ‘heretical’ for an author proto-orthodox write Mark as we have it today entirely ex novo, taking a catholicized Paul as the only image through which we can grasp something of the life of a Christ on Earth. I would suspect that all attempts to see something ”heretical” in Mark or proto-Mark are intended to fall in vacuum, so I wonder if the true, dangerous ‘heretic’ Gospel was rather the first to be written according to some scholars, i.e. Mcn.

        • Roger Parvus
          2015-04-10 17:59:59 UTC - 17:59 | Permalink

          Yes, “strict sequentiality” between chapters 1 -7 of gMark and canonical Galatians would apparently disprove my hypothesis about a Simonian proto-Mark. That is, as long as the strict sequentiality takes in the John the Baptist material in chapters 1 and 6 of gMark.

          Do you know if there have been any reviews yet of Adamczewski’s book?

          • david hillman
            2015-04-10 18:11:10 UTC - 18:11 | Permalink
            • Giuseppe
              2015-04-11 14:55:20 UTC - 14:55 | Permalink

              I find no review at moment, but I remember one in particular where the critique is the same like that raised by Rick Sumner against Thomas Brodie: all OK with the general idea of midrash from previous texts (in this case, the idea that Mark is generically ‘pauline’), etc, but full disagreement with following into various details required by his thesis (the idea of strict sequentiality in primis).
              The critic (I not remember who) was advancing also doubts that the minimalist view of HJ held by Adamczewski was compatible with his Catholic faith, (a faith that contra Adamczewski defends and requires the possibility of recovering much more things of HJ, obviously from gospels).

              • Giuseppe
                2015-04-11 16:59:31 UTC - 16:59 | Permalink

                For example, take the interpretation of Mk 1:9 :

                The subsequent, quite surprising image of Jesus coming alone from the distant Galilee with the sole aim of receiving the Jewish-style immersion in water (Mk 1:9bc; diff. 1:5) by means of the hypertextual procedure of interfigurality illustrates Paul’s subsequent statement that he advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries in his people, being far more zealous for the Jewish traditions (Gal 1:14).
                (p.39)

                But the entire story of Paul persecutor was not (very likely) a later proto-catholic legend?

  • Steve
    2016-08-28 21:30:36 UTC - 21:30 | Permalink

    I would like to suggest that Mark’s use of “parable” is much more extensive. For example (as Eisenman and others have suggested) the “Pharisees” in Mark’s Gospels are a parable for those sent by James in Galatians 2:12-13, and also for Peter acting with “hypocrisy” and “separating” himself like the Pharisees of the Gospels. And the “chief priests” of Mark’s Gospel, not named, are a parable for the chief priests of the Jerusalem Church. And [Jesus] Barabbas is a parable for the “other Jesus” 2Cor 11:4 taught by the Jerusalem Church. And that Judas Iscariot is a parable for the forty Jewish assassins/Sicariots of Acts 12:13-14 who bound themselves with an oath to the “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church to kill Paul. This is why the “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church stir up the crowd to release Barabbas. This is not something that the quisling Sadducean “chief priests” would have done, because it would have been seen by the Roman governor as seditious. But for Mark, it is all a Parable.

  • Steve
    2016-08-28 21:41:58 UTC - 21:41 | Permalink

    It goes without saying that the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel is a “parable” for Paul, or at least Paul’s Jesus as Mark conceived him.

  • Steve
    2016-08-29 12:10:41 UTC - 12:10 | Permalink

    Mar 15:31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

    In Mark, it is not only the “chief priests and scribes” who mock Jesus, but also the two lestes (insurrectionists) crucified with him. Mark puts the “chief priests and scribes” in the same category as the insurrectionists. Paul was in trouble with both groups of “chief priests” on his return to Jerusalem. For the Jerusalem Church chief priests Paul was accused of teaching not to follow the customs of Moses, and for the Sadducean chief priests Paul was a ringleader of the sedition of the Nazarenes. Mark appears to conflate these two groups of “chief priests” when he tells his story of Paul. But it seems probable that Mark’s focus is mainly on the guilt of the “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church and, in general, the Jews for rejecting Paul.

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