Okay, just one more early-dating of Mark critique, but quickly

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by Neil Godfrey

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

(response to recent comments on the earlier post “Dating Mark Early”)

Crossley presents three specific arguments to date Mark before 40 ce:

  1. the way he wrote about the disciples plucking corn on the sabbath could be interpreted by the unwary to mean that Jesus was abolishing the sabbath; but since other arguments “establish” this was not the case, the ambiguity in Mark’s narrative “demonstrates” that he wrote at a time when all Christians would have understood that Jesus plainly did not abolish the sabbath — and therefore at a time when all Christians were taking sabbath keeping for granted — i.e. before 40 ce.
  2. the way he worded Jesus’ saying in the divorce controversy appears on the face of it to mean that divorce is not allowed under any circumstances; but since it can be argued that Mark’s Jesus was always a stickler for the biblical law, and the biblical law did allow for divorce, it is “clear” that Mark did not mean his audience to read his words literally, but to assume that Jesus “meant” to allow for divorce for “the obvious reasons” anyway — and this also “proves” that Mark wrote very early before any divorce discussions arose in the church — i.e. before 40 ce.
  3. the way Mark chose his words in describing the handwashing controversy left it open for later readers to think that Jesus was declaring all foods clean, thus abolishing the biblical food laws; but since on other grounds it can be argued that Mark’s Jesus always observed biblical laws on principle, we can infer that Mark was writing at a time when his audience took this for granted and understood Jesus was not abolishing the food laws at all. — i.e. even earlier before 40 ce.

Any one of these arguments, Crossley admits, may not be persuasive for all readers, but together they become an argument of “cumulative weight” and therefore much stronger. The maths proves it: 0+0+0=3.

In one place in his book, The Date of Mark’s Gospel, he says that the first two arguments are the strongest case; but elsewhere he says the third is the strongest. I’ve dealt with one part of #1 here, and will deal with #3 in this post. Continue reading “Okay, just one more early-dating of Mark critique, but quickly”