2019-01-23

If we are going to move the Gospel of Mark to the second century . . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

Bronze head of Hadrian found in the River Thames in London. Now in the British Museum. – Wikipedia

When we settle on a date for the composition of the Gospel of Mark soon after 70 CE and the destruction of the Temple by the armies of Vespasian and Titus, then it is only natural that we will want to study the lives and times of Vespasian and Titus. Perhaps the most significant political development that formed the backdrop of the generation that was the first to hear and reflect upon the Gospel of Mark was the dynamic thrust of Vespasian’s propaganda machine to demonstrate to the world that he was the rightful new emperor (burying in the hype the uncomfortable fact of his lowly and foreign origins), and a major plank of his propaganda efforts was the building up of the conquest of Judea into a major victory against a significant eastern threat to the empire.

Against such a backdrop our understanding of the Gospel of Mark as a counterimperial narrative, and our interpretation of the procession of Jesus to the cross as a mock-triumph.

If we prefer to see the Gospel being written at a time of persecutions, or at least fear and threat of persecution, then we may wish to place it in the 90s when and where some see the introduction of the Jewish synagogue curse being directed at Christians and where we may further see Domitian’s revival of the imperial cult.

But if we are toying with placing the Gospel in the second century, what we focus on then will depend how far into the second century we are prepared to go.

If we are working on the suggestions that our evangelist (let’s place him in Rome) was incorporating into his narrative some of what he had heard read in Josephus’s Antiquities, then we can place him anywhere in the mid and late 90s or early 100s. (We may prefer to settle on that date if we are persuaded by a reference found in Justin’s writings — let’s say as early as the 130s — that “memoirs of the apostles” spoke about Jesus nicknaming James and John “Sons of Thunder”, a detail found only in our Gospel of Mark.)

We may prefer to opt for a date closer to the mid century, let’s say later 130s or around 140s, if we think the “Little Apocalypse” of Mark 13 makes best sense as a reference to Hadrian’s efforts to set up a pagan temple complete with statue of Jupiter on the site of the old Jewish temple and to Bar Kochba’s “messianic” war supported by the rabbi Akiba.

If we are going to explore where different threads end up by placing the gospel so “late” then another background worth studying is Hadrian’s rule more generally. Hadrian was renowned for more than crushing the the Bar Kochba rebellion. More generally Hadrian promoted himself as a restorer and even second founder of the Roman empire itself. In the beginning of his reign he promoted himself as the god Mars and then in the later years he presented himself (through coins, for example) as the new Romulus, founder of the original Rome. Romulus was also believed to have been the son of the god Mars. Hadrian loved to travel, but he was doing more than site-seeing. He was presenting himself as a second founder of major cities such as Athens. Temples and monuments and processions and such pomp drove home his message about both himself and what he was doing in his restoring of the Empire and the Pax Romana. The imperial cult became especially important. People were expected to turn up and demonstrate their piety when his image was entering a city. When he entered a city or a temple he did so as a god manifesting himself to his subjects. He even identified himself with Jupiter himself, the head god of the pantheon. As Jupiter ruled Olympus, so the emperor, an embodiment of Jupiter, ruled the “world”.

We can look for the time period where we find the most bits of the puzzle seeming to fit and settle on that for the date of the earliest gospel. But such a method will always remain open to question. We need to do more than simply look for pieces that fit, or more likely look for ways to fit as many pieces as possible. Remember our ever-present bane of confirmation bias.

 

 

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59 Comments

  • luke
    2019-01-23 11:04:44 GMT+0000 - 11:04 | Permalink

    sight-seeing

  • Giuseppe
    2019-01-23 11:25:53 GMT+0000 - 11:25 | Permalink

    If we prefer to see the Gospel being written at a time of persecutions, or at least fear and threat of persecution, then we may wish to place it in the 90s

    Couchoud does an interesting point about when and why the earliest Gospel was written. In the his last work he abandons the hypothesis of Marcionite priority, by accepting Mark as first gospel. And he gives the reason why a life of Jesus “in the flesh” was necessary:

    But now that martyrs suffer in the depths of the flesh wounds and tortures, which sustain mortal combat in the flesh, it no longer seems right that their flesh be annihilated. The churches claim, against the teaching of Paul, the resurrection of the flesh.
    (Le dieu Jésus, p. 179, original emphasis).

    if Jesus lived “in the flesh” on this earth, then the his resurrection becomes ipso facto “in the flesh”, and so the Christians can hope themselves in a similar reward for their persecutions.

    So he puts the first gospel after the first evidence of an anti-Christian persecution (Pliny the Younger) and before the first Pagan evidence of a “historical” Christ (Tacitus).

    • Giuseppe
      2019-01-23 11:33:12 GMT+0000 - 11:33 | Permalink

      Note the paradox, if Couchoud was right on this point:
      in a particular sense, the Christian apologists would are right to claim that the persecutions would are evidence of the truth of their faith (and of a historical Jesus). Afterall, a Christ lived and risen “in the flesh” was really invented to comfort the Christians about a future physical, concrete reward after the death, one proportional to their physical, concrete sufferings in this life.

    • 2019-01-23 12:24:55 GMT+0000 - 12:24 | Permalink

      I think he’s misreading Mark. I don’t think Mark was trying to make any case for resurrection of the flesh, in fact Mark copies Paul’s claim that resurrection is spiritual. The idea of resurrection of the flesh came from the belief that Mark’s allegorical story was a realistic account of a real life person. The idea of resurrection of the flesh came from a misunderstanding of Mark, and Couchoud is repeating their misunderstanding.

      • Giuseppe
        2019-01-23 16:38:11 GMT+0000 - 16:38 | Permalink

        The empty tomb is, velim nolim, an evidence of resurrection of the flesh, even if the story was meant as fiction from the his author. Beyond what Mark meant (I mean: he could still have in mind the idea of inventing an allegory of the destruction of Temple, etc, as per RG Price), what was appealing about the his story is just the idea that the Christ was risen in the flesh, so the Christians could hope in a similar reward for themselves, since their flesh was suffering terribly in the real world (assuming real Roman persecutions), and the spiritual resurrection of Paul was not more sufficient (the same difference between Paul and Hebrews, afterall) to satisfy them.

        • Steven Watson
          2019-02-09 01:57:37 GMT+0000 - 01:57 | Permalink

          “… nether said they anything to any man, for they were afraid.” Mk16:8. The Markan story is at best ambiguous.

  • 2019-01-23 12:21:10 GMT+0000 - 12:21 | Permalink

    I can’t get behind a 2nd century dating of Mark. Too many other pieces of the puzzle fail to fit at that point. I’m certain of Markan priority, and if Mark is first and everything else is dependent on it, then Mark originating in the 2nd century doesn’t give the time needed for all of the other development.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-23 12:56:10 GMT+0000 - 12:56 | Permalink

      I simply don’t know when Mark was written, but I don’t see the problem for the other gospels if it is so late. The other gospels do not appear explicitly in the record until the latter half of the second century. At least in their canonical forms as we know them today.

      I often think of Justin as a good illustration of how the canonical gospel narratives developed. He is making it up as he goes along by pulling out proof-texts from the OT. He is not reliant upon gospels for the basic narrative (despite occasional glances at what sounds like a single document, the Memoirs of the Apostles).

      • 2019-01-23 14:37:54 GMT+0000 - 14:37 | Permalink

        IMO Justin Martyr knew at least one Gospel. He seems to know them in First Apology. Then we have writings like First and Second Peter, as well as Timothy and Titus. Are these all late 2nd century? They all seem to know the Gospels.

        Certainly a part of the reason I see Gospel influences earlier is because I think the Gospel of Mark is the origin of the idea that Jesus was a person, and prior to its writing no one thought of Jesus as a literal person. Thus, Mark needs to be early enough to account for attestations of Jesus being a real person, and it seems to me that we start seeing such claims by the late 1st century.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-23 14:55:08 GMT+0000 - 14:55 | Permalink

          The claims that Justin knew any of the gospels are circular, the assumptions that he knows the gospels have to be read into Justin’s work. There are overlaps between some of what Justin says about Jesus and gospels, but those overlaps raise as many questions as answers. (http://vridar.info/xorigins/justinnarr.htm)

          We cannot know that Mark was the first to depict Jesus “as a person”, or if he did, in what form he did. (We can hypothesize that he was the first, and present an argument, but I have not seen anything that rules out alternative scenarios.)

          There are very strong grounds for placing canonical Luke post Justin. And that brings up the question of gospels in their earliest forms against their canonical forms.

          • 2019-01-23 17:00:17 GMT+0000 - 17:00 | Permalink

            To me that link just supports that the Gospels had been written before Justin. The best explanation of the evidence seems to be that Justin hadn’t read a direct copy of a canonical Gospel, but that he was aware of the general narrative and had possibly read some other bastardized Gospel summary or a crude copy or synthesis of several Gospels.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-23 17:05:27 GMT+0000 - 17:05 | Permalink

              To me those details only opened up the problems we face if we assume Justin knew of the canonical gospels. Justin regularly contradicts the canonical gospels. Yet it is widely assumed that the Memoirs of the Apostles refer to our canonical gospels, and that therefore Justin had indeed read them, not just heard about them. But I cannot see how Justin could say all of those things about Jesus, mostly from his own references to the OT (not from any gospel source) as if he is creating the story out of the OT passages, if he had in fact read them in any of our gospels.

              One often sees the claim that Justin knew the Gospel of Matthew’s birth story because of overlaps with canonical Matthew. But other details Justin adds to that story, along with where he contradicts it, surely are testimony to another source, something other than Matthew, is behind his narrative.

              Take each point and think it through — nothing adds up if he is using our gospels. Or if he did know of them he certainly thought they had no authoritative status at all and were inferior to “other gospels”. If so, we have a harder time explaining the place of the 4 canonical gospels came to have in the church.

              • 2019-01-23 17:32:07 GMT+0000 - 17:32 | Permalink

                I agree that it warrants better explanation, and I will look into it more before passing judgement, but going into it my assumption is that at least Mark and Matthew already existed (possibly all 4) and he was working from either some oral account based on them or some other non-canonical written account based on them.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-23 17:36:23 GMT+0000 - 17:36 | Permalink

                I think he tells us his sources each time — as you identified Mark’s sources in the OT. Justin points to each datum as true because he gets it from the OT.

              • 2019-01-23 20:13:50 GMT+0000 - 20:13 | Permalink

                “Justin points to each datum as true because he gets it from the OT.” Right, but the way I read Martyr is that he has seen the the Gospels make references to the OT and so he views the OT as the authoritative source. Instead of using the Gospels he’s going “straight to the source”. The way I always saw it was he thought that he understood “how this all works” and instead of just repeating what someone else has interpreted from the OT, he wants to do it directly himself. That’s how I always saw it.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-23 20:19:14 GMT+0000 - 20:19 | Permalink

                r.g.price: Can you quote anything from Justin Martyr that would support this model of how Justin Martyr works? Historicists are criticized for reading in too many assumptions about their sources’s meanings when those sources are discussing Jesus, and we would not want to fall into such a trap.

              • 2019-01-23 22:39:23 GMT+0000 - 22:39 | Permalink

                Martyr talks a lot about prophecy in First Apology, specifically about relationships between the “gospels” and the Jewish scriptures. He analyzes many of these relationships. He uses these are the “proof” that what the gospels say is true. He also independently uses Jewish scriptures many times to support claims like that Jesus had come “in the flesh” or that various other things had happened. So my understanding of that was always that he had seen that many elements of the gospel stories were rooted in the Jewish scriptures, and so when he engaged in apologetic, he himself used the scriptures in a way that he viewed as similar to how the gospel writers used them. That’s what I thought when I read his works, “Oh, he’s using the scriptures because he sees that as the foundation of the information about Jesus.” That’s how I took it.

                Some of what Martyr talks about doesn’t line up with the Gospels that we know (and some of it does). I honestly didn’t think too much about that, and just assumed it was because he didn’t have exact copies of the full canonical Gospels in hand and that he had worked from other people’s summaries or quotations from them, etc.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-24 02:10:21 GMT+0000 - 02:10 | Permalink

                He uses these are the “proof” that what the gospels say is true.

                — Unless my memory is deceiving me I don’t think Justin speaks of “gospel” as a description of a written narrative. For that, if anything, he uses a title that echoes the title of Xenophon’s four books on Socrates, “Memoirs”.

        • Alick Wilson
          2019-01-23 16:30:29 GMT+0000 - 16:30 | Permalink

          1 Peter appears to know the gospels? 2 Peter, yes, but I see no clear evidence that 1 Peter does.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-01-23 17:00:05 GMT+0000 - 17:00 | Permalink

            Not even 2 Peter. We have no grounds for assuming that 2 Peter is pointing to the transfiguration episode in the gospels. We can as easily say that the evangelists incorporated into their gospel narratives a vision that Peter was reputed to have had. We know the fisherman Peter did not write the ornate Greek of 2 Peter — the author who was passing himself off as Peter could as easily be referring to a vision that was widely known to have been granted, and that secured his place as a leader among the apostles. We cannot assume that 2 Peter’s author knew the gospels.

            • Sili
              2019-01-26 21:16:51 GMT+0000 - 21:16 | Permalink

              Aren’t you reading the gospels into the epistels, if you take Peter to be a fisherman (and illiterate)? Is there anything in Paul’s polemic to suggest that Peter (and the rest “who seemed to be something”) weren’t as well versed I the scriptures as Paul himself?

          • 2019-01-23 19:02:10 GMT+0000 - 19:02 | Permalink

            You’re right, not 1 Peter, mistake on my part.

        • James Barlow
          2019-01-25 06:22:00 GMT+0000 - 06:22 | Permalink

          (Careful. Mythical origin or no, there was no time when believing Christians did not understand Jesus Christ to be a very “real person” (!).)

  • Paul George
    2019-01-23 13:52:32 GMT+0000 - 13:52 | Permalink

    Are you aware that Clement Bishop of Rome quotes all three gospels in a letter which appears to have been written in 96?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-23 15:00:22 GMT+0000 - 15:00 | Permalink

      I am aware of this assertion. But again, the argument is circular. We have to read the gospels into 1 Clement to find them there.

      There are many phrases and concepts in the writings of early Christian authors that echo something in the gospels, but until Irenaeus none of them actually give the source of their sayings, and none mention any of our gospels. The gospels of Matthew and Luke no doubt incorporated sayings that were widely known both in Christian communities and in the Jewish scriptures that they introduced into their gospels.

      We have no evidence to support the claim that anyone knew our gospels until well into the second century.

      • Paul George
        2019-01-23 15:34:14 GMT+0000 - 15:34 | Permalink

        No, these are not allusions or assertions. And the argument is not circular. Clement is definitely quoting them. _ Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness”[Jer. ix. 23, 24; 1 Cor. i. 31; 2 Cor. x. 17.], being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: “Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as ye do, so shall it be done unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you.” [Matt. vi. 12–15, vii. 2; Luke vi. 36–38]. There is no good reason to suppose that the gospels were written in the second century. The church was established in the first century (the Letters of Pliny) and sacred literature would have been the first order of the day. By analogy, see the institution of Mormonism.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-23 15:53:21 GMT+0000 - 15:53 | Permalink

          Nothing in your quotation says the author is lifting quotes from our canonical gospels. The words of Jesus are no different in principle or form from the words of Jesus in a letter of Paul. Paul was not quoting the gospels.

        • Alick Wilson
          2019-01-23 16:22:28 GMT+0000 - 16:22 | Permalink

          At best, Clement is paraphrasing, not quoting. And how can you be sure the gospels are not using Clement?

          There are several good reason to argue a second century AD date for at least some, if not all of the gospels.

          Pliny just demonstrates there were Christians around 112 AD, he tells us very little about what they believed, or if they knew of the gospels.

    • Klaus Schilling
      2019-01-23 15:13:37 GMT+0000 - 15:13 | Permalink

      The falsely so-called epistle of Clement is no earlier than the middle of second century, as already proven by Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga in Onderzoek Naar De Echtheid Van Clemens’ Eersten Brief Aan De Corinthiers

      • Paul George
        2019-01-23 15:36:35 GMT+0000 - 15:36 | Permalink

        What were his arguments? I don’t read German.

        • James Barlow
          2019-01-25 06:26:24 GMT+0000 - 06:26 | Permalink

          (I think that is Dutch – ?)

        • Matt Cavanaugh
          2019-02-03 00:25:08 GMT+0000 - 00:25 | Permalink

          How about French? Couchoud concludes the same.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2019-02-03 00:23:15 GMT+0000 - 00:23 | Permalink

      AD 96 is a guess (Lightfoot’s). Dates as late as 140 have been proposed for 1 Clement.

  • Klaus Schilling
    2019-01-23 15:02:44 GMT+0000 - 15:02 | Permalink

    The belief in Markan Priority is a mistake which makes all understanding of early Christianity impossible, only a profoundly eclectical approach can get anywhere. Thus already Hermann Detering demonstrated in Die synoptische Apokalypse – ein Dokument aus der Bar Kokhba Zeit that Matthew’s parallel to Mk13 is deruived from a source earlier than Mark’s gospel.

    • Paul George
      2019-01-23 15:39:24 GMT+0000 - 15:39 | Permalink

      I agree that Markan priority is a mistake, as anyone who has actually compared the texts in Matthew and Mark can attest for themselves.

      • Alick Wilson
        2019-01-23 16:07:48 GMT+0000 - 16:07 | Permalink

        I have ran both Mark and Matthew through a plagiarism detection script, one almost certainly copied from the other. And Matthew fatigues Mark, so Matthew is using Mark.

        If you wish to check this for yourself, here is the script I used, http://www.wilson-mediasystems.de/beispiele/3gram.html

        • Klaus Schilling
          2019-01-23 16:31:33 GMT+0000 - 16:31 | Permalink

          The script is in no way able to exclude that both gospels depend on prior common sources.

          • Alick Wilson
            2019-01-23 17:01:38 GMT+0000 - 17:01 | Permalink

            True, but the fact that the fatigue is always in Matthew suggests Matthew is rewriting Mark.

            I see no reason for a common source other than the Old Testament.

            • Kl
              2019-01-23 17:56:13 GMT+0000 - 17:56 | Permalink

              No, the fatigue thing cuts both ways.

              • Alick Wilson
                2019-01-23 18:20:34 GMT+0000 - 18:20 | Permalink

                Mark fatigues Matthew?

              • Klaus Schilling
                2019-01-23 20:58:18 GMT+0000 - 20:58 | Permalink

                Yes, Mark fatigues on common sources upon various occasions.

              • Ben Murat
                2019-01-23 20:58:20 GMT+0000 - 20:58 | Permalink

                The previously cited work by Detering showed that to be the case with the synoptic apocalypse. Also, as a personal observation, Mark’s temptation in the wilderness is so slight that it doesn’t really hold up on it’s own. In many cases though Matthew does copy Mark. It seems to me that the solution is that a short version of Matthew was written first, then Mark, then an expanded Matthew.

          • 2019-01-23 19:27:40 GMT+0000 - 19:27 | Permalink

            There is no evidence that Mark used any prior narrative source. Certainly Mark used many literary references, to the OT, the epistles of Paul, and possibly to Jospehus The Wars of the Jews, and maybe even some other stuff I am not aware of, but “Mark” didn’t use a prior Gospel. And anyway, then you get into complexities of definition. In order for Mark to have “used” a prior Gospel it implies that Mark is different from the prior Gospel. In what way it Mark itself not the “prior Gospel”.

            I don’t know what Detering’s argument is, I’d have to see it.

            That Mark is building his narrative from components of other narratives is obvious, but none of those prior narratives are about Jesus. If Mark 13 is based on Wars of the Jews, which I wouldn’t rule out, then its certainly possible that Matthew and others also used Wars of the Jews and re-worked from it, but such a source is not a “prior Gospel”.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-24 02:14:39 GMT+0000 - 02:14 | Permalink

              and possibly to Josephus The Wars of the Jews

              I think the only query about Mark and the Jewish War is the overlaps with Jesus son of Ananias. Some are daring to argue that he gleaned as much or more from Antiquities, which would put Mark in the latter half of the 90s.

              • Matt Cavanaugh
                2019-02-03 00:40:21 GMT+0000 - 00:40 | Permalink

                … which would put Mark in the latter half of the 90s.

                No earlier than.

            • Matt Cavanaugh
              2019-02-03 00:28:00 GMT+0000 - 00:28 | Permalink
  • Giuseppe
    2019-01-23 17:53:19 GMT+0000 - 17:53 | Permalink
  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-01-23 19:02:45 GMT+0000 - 19:02 | Permalink

    Let us not forget too that the first mention of the 4 gospels as such does not occur until the writing of Ireneaus 180 circa!

    Moreover, it is more difficult in my view to think Mark used Matthew and simply shortened it. I have done extensive redactional work on Matthew and Mark. It is difficult to comprehend how Mark could have left out large pieces of Matthew to create his gospel. I see Matthew as an embellishment of Mark.

    Matthew also reflects anti-Paulinist sentiments throughout.

    Mark seems to be a supporter of the rogue “Paulinists” (I can’t prove it totally but the roaming itinerant “exorcist” so to speak in Mark 9 is highly suggestive to me. The “little one(s)”,, the least among the apostles is not to be mistreated by the 12 who say ” he wasn’t one of us!!” Paulinists pose a problem for “Petrine” Christianity. Even in 2 Pet. we have polemics against “Paulinists’ (see 2 Pet. 3). 2 Pet is strongly Catholic as many have noted. Note as well there that the Petrinists never call Paul an apostle, only a brother who has been gifted with wisdom (and so Paul is known as a “wisdom” teacher via the spirit of Jesus.

    Admittedly there are problems with gospel dates and for the most part we can only make provisional interpretations given the great disagreements –not just among scholars but even here on this site.

    The gospel narratives are filled with polemic almost at every turn. I see very little history going on in them….they are interested no doubt in revising each others so-called history. It is pretty well all polemic and not cutsie-tootsie bible lessons for those first readers. Remember,, Mark is more interested in reaching “readers” with his polemics against the 12. Theodore Weeden’s work is so important in this respect.

    Mark is writing in the shadow of Paul and not Peter. He has no problem calling Peter “satan”. Neither does Matthew , but he embellishes Mark’s account to rescue Peter’s tarnished reputation as an apostate along with the 12. Luke does not want any smudge on his “Peter” and so often exorcises things out of his narrative that would cast a dark shadow over Peter and the New Twelve, minus Paul.

    • 2019-01-23 19:31:20 GMT+0000 - 19:31 | Permalink

      Martin, yes I agree with what you are saying. Much of what you are talking about is addressed in my book, if you are not aware of that: http://www.decipheringthegospels.com/

      Also, as I point out in the book, there are many examples of literary references that are clear in Mark but that get muddled in Matthew because Matthew has re-arranged Mark’s narrative and jumbled up his references. That’s a clear indication of Markan priority.

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-01-23 20:50:44 GMT+0000 - 20:50 | Permalink

    Thanks R.G. for your comments.

    I look forward to reading your book. Also, once I type up my new translation of the NT I will send you a copy of Mark. It is pretty well done. I have completed Mark, provisionally at this point. You articulate things very well. I will send you a copy of my translation soon.

    I love Mark’s gospel as you do. I did read an online copy of your commentary on Mark as far as I can recall.

    Keep up the great work.

    Isn’t it great to read and think about these texts without fear of hellfire, apologetics and a whole bunch of other religious bullshit?

    All the polemics I see in the NT is so relevant to what I see happening today.

    I am sure your good eye caught the serious problem in the NT as well regarding the language of the NT re: “unbelievers”. There are no “atheists” in the NT. They were all either “theists” (monotheists?) or polytheists. It is about one damned religion against another damned religion. Just like today. I wish Christians would leave us atheists and agnostics alone and continue to fight against each other!!

    None of the Bible was written to us…. this is not seen by many, including scholars. It takes a lot of bullshit argumentation and assumption to make the Bible authoritative for today. And anyone who is interested in getting an M.A in Christian apologetics is wasting their money, time and brains, not to mention the many people they are leading astray.

    Part of me wishes they would all destroy each other. But then I wouldn’t enjoy myself anymore showing how bankrupt biblical apologetics really is.

    Cheers my friend

    • James Barlow
      2019-01-25 06:36:52 GMT+0000 - 06:36 | Permalink

      (Didn’t fear of hellfire via study of the bible as a universal phenomenon of inevitability pretty much end with Luther? lol.)

  • James Barlow
    2019-01-25 06:50:04 GMT+0000 - 06:50 | Permalink

    The bronze head of Hadrian found in the Thames is intriguing. If he believed himself “the second founder of Athens” the Greek hairdo is explainable, but the barbershop quartet-reminiscent handlebar mustache appears utterly Victorian. Perhaps its authenticity is debatable? And are ostensible stylistic anachronisms amenable to the “criterion of embarrassment”? Let us reflect….

  • Sid Martin
    2019-01-25 13:29:37 GMT+0000 - 13:29 | Permalink

    My book, Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark, explores the theory that the Gospel of Mark is an allegory of the history of Israel written in response to the fall of Jerusalem. The crucifixion is modeled on the triumphal procession in Rome in which Jesus is the conquered king of the Jews. It was meant to encourage Jews to keep the faith, the Jewish faith. Israel would rise again, which is the meaning of the resurrection. A writing closer to the fall would be preferred.

    • 2019-01-25 16:53:22 GMT+0000 - 16:53 | Permalink

      Sounds interesting Sid. This I think is at least somewhat similar to the thesis of my book and to several other works as well. I think all interpretations along these lines are quite plausible, I’m just still amazed that such a reading hasn’t been more mainstream for much, much longer. Honestly it seems so obvious, IMO, when you really just sit down and read the story without pre-conceptions.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-25 18:58:09 GMT+0000 - 18:58 | Permalink

        You have made many good points in your book but there are a few blemishes that some of us would like to see removed in a follow up. One is perhaps an overstatement or overconfidence in how a work is portrayed. I suspect that few people have connected the Gospel of Mark with the Jewish War in any detailed and pervasive sense because it is not so obvious unless we do bring in to our reading a lot of other material that we make a decision to use and apply as we read the gospel. The one thing that I believe stands out when the gospel is read without pre-conceptions is its very dark Jesus. Jesus in the gospel of Mark is totally unlike the other Jesuses in the other gospels. He is mysterious, hidden, cryptic even to his own close followers, angry, and then vanishes leaving his followers mystified and in fear. Others have commented on this, and I think its a good reason anyone who does read Mark without preconceptions quickly turns to the Jesus known in other gospels.

        I think another reading that carries much weight is when it is read in the tradition of Jewish scriptures as analyzed by Thomas L. Thompson: we have in the gospel story a repeat of the very repetitive theme throughout the biblical works: the failure of an old Israel and the call for a new Israel to replace it.

  • Steven Watson
    2019-02-09 05:20:37 GMT+0000 - 05:20 | Permalink

    Aretas III held Damascus 85 to 72BC when the city was captured by Tiridates II and possibly, though very improbably, 69 to 67BC and the onset of Pompey.
    132-135AD and the Bar Kokhba War are our other bookend. The floriut of Cephas, Jacob, and John might be c.95 to c.60BC.

    14“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 15 let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; 16 and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. 17 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter.

    Mk. 13:14-18

    The original ‘desolating sacrilege’ was a statue of Zeus set up by Epiphanes in the Temple and a trigger for the Maccabean Revolt. Was any such thing done prior to the Jewish War? Setting up a statue of Jupiter on the Temple Mount triggered the Bar Kokhba War. Mattathias led those “Zealous for the Law” into “the mountains” from Modi’in. The Bar Kokhba War radiated from Modi’in. Mark has “… those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;”; “Judea”, not “Jerusalem”. Bar Kokhba did not capture Jerusalem. Lk. 22:20 has “Jerusalem surrounded by armies”; our Romanophile author didn’t want to draw attention to the recent unpleasantness: that might draw ire. No, his Jesus is prophecying something comfortably in the past.

    Some considerable preparation went into Bar Kokhba’ revolt: arms manufacture was diverted and cached; towns and cities were surreptisiously put in a state of defence; underground hideouts and sally places were prepared. G.Mk seems to be aware things were going to kick-off; why; and from where; but not of the conclusion. Mk 13:22 speaks of “False Christs and false prophets” – Rabbi Akiva proclaimed Simon Bar Koseva the Messiah.

    It is becoming more and more probable that G.Mk depends on Antiquities. If G.Mk was written in Rome, Antiquities might have been available for use soon after 95AD; if in Syria, perhaps a decade later: we have to allow it to get into circulation and become known. Does that look like a shortening of the days (Mk 13:20) if the First Jewish Revolt is our point of reference? Then we certainly enter decades of tribulation (Mk 13:19) far worse than the First Revolt – the Dacian Wars; the Kitos War; and the Bar Kokhba War, which involved a third of the entire Roman army! The latter two killed perhaps a million Jews. Reason enough to presage the eschaton perhaps; the First Revolt and decades of nothing to write home about after? Hardly. That would have looked like failed prophecy in a post-95AD writing. That is how we date Daniel: from the point in the narrative that “prophecy” falls over; here it’s still upright ’til well after the Temple is destroyed and only falls over in the 130’s AD.

    We are still not fully grasping the implications of Jesus being mythical; the dates of Paul seem to follow solely from an histrorical Jesus; a fabulous Nabatean history, impossible to reconcile with the known facts, has to be erected to put Paul in the fifties AD. With Jesus gone pfft! keeping that pretense is just silly. The same with Gospel dates: driven by wanting as little time between record and real person. I can understand that if you are of a confessional bent; but we are atheists, Godamnit! We need to take stock of how much our reasoning is still clouded by zombie processes still running from a faith and a “person” we are supposed to have long kicked into touch.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-02-09 06:13:05 GMT+0000 - 06:13 | Permalink

      I have a problem with Hadrian’s Zeus statue being the abomination of desolating sacrilege because it is too similar to the original Seleucid set up and no need to have Jesus point out that it will be something not so easily understood. Nor do I see how Hadrian’s action can necessitate a fleeing “at that very moment” without even time to dash back to grab a loaf of bread. And Akiva and Bar Kochba are not many Christs but just one being pointed to, at least according to a late rabbinic account.

      Perhaps Haenchen’s explanation has more going for it.

  • Sid Martin
    2019-02-10 16:28:50 GMT+0000 - 16:28 | Permalink

    Mark 13:14 warns about “to bdelugma tēs eremōseōs estēkota opou ou dei,” the desolating sacrifice standing where he ought not. This is clearly Titus. Although bdelugma is neuter, estēkota is masculine and means standing. Josephus tells us how Titus entered the sanctuary, War 6.4.7 (260), which would be a desecration in the eyes of the Jews.

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