Is this statement about historicity within the Gospel of Mark true?

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by Neil Godfrey

The same can be said of the alleged first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark. The aim was presumably to “prove” that the Gospel is reliable. That’s even more ironic, because no one seriously doubts that the Gospel of Mark was written in the first century, and whether it was or not is independent of questions about the historicity of information in it.

James McGrath, Rumors of First-Century Mark and the Resurrection, on the Religion Prof blog.

Even if the Gospel of Mark were composed in the second century (which “no one seriously” believes) that late date would have no relevance to the historicity of its contents? How can that be?


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Neil Godfrey

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14 thoughts on “Is this statement about historicity within the Gospel of Mark true?”

  1. Yeah, this is exhibit A, B, and C about how biblical “scholarship” is seriously broken. The external attestation to the Gospel of Mark clearly puts it sometime middle of the 2nd century. It’s only apologists masquerading as scholars who have managed to push the dating back in the 20th century.

    This also reminds me of a long string of comments on McGrath’s blog that I, and I think disqus poster Ignorant Amos were involved in. It ended with me asking McGrath, “How did you determine the Gospels weren’t fiction before analyzing them?” His answer was “Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?” So they just assume that everything is historical and work backwards from there. It’s perfectly circular and completely unlike the work done in any other discipline I’m aware of. By these standards “Gone with the Wind” is totally historical and written in the 1860’s.

    1. What Pofarmer said! Did McGrath apply that standard to the Gospel of Peter and presume that its “account” of the talking cross and the 500 foot tall Jesus were as historical as our contradictory, miracle-ridden canonical gospels?

  2. This article of Couchoud about the enigma Barabbas has persuaded me that Mark was written in the middle second century CE (since Barabbas is a parody of the marcionite Christ).

    If McGrath is so sure that the historical Jesus could be remembered correctly in any time, then there would be not even the need of a written Gospel, in presence of a so good “oral memory”. There would be not even need of listening him on the subject.

    [Neil: if link above does not open in your browser access the “Jesus Barrabas” link from the post at https://vridar.org/2016/07/05/bowling-with-bumpers-or-how-not-to-do-critical-scholarship/ ]

    1. There are many antimarcionism in the Gospel according to Saint Mark, and some are even not found in the synoptic parallels.

      One example is the anti-dualist diatribe of Mk 12:29.

      1. True.

        Another example of antimarcionism in Mark:

        And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled.
        (Mark 15:48-50)


        Then the things which the Father delivered to the Son are good, and the Creator is therefore good, since all His things are good; whereas he is no longer good who has invaded another’s good (domains) to deliver it to his son, thus teaching robbery of another’s goods

      2. How would you go about determining that such passages in Mark were composed to counter Marcionism and not that Marcion came later and disagreed with such passages?

        1. On further reflection and in part answer to my own question, Luke’s parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man can be seen as a response to John’s account of Lazarus by its explanatory power.

          1. What is the standard view of the two Lazarus stories? I thought(and I don’t know where I got this idea) that John was refuting Luke’s implicit position that miracles don’t matter, only belief in scripture, by having Jesus do what Abraham wouldn’t: resurrect a Lazarus and making it matter.

            1. My comment arose from reading the article Giuseppe linked to above, the one by Couchoud and Stahl on Jesus-Barabbas. They argue that the synoptics were in dialogue with (refuting, actually) the Marcionite-like claims of an early version of the Gospel of John. It does not express the “standard view”, however.

        2. The quotation of the Tefilla concerning the uniqueness of the Jewish god is a blatant interpolation. It breaks the flow between the question of the Jewish scribe (which is for a command) and the appropriate answers. It is missing from the Matthean parallel pericope, which preserves the flow.

        3. Thank you for the optimal question, Neil.

          My answer: Since Mark 15:48-50 breaks the Messianic Secret in proto-Mark, by having a Jesus who remembers to his enemies the fact that he was not an unknown person (i.e. unknown as a robber is by definition) but was someone *very well known* during the day. So it is an anti-marcionite interpolation.

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