A common meaning behind Gospel of Mark’s cornplucking and divorce controversies

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by Neil Godfrey

Though Crossley and Casey have written many thousands of words to show how these two episodes (sabbath cornfield dispute and divorce controversy) can be used to date Mark before 40 c.e., I find their arguments circular, convoluted and ultimately speculative. If I thought they had a widespread impact I would take the time to address them in more detail than I did in my earlier post on their early dating of Mark.

Meanwhile, I find if I read these passages as they are worded now, and within the broader context of the gospel’s message itself, and try very hard to avoid reading them through third century rabbinic writings or speculative Aramaic sources or other gospels written later than Mark, I can see something in them that I think is very interesting.

They both share the theme of a call for disciples to return to how things were at the very beginning of creation. In this they share a message found in certain gnostic type writings. (Mark also shares the syzygies or paradoxes found in some gnostic type sayings (e.g. the blind see, the dead live, etc), although Mark fleshes them out into narrative form.)

Example: In the sabbath cornfield dispute, Mark has Jesus pronounce that “the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath.” This is in response to Pharisees accusing Jesus’ disciples of violating the sabbath by plucking corn, and as a follow-up to the analogy of David being allowed to eat the shewbread sacred to the priests. It seems to me as if this is suggesting that for all the Mosaic or other rules that might have come to historic or contemporary importance, what Jesus wants is for people to accept things how they were meant to be, and how they were, back at the beginning. God gave the sabbath for mankind, and the Son of God had come now and wanted everything how it was meant to be from the start. Continue reading “A common meaning behind Gospel of Mark’s cornplucking and divorce controversies”

Biblioblogs peddling bigotry and ignorance

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by Neil Godfrey

Daily Mirror headline from www.currybet.net blog

I rarely look at anything much on the web now unless it is (a) work related; (b) news related (don’t read “real” newspapers anymore); (c) and gmail. Work consumes most of my time, and this blog is a kind of mental escape.

But today I decided to have a look at what a few other blogs are doing, particularly biblioblogs. I had thought biblioblogs were blogs about the Bible, but that appears to be only partially true. I had also expected those blogs run by professional scholars would be in the lead when it came to promoting tolerance and humane values. I have kind of tended to associate secularism, rationalism and humanism with advanced studies, and to think that more often than not they are accompanied by the more progressive and democratic values.

So I guess my naivety was hit hard when I checked out numero uno biblioblog by an academic and church pastor, Zwinglius Redivivus. The Bible passage that this biblioblogger seems to repeat most often is

“Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. (Jeremiah 11:14)

And it is always in connection with a newsbyte worthy of the worst scandal rag of a newspaper from a Rupert Murdoch publication. The worst news sells papers when its wrapped up in the worst possible titillating or bigoted way, and it appears to be what a lot of other academics in religious departments want to read on a regular basis — at least when it comes packaged with Doctor Jim’s Jeremiads.

Is there an article about incest? Or a plot to murder? Then bring it on and flaunt it with all the bigoted ignorance of a mind still warped by primitive b.c. ramblings of hate and judgment. Continue reading “Biblioblogs peddling bigotry and ignorance”

God taught Cain the wisdom of Plato

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I have been doing some follow up reading on a paper presented at a Netherlands Seminar on Historical Methodology and chanced upon the following passage from Plato in Timaeus. It is speaking of newly created human beings at the dawn of time:

in the second place, they must have love, in which pleasure and pain mingle; also fear and anger, and the feelings which are akin or opposite to them; if they conquered these they would live righteously, and if they were conquered by them, unrighteously.

Given the context of the paper I was reading, it was not hard to hear the echo of God’s instruction to Cain in Genesis 4:

And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Many of us can acknowledge that this instruction to Cain is an unusual image in the context of a primeval tale about Cain and the first murder. Sin is something that must be mastered, ruled, lest it master or rule us. It is a striking image that has prompted countless discussions among believers.

And there it is, the same image, sitting in the writings of Plato. Not only the same image, but the same same context of the sin of anger.

Now I’ve given the away what my next post will be about — the lateness of the composition of Genesis and the influence of Greek philosophy, particularly Platonic thought, that went into the creation of its myths.