Simon of Cyrene: once more on the ambiguity of the crucified one in the Gospel of Mark

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by Neil Godfrey

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Here is an extract from the latest publication on the question of Simon of Cyrene, the one compelled to carry the cross of Jesus according to the synoptic gospel narrative. This post follows the train of

Reading the Gospel of Mark Alone — Imagine No Other Gospels (22-10-2023)


A “Playful” Ambiguity in the Gospel of Mark (14-07-2023)

It is from an article by Andreas Bedenbener in the latest issue of Texte und Kontexte:

But as far as Simon is concerned, the text’s [that is, the Gospel of Mark] great interest in him suddenly disappears the moment he takes up the cross. We don’t hear how he carries it to Golgotha, nor how he puts it down, nor what became of him afterwards. The text continues as follows:

22 They take him to the place Golgotha, which is translated: place of the skull.
23 They wanted to give him wine flavored with myrrh; but he did not take it.
24 And they crucified him
and divide his garments,
by casting lots over them to see who could take what.

Since the last text figure mentioned before arriving at Golgotha was Simon, it would be linguistically obvious to refer all of this, as well as what is said in the following verses, to him; The name “Jesus” only appears again in v. 34. This is either told extremely carelessly – which would be astonishing given the level of detail with which the text previously addressed Simon – or else the Gospel of Mark aims to to blur the line between Jesus and Simon for a while.The ambivalence of the phrase “his cross” fits with this second possibility: the cross that Simon takes up could be both the cross of Jesus and his own cross. If you understand the scene as a representation of reality, it is of course an either – or, but if you look at it from a literary perspective, the cross belongs as much to Jesus as it does to Simon.

(Translation, pp 15f)

  • Bedenbender, Andreas. “Kein Helfer, sondern selbst ein Opfer. Die Rolle Simons Aus Kyrene in Mk 15,21 und im Gefüge des Markusevangeliums.” Texte & Kontexte, no. 169/170 (2022): 12-30.


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57 thoughts on “Simon of Cyrene: once more on the ambiguity of the crucified one in the Gospel of Mark”

  1. Most literary critics, reading the passage leading up to the indicated pronoun reference, would understand from the very clear context that it refers to Jesus, and not Simon. I don’t know if it makes much sense to use a phrase like “linguistically obvious.” Linguistic meaning is determined from context. I’m pretty sure there are similar passages in Shakespeare, but I’m not prepared to dig them up and quote them just now.

    1. We are habituated to read the narrative as history, and history demands and either Jesus or a Simon who was crucified, and obviously it was Jesus. But Mark’s gospel is evidently not history. It makes little sense as history — unless we at every twist and turn inject our own historicizing rationalizations into the respective sayings and episodes. “Mark” plays with ambiguities throughout.

      1. I agree that Mark is not history (neither is Shakespeare), and did not intend a historicizing rationalization, but rather was offering my 2 cents on whether the ambiguous pronoun reference was intentional or not. I see some interesting remarks below by Parvus to the effect that it is intentional and done for laughs. Generally, if I am to assume intentionality, I would look for an invitation in the text for that assumption. The language that occurs prior to the reference was what influenced me.

        1. Understood. I think Andreas Bedenbender’s interpretation was in large part influenced by his larger argument that the entire gospel is structured around allusions to the Judean war.

          When we come to the Simon of Cyrene passage, he understands the syntactical peculiarities as being meant to stress the outsider status of Simon : he is first of all a passer-by, then he is from Cyrene, then he is from the countryside, then he is the father of Greek and a Roman named sons — evidently comfortable with the status of a Diaspora (outsider) Judean.

          Nor is there any indication that he is “following Jesus” in taking up the cross. He himself has been forced by the Romans to participate — in other words he is a fellow-victim rather than a helper.

          All of the above leads Bedenbender to interpret Simon of Cyrene as a cipher for the Diaspora Judeans who were to suffer as the Judeans in Palestine and Jerusalem had suffered in 66-73.

          1. To clarify what AB means by “peculiarities” of the passage — here is a translation of his subsection titled: A most peculiar verse:

            Just under the assumption that the sons of Simon were known to the target group of the text, it would have been obvious for the author of the Mk-Ev to arrange the information about Simon differently – namely, for example, like this:

            A certain Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus,
            who came from the country and was just passing by,
            they compel him to take up his cross.

            Or also:

            A certain Simon of Cyrene, who was passing by,
            the father of Alexander and Rufus, who had just come from the country,
            they compel him to take up his cross.

            And if the text had wanted to emphasise the identity of the bearer of the cross, then it would have been possible:

            They compelled a passer-by, who had just come from the country,
            to take up his cross.
            It was Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

            Moreover, Mark could have omitted the explanations “a passer-by” and “who came from the country” completely5 and no one would have missed them. No matter how you look at it, the statements “a certain Simon from Cyrene” and “the father of Alexander and Rufus” belong directly together linguistically, because here as there it is about a permanent quality. On the other hand, the statements “a passer-by” and “who came from the country” each refer to a fleeting event, they concern the immediate course of action. It is strange that the text jumps back and forth between the two categories “permanent quality” and “current event”.

            5 Cf. Mt 27:32: “As they were going out, they met one from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to take up his cross.” Cf. also Lk 23:26: “And as they led him away they seized a certain Simon from Cyrene, who came from the country (Zurich Bible: “from the field”) and they loaded the cross on him so that he might carry it after Jesus.”

    2. I should in fairness to Andreas Bendenbender make it clear that of course it is Jesus who is crucified in the narrative, and that the author’s treatment of Simon of Cyrene is a curiosity in several different ways — including the way he leaves the account of Simon unfinished as much as he introduced it without introduction. Bendenbender does not suggest that the reader is expected to be confused about who was ultimately crucified.

    3. There is no “very clear” context. The plain reading makes Simon the subject of the following sentences. It may be a mistake, but the “very clear context” is only your own expectation. Roman writers did things like that. They liked ambiguity and deception in art and in literature.

  2. I wonder if Simon of Cyrene is a negative example of discipleship insofar he carries the cross but he doesn’t die on the cross, while Jesus is meant to make the exact opposite. Carrying the cross without dying on it would be a mere exterior act, just as the vain offerings by rich people are opposed to the poor widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44.
    The reason why we are sympathetic to the figure of the Cyrenaic is that it seems that the Roman soldiers are the bad guys in the story (Simon being obliged by others to carry the cross). But what if we give up to emphasize that imposition and see it rather as a mere expedient to introduce a “deliberate” carrier of the cross? The episode would be then a criticism of the ostentation of the martyrdom ?

    1. Or another reading might point to the shared sufferings of the Diaspora Jews after the destruction of the Zealots in the 60s and 70s. (That’s Andreas Bedenbender’s proposal.)

  3. I suspect proto-Mark was written by a Simonian and that the ambiguities were deliberate. If so, Basilides’ laughing Jesus may be the key, not just to the Cyrenian episode, but to the whole of proto-Mark: It was written for the entertainment of fellow Simonians. For them the entertainment consisted in the reaction to it by those on the outside who either failed to perceive that its Jesus was a Simonized distortion of the earlier one, or they recognized it and seethed. Either way provided laughs for those on the inside. They laughed along with their laughing Jesus.

  4. Mark’s gospel gets changed a lot in translations in this regard, I noticed – the author used the ambiguous “he” a lot instead of names or other identifiers. Translations try to make what happened more clear, or at least capitalise he/him when it’s Jesus who is talking. But that means no getting temporarily confused about who is being crucified here, which is a shame (set aside for a moment that Jesus is among the most famous killed people/characters).
    Maybe it’s because I was a 90s kid but I appreciate some surreal weirdness in stories.

    Simon being forced to bear the cross is interesting though. You’d think that with him being an alternate for Peter he’d take the cross willingly, but he doesn’t get a chance to show he’s a faithful follower of Jesus, he just gets roped into the whole thing. Him standing in for the real life victims of the Jewish war would make more sense in this regard.

    Following links around I just learned of the text variants where Jesus is laughing at the poor imposter on the cross, changing the suffering servant to a sort of trickster. The diversity of early/earlier Christianity continues to amaze me, but maybe it’s mostly evidence that people couldn’t quite make out what Mark was trying to convey even way back when, and that Christians believing Simon of Cyrene was the one who was crucified is no different from people now thinking they have it figured out that Jesus was this or that based on a speculative or naïeve reading of Christian or Jewish texts.

    1. Not that you are misunderstanding the point, but I just want to take the opportunity of your comment to make it clear that neither Bedenbender nor I are suggesting that Mark’s gospel means to deny that Jesus was the one crucified. The argument is that the momentary ambiguity in the account of Jesus’ death is aimed at identifying Simon of Cyrene — momentarily — with the one crucified.

      That ambiguity may have led some branches of Christianity to imagine a Jesus who laughs while Simon is on the cross, but I can’t imagine that such a notion was in the mind of the author of the Gospel of Mark.

      1. Personally, I can imagine that such a notion was in the mind of the author of proto-Mark, if that author was Basilides or a Simonian like him. Did Basilides really believe that Jesus was Simon Magus in disguise? And that Jesus/Simon switched places with the Cyrenian and laughed upon seeing him get crucified? I doubt it. More likely that was all just part of the fun of his literarily turning of Jesus into someone else.

        Basilides is the earliest figure that the heresy hunters connect with gospel-writing, and the earliest who appears to have some connection to gMark. So, his laughing Jesus appears not to be some late development, but rather was present quite early. And Basilides who, according to Irenaeus, considered himself “no longer a Jew, but not yet Christian”, apparently retained little to no affection for his former co-religionists. I find it believable that he might write something that distorted their Jesus.

        And how fitting that Christianity begin with a literary deception! For, as Bart Ehrman writes, “Arguably the most distinctive feature of the early Christian literature is the degree to which it was forged” (page 1 of “Forgery and Counterforgery – – The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics”).

        Basilides’ teacher, according to Irenaeus, was someone named Menander. I now wonder if that was his given name, or one he took for himself out of affection for the most famous Menander, the one who is the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. Perhaps the reason gMark has remained such an enigma for so long is that it has always been approached as a piece of serious literature, when its true nature was comedy. The laughing Jesus was the early clue we needed but never took seriously – until now.

        1. Hi Roger, how much do you think that a such anti-YHWH proto-Mark was later catholicized in current Mark? I ask because, comparing *Ev with Mark thanks to the recent book of Markus Vinzent, there are at least three points in current Mark where the catholic hand is visible:

          1) the incipit (YHWH himself disturbs himself to hail Jesus as his beloved Son, while in Marcion the enigma on the entity descended from above remains;

          2) Mark 11 = Evangelion 20:8, the silence of Jesus (before questioners of the his authority) being bluntly interrupted immediately after in Mark 12 (the Parable of Vineyard breaking the silence about the origin of the authority of Jesus: YHWH) while in Marcion the enigma about that origin remains;

          3) Mark 14:61, Jesus answers positively to the question if he is the Son of YHWH (“I am!”), while in Marcion (22) we have only : “YOU say it”, implicit: “I don’t”.

          If these passages are in proto-Mark, then I would give up to Markan priority, because frankly I cannot think that the three examples above are mere coincidences. Hence my question for you.

          (Neil excuse me if I am going off topic but the curiosity is great).

          1. Giuseppe,

            I want to be sure you understand what I am proposing, so I’ll lay it out again. I think gMark (the canonical Gospel according to Mark) could be a proto-orthodox touch-up of an earlier proto-Mark that was written by a Simonian, most likely Basilides. And I think Basilides composed it in part by picking out various items about Jesus from an even earlier document (Q, if you like, or the Nazarene Gospel) and presenting those items in a deliberately ambiguous way, so that its Jesus could be interpreted by insiders as being their Simon in disguise.

            I doubt Basilides really believed Jesus was Simon. I suspect he composed proto-Mark for fun, so he and his fellow Simonians could enjoy the reaction to it by those on the outside. I think Basilides went looking for things Jesus reportedly did or said that could either be interpreted in a Simonian sense or be easily modified to serve that purpose. With that in mind, let’s look at the items you mentioned:

            Did Jesus ever claim to be the beloved son? I don’t see why he couldn’t have. But if he did, he would have likely understood it in a sense acceptable to the Jews of his time. That is, for him it would not have been some kind of claim to divinity. As an apocalyptic Jew, he may have simply come to believe he had some special role in the imminent divine intervention he expected. But notice that “beloved son” is something the Simonians could easily say had been misunderstood. That is, they could say that Jesus was in fact claiming to be much more; he was claiming to be the beloved Son of the Vision of Isaiah. The Jews had misunderstood him.

            And did Jesus claim to be a Christ (king)? I don’t see why he couldn’t have. But there was nothing to stop the Simonians from claiming that “Christ” was just another of their Simon’s many names. So again, from their angle, Jesus was actually saying he was Simon but was misunderstood.

            Likewise for the Markan parable of the tenants. Did Jesus claim that the Jewish leadership was about to be replaced because of their mismanagement. I don’t see why he couldn’t have. But again, from a Simonian point of view such a parable would have possibilities: the tenants Jesus that actually had in mind were the spirit rulers of this world. They were about to lose their hold on it, for they did not respect Jesus/Simon when he came down to this world from heaven. Jesus’ parabIe was misunderstood.

            Based on what Irenaeus says about the Simonians, that is the game I think they were playing. Can I prove it? No. For, of course, the proto-orthodox had the final say about which text survived. The only text we have is the one they cleaned up. To understand its many peculiarities, we would need to know its history, and that, unfortunately, is perhaps irrecoverable.

            1. Hi Roger, it is clear: you are arguing for a Basilidian double reading that could have allowed an adoption of the same text by outsiders, so much only the insiders would have the true key of it. I see in whiletime that you are a proponent of a radical form of Messianic Secret, one where the Secret is never disclosed (unless one becomes a Basilidian insider and gains the key as part of the initiation).

              Only it surprises me the strange “coincidence” by which just in correspondence of the points where the Messianic Secret could be disclosed (along the lines of a traditional interpretation of Jesus as son of YHWH) we have another Gospel (*Ev) where in the same parallel points the Secret continues to remain a Secret (hence allowing the doubt about the link Jesus/YHWH).

              1. I think Jesus’ secret was that he was going to be king when God’s intervention occurred shortly. That needed to be kept quiet because it would be viewed as seditious by the Roman occupiers. But the Simonians twisted this, saying that in fact Jesus’ secret was that he was their Simon incognito. And that had to be kept secret in order for the spirit rulers of this world to fall into the trap set for them.

            2. >Did Jesus claim that the Jewish leadership was about to be replaced because of their mismanagement. I don’t see why he couldn’t have.

              Just because something is possible, does not mean that it occurred.

              Michael Goulder (1927–2010), whom I have read described as one of the greatest Bible scholars of the past century, described in his memoir, Five Stones and a Sling, how he realized that the gospels’ authors invented the parables: “Mark’s parables were mostly agricultural: the Sower, the Seed Growing Secretly, and Mustard Seed. This was rather in line with Old Testament parables, which are said often to be about trees, “from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall.” Matthew’s parables are about people, mostly kings or wealthy merchants. Luke’s parables, on the other hand, are about more down-to-earth characters: a prodigal son, an unjust steward, a widow, a beggar, a Samaritan… I therefore had a theme ready made for my Oxford seminar: the parables in the Gospels were not the parables of Jesus, as was assumed by almost everyone… rather they were the creation of the evangelists, each of whom has produced instances in his own style. (Goulder, pp. 58–59)”

  5. I like this interpretation. I also like the interpretation that the man fleeing naked when Jesus is arrested is the same man dressed in white in the tomb when Jesus is resurrected.

  6. Also, I recently read a book called “Lord of the Cosmos: Mithras, Paul, and the Gospel of Mark” (A&C Black, 2006) by Michael Patella that goes into this topic. Patella thinks Mark is influenced by Pauline theology and depicts the disciples and followers of Jesus as being baptized into his death and Resurrection. So they are being initiated into “the mystery of the kingdom of God”. Some examples he gives are the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus and the naked man who flees at the arrest of Jesus. He doesn’t mention Simon carrying the cross though.

    From the book:

    “Mark’s Gospel presents Jesus as the Son of God, who battles Satan and reclaims and redeems creation from him. This ongoing battle is evident within the earthly ministry and reaches its climax and decisive victory in the passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus conquers death, and disciples who enter into his life through baptism share in his triumph and gain eternal life. Insofar as Mark evidences this participationist theology of Jesus’ life, we can see a strong Pauline character to Mark’s Gospel…

    The direction of this study shows that Mark’s Gospel, written in Rome between 60-70 CE, has religious and philosophical elements within it that employ a cosmology having close affinity with that of Paul. This cosmology uses the language and concepts reflecting awareness and familiarity with a Hellenistic scientific worldview combined with popular Hellenistic interpretations of that worldview. For science, the worldview was framed in Plato’s Timaeus, and from that understanding developed the religio-philosophical system of Mithraism. Mithraism itself has themes nearly identical to those found in Mark’s Gospel. The similarities and differences between the two provide a Markan reading that was well equipped to meet the social and intellectual obstacles of its day as well as providing thought for dealing with the challenges of our own time.

    This study now delves into the Gospel of Mark to see how the five aforementioned themes surface in the Markan text. The end result is a composite picture showing the Gospel of Mark as a cosmic battle that Jesus wins at the resurrection, and at that point the eschaton arrives. Disciples of Jesus participate in the same battle, knowing through faith that Christ has already gained the victory. Creation ultimately has communion with the divine, and the Markan writer fashions the kerygma as a proclamation of this divine communication and communion. Afterward, this study will focus on three Markan pericopes that utilize the Greco-Roman worldview of the universe as the means to demonstrate the salvation of that universe: the baptism of Jesus (1:9—11), the healing of Bartimaeus (10:46—52), and the death and resurrection of Jesus (15:33-16:8)…

    As with Peter at the first prediction and the other group at the second prediction (9:31—32), the sons of Zebedee remain clueless on what following Jesus means (10:35—38). In his explanation, Jesus speaks about “the baptism with which I am baptized” and how the two will undergo it as well (10:38-39). At Jesus’ own baptism, the Spirit “like a dove” was descending upon him as he himself was coming up from the Jordan, and there is the voice from the heavens: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (1:9—11). In this passion prediction scene, does Jesus mean that James and John will have a similar experience, or rather does Mark mean that those entering the community can expect the same? We know from the archaeological and written record that baptism was a part of Christianity almost from the very beginning. It was and is the process by which someone becomes a disciple, a member of the community… We can assume that if Jesus “comes up” at the end, he would have “gone down” at the beginning. Hence, we have a double action of descent and ascent. This twofold action of descent and ascent becomes the interpretive key for discipleship into the “mystery of the kingdom of God” or “messianic secret” (4:11). As we will see in the major Markan theme of the cosmic battle, Jesus’ major weapon, humiliation, leads to his victory, exaltation. Discipleship becomes a constitutive part of the cosmic battle, and Mark connects discipleship with baptism through the healing of blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52), the passing reference to a naked young man (14:51-52), and the presence of the young man at the tomb (16:5). The alacrity with which Bartimaeus, the last disciple of Jesus’ earthly ministry, follows Jesus to Jerusalem makes him a model for all…

    The blind man of Bethsaida and those who guide him (8:22—26) consist of those not of “this generation” (8:12). The paradox is apparent. Being blind, his faith allows him to see Jesus. For this reason, Jesus enjoins him to keep the miracle quiet (8:26). The Pharisees and Herodians, on the other hand, can physically see, but their lack of faith has made them blind to the promise Jesus holds out to the world. They will never discover the “messianic secret.”… The name “Bartimaeus” is a fusion of the Greek “Timaeus” and the Aramaic prefix “Bar,” meaning “son of.” Not only is it curious to have such a name within a Jewish setting, but it also becomes even more so by other circumstances associated with it. Mark, writing in Greek, identifies the blind man as the son of Timaeus but then gives him the proper name, Bartimaeus, which is an Aramaic translation of the Greek. Furthermore, “Timaeus” is not only a Greek name; it also is a title of one of Plato’s works, a name that appears nowhere else in either the OT or NT…

    Mark writes that Bartimaeus follows Jesus “on the way” (10:52). Mark wishes to emphasize the way of Jesus. The term, besides meaning “road” or “path,” takes on the nuance of “way of life,” or “conduct.” On this level, within Scripture it represents the manner of life according to God’s instruction. By extension, the word came to describe the religious movement associated with Christ’s life. Mark certainly intends the concrete notion of “road” as well as the concept of “way of life”; the stress placed on discipleship and following Jesus determines such a conclusion. The question is whether the evangelist also intends to signify that Bartimaeus provides the example of conduct for someone who claims to follow the movement associated with Jesus’ name. On this basis, let us approach the passion and resurrection narratives with the eyes of the now-cured Bartimaeus…

    Although all three Synoptics relate a version of this story, only Mark includes the detail of Bartimaeus casting off the cloak in 10:50. This detail has puzzled some exegetes. One interpretation holds that the blind beggar would not be wearing the garment; rather, he would have it spread on the ground in front of him in order to collect the alms people would drop. His action of tossing it aside, therefore, would be more dramatic and decisive. Another tries to connect it to the youth who runs away naked at the arrest. The symbolism of Bartimaeus’s cloak goes deeper than either of these suggestions. “Cloak” occurs five times in Mark. With the exception of references to touching Jesus’ cloak (5:27; 6:56), the use of the term “cloak” signifies an old way of life that should be abandoned. In Mark 2:21, Jesus advises that mending an old cloak with a new patch is counterproductive. Likewise, turning back to retrieve one’s cloak could bring death (13:16). Cloaks wrap and protect, but they also hinder sight and hamper movement. Bartimaeus casts off his cloak for precisely that reason; it represents the old way of seeing reality and responding to it. By throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus makes a radical break with his past. On this score, throwing off the cloak has resonance with the baptismal liturgy.”

    1. Mysteries and possibilities! Our version of the Gospel of Mark is arguably not how it was originally composed. Was Bartimaeus the author’s name for the blind man at all? Wilke did not think so: https://vridar.org/2023/04/21/oh-gospel-of-mark-how-you-have-led-us-on/

      In relation to another (though related) point, I supposed I should make explicit another detail that I have been assuming all along: contrary to Wilke’s argument that “father of Alexander and Rufus” was not part of the original gospel, Bedenbender’s interpretation would almost lead to insistence that that description was most definitely part of the original — and it was the different (more historicizing) perspectives of Matthew and Luke that led them to omit it.

  7. I agree with Bedenbender that “Cyrene” is a enough explicit alluson to the rebels from that city. Only, I don’t think that this makes Simon a disciple of Jesus in opposition to Simon Peter. I see a docetical irony: after all the tortures by Roman and/or Jewish guards, tortures that had given the false impression that Jesus had afterall a real body, now with the Cyrenaic we see refuted a such impression: the weight of the physical cross is carried by a different person, hence implying that Jesus was ultimately without a body. Otherwise, he would have carried himself the cross.
    Under this light, the Zealot meaning of “Cyrene” increases the contrast between a real puniction inflicted to the rebels and the irreal puniction inflicted on Jesus.

    1. Note that this docetical interpretation explains two anomalies:
      1) in Mark 14:65 we have “Prophecy!”
      The question “Who hit you?” has been removed prudently by Mark while at contrary it figured in the Mark’s source (= *Ev), where obviously it was designed to raise the suspicion that none hit really Jesus.
      2) in order to mitigate the contrast between Simon of Cyrene (with a body) and Jesus (without a body), the former is transformed in a disciple of the latter, by adding two sons of him as witnesses of this discipleship: Alexander and Rufus. They can confirm the reality of the flesh of Jesus witnessed in turn by their father.

      1. If one wanted to raise doubts about whether Jesus could be hit bodily, would it not be more appropriate to demand: “Did you feel that?” Or have the soldiers pulling back amazed that their fists felt nothing when they attempted to touch him? Why not also remove the story of clothing Jesus’ body — twice — with mock robes and then his own clothes?

        Is it not simpler to suggest that the original was the briefer account with the single word, “Prophesy!” — a classic Markan irony thus being in play since at that very moment Jesus’ prophecies were being fulfilled (being beaten and mocked, Peter’s denial).

        Is not the more usual for redactors to have added to rather than taken away from passages? By adding “who hit you?” we see evidence that later authors missed Mark’s original irony here.

        If Jesus’ body could carry changes of physical clothes, why not also a cross?

    2. Is there any internal evidence (internal within the Gospel of Mark itself) for an interpretation that relates to docetic questions? Jesus was able to touch others, and he could pick up dirt and spit (healing the blind man); he could be touched and pulled by others (e.g. his arrest in Gethsemane, and the kiss, and being beaten). He ate food and drank wine. The tormenters put a mock robe on him then changed it for his own clothes. Does not all of this sort of thing point a figure who is understood to have a corporeal body?

      1. As you know, Turmel thought that the entire episode of Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus was designed to prove that there was really a body in need of an ordinary burial.

        But even beyond of that, the weight of the cross is what Jesus avoided by the help of the Cyrenaic, and the fact that just the soldiers forced the Cyrenaic to bear the cross is a curious irony: weren’t the same soldiers the authors of the torture inflicted on the presumed body of Jesus?

        If I remember well, in *Ev there is the mere intention of a kiss by Judas but not the effective kiss. As to the robe put on Jesus, isn’t the robe itself an useful expedient to simulate the presence of a body?

        1. I have read so very much since I read Turmel so you will have to give me the specific citation.

          Is there anything within the Gospel of Mark that demands a docetic interpretation? Otherwise, aren’t we just reading a docetic parameter into the gospel in the same way too many scholars read the gospel narratives into Paul’s letters?

          Why should we think about the “weight” of the cross after we have ignored the “weight” of the clothes in an earlier scene? There is nothing in the narrative that points the reader to think of the weight or physicality of the cross any more than the weight and physicality of the clothes — let alone the striking of fists or hands on his body.

          As for the Marcionite gospel, do you have anything more than hypothesis to establish that it was a source of our current Gospel of Mark?

          1. I quote from Jésus – Sa Seconde Vie, p. 22-23:

            C’est une vingtaine d’années plus tôt (vers 150) qu’a été imaginée l’histoire du sanhédriste Joseph d’Arimathie qui, avec l’autorisation de Pilate, décroche de la croix le corps du Christ et le met dans un tombeau où, le surlendemain, les femmes se rendent pour procêder à l’embaumement. Par sa démarche aupres de Pilate, Joseph d’Arimathie se serait dénoncé lui-même comme un partisan du grand ennemi de la puissance romaine; autant dire qu’il serait allé spontanément audevant du supplice. Comment croire à une pareille imprudence? Et puis, comment admettre la présence d’un partisan de Jésus dans le sanhédrin dont les membres ne se recrutaient qu’avec l’agrément de Rome? L’histoire de Joseph d’Arimathie ne peut être qu’une fiction construite pour prover que le corps de Jésus avait été déposé dans un sépulcre. Or, la sépulture du corps de Jésus ne retint l’attention que vers le milieu du second siècle, quand vinrent des rêveurs prétendant que Jésus, Dieu tout-puissant, revêtu d’un organisme éthéré, avait quitté mystérieusement la croix et s’était élevé au ciel sans cesser un instant de vivre. Et c’est en réponse à cette chimère que fut rédigé l’article du dymbole des apôtres où on lit:
            “Il a été enseveli (et sepultus).”
            L’histoire de Joseph d’Arimathie est, en quelque sorte, l’illustration de cet article du symbole.

            Note that the implication, if you agree with Turmel about this function of Joseph of Arimathea, is that the Cyrenaic episode (and even before the robe of Jesus) had to be served to vehicle a docetical point. Because otherwise the damage control, by the introduction of Joseph of Arimathea, wouldn’t be occurred.

            In addition to this, I have been persuaded by Vinzent’s recent book that *Ev precedes Mark in virtue of this specific argument (please read the rest of the entire thread). I will quote the precise words of Vinzent that have persuaded me.

            1. I read the thread and I have to agree with Ken Olson that your interpretation of Mark is driven by your theory and not by internal evidence of Mark itself. Such an approach invites confirmation bias, does it not? How can you avoid confirmation bias or circular argument? I always feel nervous when I read something like “the only” interpretation or conclusion to be drawn from X and Y is this or that — “ONLY” one? That might be true if we insist that the theory through which we are reading the gospel is the only possible one we will allow.

              I am trying to approach an interpretation of Mark beginning with internal evidence — such as I asked about in my earlier comment. But you have not addressed those questions I raised. Such internal evidence has to be overlooked or ignored in order to maintain a rationale for reading the gospel through a predetermined theory of Marcionite priority, yes?

              Again — how can one avoid confirmation bias in any argument or interpretation of Mark? Identification and interpretations of “coincidences” will always change or be determined according to whatever theory we use to guide our reading.

              The tomb burial of Jesus, for example, can have an anti-Marcionite interpretation if we begin with the theory that the Gospel of Mark is an anti-Marcionite text, but we can have a quite different interpretation of the burial of Jesus in the tomb if we approach the gospel with a different theory.

              The theory that leaves the fewest unanswered questions should be preferred. I raised some of the questions that I think your theory of Marcionite priority leaves unanswered.

              “My” theory does answer them and is also supported by direct evidence of borrowing from Jewish Scriptures and identifiable historical contexts.

        2. I said that you had not addressed my question re the clothing of Jesus in the Passion narrative but I was wrong — you did so here:

          As to the robe put on Jesus, isn’t the robe itself an useful expedient to simulate the presence of a body?

          But I have a problem with that reply. There is nothing in the text of the gospel itself to support such an interpretation. That interpretation is derived entirely from the theory that in Mark such scenes are anti-Marcionite. There is nothing in the text itself that would lead one to expect or predict such a reason for those clothing scenes. In other words, the explanation is ad hoc, is it not? It is an after-the-fact rationalization of how such episodes can be said not to discount the anti-Marcionite reading of Mark.

          1. I think that the comments here are sufficient for the reader to appreciate the case that Mark is reacting against *Ev (not that *Ev was written by Marcion, pace Vinzent, only it was known to be used and interpreted by Marcion).
            However let it be clear that it is the Turmel’s interpretation of the episode of Joseph of Arimathea as carrying an anti-docetical polemic that implies the presence of docetism in the episode of the robe, the torture and the Cyrenaic, not the vice versa. I would add only that the Apellean myth already assumed that Jesus “weared” an ethereal cloth for any heaven during the descent (while in the Ascension of Isaiah, as you know, the Son assumes a particular form for any heaven), hence the robe in the Passion story could serve to the same function (note that in *Ev it is Herod, an human archon, who put the robe on Jesus).

            1. I assume, then, that you do not accept Karel Hanhart’s evidence for the scene of the entombment of Jesus (Isaiah’s metaphor of the temple being a hewn out rock-tomb) or the midrashic evidence for the source of the name Joseph of Arimathea — is that correct?

              If one accepts the evidence on which those interpretations are based then we defy Occam’s razor if we seek to find further anti-docetic interpretations for which we only have a theory, a presumption, and no actual evidence.

              I would prefer to see an actual case or evidence for an anti-docetic interpretation, one that derives from the text of Mark itself, as distinct from what unfortunately looks to me to be a process of reading a theory into the text.

              1. Is GPeter reading docetism in his source Mark?

                And they brought two wrongdoers and crucified the Lord in the middle of them. But he was silent as having no pain

                I think that GPeter is making explicit what is still implicit in Mark (or in the source used by Mark).

                In general, as I had described here (about what was decisive, the dispute on John the Baptist or the dispute on Elijah?), I think that it is a great risk to replace the tool (the midrash from X) in the place of the goal (the polemic against Y).

                ADDENDA: As you know, also Josephus bar Mathea removed a crucified from the cross in the real history, but what could have obliged an editor to introduce Joseph of Arimathea in the gospel tradition was not the need of remembering a real fact. As rather the theological polemic against rivals.

              2. Is GPeter reading docetism in his source Mark?

                Very unlikely. If he did so read Mark then why would the author of GPeter be interested in writing a quite different take on Jesus from the one we find in Mark? This is not a rhetorical question but a pointer to what is missing in, say, a hypothesis that the author of GPeter is writing a gospel in order to interpret Mark in a docetic way. We should ask what sort of evidence we would expect to find if such a hypothesis were to be tested. I am suggesting that the notion that GPeter is “reading docetism into Mark” is without any evidence. The evidence we have, on the contrary, points to the GPeter originating in a quite different milieu and with a quite different theological interest from what we find in Mark.

                And they brought two wrongdoers and crucified the Lord in the middle of them. But he was silent as having no pain

                I think that GPeter is making explicit what is still implicit in Mark (or in the source used by Mark).

                That is possible but it is a view that can only be speculative. Is there any evidence to support that interpretation or is the interpretation simply asserted? It is just as reasonable, perhaps more so I suggest, to propose that Mark was written in a different theological world. When we say X is “implicit” in Mark, is that not a mere assertion without evidence?

                In the case of Matthew’s and Luke’s (and even John’s) re-writing of Mark’s crucifixion scene no-one suggests that those evangelists were reading their ideas into Mark: no, rather, the simpler explanation is that they disagreed with Mark and so rewrote Mark’s scenes to accord with their theological interests.

                In general, as I had described here (about what was decisive, the dispute on John the Baptist or the dispute on Elijah?), I think that it is a great risk to replace the tool (the midrash from X) in the place of the goal (the polemic against Y).

                What evidence is there that Mark’s scenario is a polemic against Marcionism? Is not the logic of the scene entirely self-contained in the larger thematic structure of Mark itself? There should be evidence within the text to support an interpretation. I can’t see the validity in simply comparing two gospels and declaring by fiat that one is a polemic against the other because it is possible to imagine it that way.

                We have internal structural and thematic evidence within the Mark and its clear dependence on OT sources — these do not support a docetic interpretation. A theory of an anti-docetic polemic needs to engage with this kind of alternative (potentially simpler and more explicitly supported) views. The kind of evidence we see in Matthew’s and Luke’s resurrection scenes does support some interest in an anti-docetic polemic but that kind of evidence is lacking in Mark.

                ADDENDA: As you know, also Josephus bar Mathea removed a crucified from the cross in the real history, but what could have obliged an editor to introduce Joseph of Arimathea in the gospel tradition was not the need of remembering a real fact. As rather the theological polemic against rivals.

                Again, I cannot accept such an assertion. There is no evidence in Mark’s account of the kind we find in the other gospels of specific polemical theological agendas. But it does not follow that the author of Mark was wanting to “remember a real fact”. I eschew such either-or arguments. There is more to be discovered with an open-ended search, a search that does insist that a source must be found in location X or else in location Y.

                How can the antidocetic interpretation of Mark avoid confirmation bias?

  8. The ambiguity could also be an indication of later interpolation. if you remove verse 22, the entire thing flows with no seam, interruption or ambiguity. This looks like it could be a paid cameo from a couple of rich patrons. In the Greco-Roman world, you could pay authors to put your name or the name of a family member into a story or a copy of a book. This may account for some of the names in the 4th Gospel as well.

    1. By removing the statement that Jesus was the one crucified then don’t we make the entire gospel a nonsense? Jesus has been predicting his death for previous 7 chapters, and taught that his followers must follow him in being led to crucifixion. The whole point of the gospel is to present a crucified messiah yet one who overcame death.

  9. Continuation of the previous comment:

    This is the Vinzent’s passage that has changed my way of seeing Mark:

    As already stated in the first comparison of this scene, the question of John’s baptism, namely whether it is a heavenly or a human endeavor, is central here. According to Marcion, which is followed by all three Gospels, the people consider John a prophet, so Jesus’s interlocutors cannot simply dismiss his baptism as a human act. In both Marcion and Luke, Jesus refuses to give information about the origin of his own authority as a rebuke to the Pharisees for being afraid to take a stand. Nevertheless, the story suggests that, left to their own devices, they might very well have taken John for nothing other than a man. This, however, is followed by the criticism of any belief in prophecy on the part of the people, with which Marcion establishes the antithesis between Jesus, whose authority actually has a heavenly origin, and John, to whom this heavenly authority is only attributed by the people, whether out of ignorance on the part of the people or out of fear on the part of the Pharisees. It is out of the same fear that the Pharisees finally want to lay hands on Jesus. The three synoptic gospels cannot leave the story at this antithetical point, so they follow it up with a parable (Mark, Luke) or two (Matthew), which shift the direction of the whole passage. In Mark, Jesus addresses his parable to the same interlocutors. This particular parable is no exactly a literary gem; rather, it is a simple allegory that expresses the divine threat of judgment and at the same time offers Scripture-based373 evidence that Jesus was sent by the Lord. Narratively, the parable stands in contrast to the final sentence taken from the Gospel of Marcion, according to which Jesus does not want to explain the origin of his authority, since the parable does just that, albeit in a somewhat clumsy way. At the same time, Jesus is presented as the son and heir of the one who wants to collect from the tenants what is due to him at the time of the ripening of the grapes. They, the listeners, are even called murderers and desecrators of the rightful heir, his Son. The result, thus, is also an antithesis but one that differs considerably from that in the Gospel of Marcion. Here the tenants who are destroyed by the Lord and whose tenure is given to others are contrasted with the vinedresser’s son who was rejected and killed by the tenants but who has become the cornerstone of a new building. Matthew adopts the same pattern from Mark but introduces a slight transition at the beginning, probably because he notices the narrative contradiction in Mark between Jesus’s refusal to make a statement about the provenance of his authority and the fact that the parable provides just such a statement. Consequently, in Mt 21: 28, Jesus asks, What do you think? Moreover, Matthew provides a second parable…
    Vinzent, Markus. Christ’s Torah (posizioni nel Kindle 6827-6835). Taylor and Francis. Edizione del Kindle.

    Vinxent’s argument becomes even more powerful if we note the incredible “coincidence” of Mark being forced to disclose the secrecy about Jesus in the incipit (YHWH talks: “this is the my beloved son”) and in Mark 14:61 (“I am!”): precisely in points where at contrary in *Ev the secrecy is not disclosed but rather it increases the suspicion that Jesus comes from a god different from YHWH.

  10. Excuse me if I am writing too much here but please remember the acute comment by Tim Widowfield:

    For while self-concealment is a core component of the motif, Mark’s gospel also contains a number of instances in which the true identity of Jesus is plainly revealed to the people around him, and yet the secret remains intact.

    Is it a coincidence that Mark breaks the secrecy (at least in the eyes of the reader) just when, in the parallel passages in *Ev, the same secrecy is never broken but at contrary it points to an origin of Jesus from a god different than YHWH ?
    Well, my answer is: no, it cannot be a coincidence.

  11. I find strange this presumed “innocence” of Mark from the marcionite polemic. Mark 2:18 is a trace of a rivalry with John the Baptist that is survived from the source of Mark (*Ev). In addition, Neil knows surely better how much times the name of “Marcion” occurs in any good case against the authenticity of the Pauline epistles, and since Mark is assumed tio come after said epistles, how of grace can it be totally exempt from the marcionite polemic?

    Vice versa, if one assumes that Marcion is a late phenomenon, then he/she should assume the traditional date for the epistles…

    1. All I ask for is evidence — not conjecture or a reading into the text a polemic for which the text itself does not offer any explicit evidence. You might be right — but I can only suspend judgement and continue in the meantime interpretations for which I see explicit supporting evidence.

      Your comment above tells me that you believe the Gospel of Mark “has” to be involved in anti-Marcionite polemic for reasons x, y and z — but that’s not evidence. Rather, it’s an invitation to reading the text with a bias that will naturally confirm what one expects to find. That’s a common enough method, unfortunately, but it’s not a valid one.

      Yes, a John the Baptist introduction to the Gospel of Mark might have been constructed with the purpose of debunking Macion’s views, and it certainly is inconsistent with (opposed to) Marcion’s teaching, but I cannot see anything in the text or external evidence that tells me that the reason the author created the scenario was in order to debunk Macion. Rather, I can see other explicit evidence (within the larger themes and structure of Mark itself) and independent evidence that leads me to interpret the scene as having a quite different function from bothering with Marcionism.

      To demonstrate that, say, the John the Baptist (or burial of Jesus or other scene) in the gospel is meant to be an ant-Marcionite polemic, one needs to demonstrate the anti-Marcionite evidence in the gospel itself as well as explain why that evidence outweighs or discredits evidence for alternative interpretations.

      Simply reading a passage and noting that it’s not something Marcion would or did say is not sufficient grounds for asserting that it was composed to serve an anti-Marcionite function. It only tells us that the author was not writing from a Marcionite perspective — whatever the time or situation he or she was writing in.

      1. Mark 2:18 would have never put the John the Baptist’s disciples in league with the Pharisees questioning Jesus in opposition to the fast, if John the Bsptist had been an invention, or a tradition, totally injected or filtered through Mark to make him the friendly precursor of Jesus.

        But then again, Mark would have never disclosed the identity of Jesus (as son of god, and of that god: YHWH) just in correspondence of the parallel passages in *Ev where the same identity is not only not disclosed, but enveloped in a silence not even supportive of the idea that YHWH was behind Jesus, and not rather an higher god.

        Note that I have not to prove that Mark is reacting against a gospel where really YHWH is not the true father of Jesus. What is sufficient is to prove that Mark was disturbed by the secrecy about the identity of Jesus insofar that secrecy could be strumentalized as evidence of a paternity of Jesus different from YHWH. I think that that embarrassment by Mark has been proved. All here.

        1. Again you are presenting me with “either X or Y” options — but why limit our research into just two points of reference? Why not explore a territory to see all of the options it has to offer? What do you know about the author of the gospel that assures us of what particulars he would or would not write about John the Baptist? Why would the author have set up a personified OT prophetic announcer of Jesus yet denied that this personification would cohere with OT practices inherited by the Pharisees?

          You speak of “friendly”. But what evidence do you have from the Gospel of Mark of “friendship feelings” between John the B and Jesus?

          As for you second paragraph, are you assuming that the author of the Gospel of Mark knew Marcion’s Gospel?

          And as for your third paragraph, again I am lost- — you seem to be assuming a lot about what I must believe, or what the “messianic secret” must necessarily imply. I do not accept that the messianic secret is related to the identity of the particular god that Jesus comes from — do you have evidence to support what I think you are saying here? What in the Gospel of Mark informs us that the author is “disturbed” by any suggestion that Jesus has come from Marcion’s “good god”?

          Are you not simply bypassing the reasons I have tried to say are problematic for me (re your thesis and assumptions) and complaining that I do not accept your arguments? Why not address the problems of method I have identified in your argument. How do you assure us that you are not falling into the sin of “confirmation bias” in your reading of Mark?

          1. My argument is the following:

            1) In Mark there is again and again secrecy about the true identity of Jesus;
            2) at least in three places Mark breaks a such secrecy;
            3) in the exact correspondence of these three places, the secrecy is still there in *Ev;
            4) the fact (3) is not a mere coincidence: it has to be explained;
            5) I can find an explanation for Mark breaking the secrecy, while I can’t find an explanation for *Ev preserving the secrecy where Mark broke it. Therefore: Mark corrected *Ev.

            I think that this argument is the more simple and economical to prove the Markan posteriority. Note that this argument concedes that Mark is an enigmatic text with all the his emphasis on secrecy (hence you cannot deny that I am ignoring the commentaries on Mark’s secrecy).
            The second argument is less strong but yet valid: frankly I don’t see the reason for Mark inventing or preserving John’s disciples allied with Pharisees against Jesus (at least not after that the reader is reassured in the invipit that Jesus and John are both on the same page), unless it is a trace of a previous gospel where John the Baptist is put in a bad light. To think otherwise exposes to the easy criticism of doing harmonization of the text, the exact thing I don’t like to do because it resembles too much the expedients used in apologetics (especially to prove that in Paul there is not contradiction between different passages).

            You cannot say that the secrecy is not about the god of Jesus, since the reader would like to know why the Barabbas’ sin is to be the “Son of his Father”: who is his Father?

            1. While I am very open to the possibility that our Gospel of Mark is an off-shoot (hostile or friendly or other) of Marcion’s Gospel, I have difficulty accepting the claim that GMark is engaging in polemic with Marcion’s Gospel in the following 3 places (I did some scratching around to find these three points of yours):

              1. Marcion’s gospel has Jesus replying to his interrogators asking him if he is the Son of God, “YOU say that I AM” — contra Mark’s “I AM”.

              —- Why is Marcion’s version more likely to be original here than Mark’s? Is it not at least just as reasonable to suggest that Marcion has added the “YOU say that”?

              2. Jesus flatly refuses to answer the Pharisees’ question about his authority (Marcion) versus Jesus refuses but implies an answer in a follow-up parable of the vineyard.

              —- Even without the parable the statement of Jesus appears to suggest that the choice of authority is between a human one and a heavenly (Yahweh) one. Is that correct?

              3. In Marcion’s gospel Jesus is not introduced as being a son of Yahweh though he is introduced as the son of Yahweh in the Gospel of Mark.

              —- I may not understand your point here. But is it not just as reasonable to think that Marcion chose to write a gospel that omitted the opening of Mark’s gospel to suit his theological preference?

              1. A solution that requires the manipolation of a gospel by Marcion (as author or as corruptor) is not preferable to a solution that requires only that a gospel (*Ev) is dangerously associated to a marcionite interpretation.This is particularly true in the case of the point (2): even if I assume (and willingly) that, for the original author of the episode, “Jesus appears to suggest that the choice of authority is between a human one and a heavenly (Yahweh) one”, even so it is a fact that in marcionite hands the same episode was interpreted as an antithesis between a demiurgical one and an alien one, hence forcing Mark to remedy by adding, immediately after, the clarification about who the god of Jesus is, with the Parable of the Vineyard.
                My point is that the position of default has to be that a gospel where the ambiguity (about the identity of the god of Jesus) is found is older than a gospel where the same ambiguity is dissipated (hence betraying an editorial fatigue).

              2. My understanding of “editorial fatigue” as raised by Mark Goodacre is that it is apparent when a text slips back into the more familiar wording from an earlier source — not so much an undertaking to create an entirely new episode (which does not suggest “fatigue” at all, I would think.)

              3. You will have to forgive me, mate, but there comes a point in a discussion where I sometimes forget what was the initial point to be resolved. :-/ — ??

            2. Oi, this is not very nice: https://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=163903&sid=74217a5c061641c9757bf2a0a66e332a#p163903

              It is strange when even a (wisely) skeptical person on everything sounds dogmatic in his defense of the Markan priority, despite of the argument I have raised for argue the opposite.

              I have said I am open to Mark not being the first and that you might even be right. But I have asked you for evidence and you have replied with hypothesis. There are many more places in Mark where the “secret” is broken — have you checked those against Marcion’s gospel, too? And how can you be sure you know what Marcion’s original gospel was when our criticisms of it relate to a time after it appears to have undergone some redaction?

              Hence I wonder: what are the psychological motivations behind the hard-to-die Markan prioritists (assuming they are not religious people)?

              I have found the following:
              1) Mere conservatorism;
              2) a kind of horror vacui: objectively, the priority of a form of proto-Luke (*Ev) implies the recognition that we can’t explain the earliest narrative by reducing all of it to allegory;
              3) fear of adding fuel to a kind of conspiracy theory: how someway the idea that all the Canonical gospels are an anti-marcionite reaction is (wrongly) considered;
              4) The implicit debunking of the specific pet theory cultivated by someone.

              You overlooked the possibility that I am very conscious of how I have in the past slipped into what turned out to be erroneous views and I am very keen on examining both assumptions and methods of argument. You have not responded to my point about circularity.

    1. Hi Neil, the addition of “wisely” is meant to be “very nice”. At any case, given that in all the other points where Mark breaks the silence so *Ev does, my three occurrences are enough to make a case. In addition, we have the first external evidence of Mark only in marcionite times (i.e. in times where the association has been already made between Marcion and a gospel). Aren’t you who insisted (rightly) on the weight of an external evidence?

      1. It’s not the “wisely” that I take as inappropriate; it is the implication that I must have a psychological problem if I don’t agree with your argument. I’m sure you don’t mean that.

        I have seen coincidences enough times to know that they do not always require one explanation. There is much more to Mark than the secrecy motif. And external evidence needs to be matched with internal evidence — and I have asked about that (internal evidence of an interest in countering docetism) but as far as I am aware you have not responded.

        Before I can accept an idea I want to examine all aspects related to it, not just a single issue.

        1. My point above is SIMPLY that Mark is removing ambiguity about who (the father of) Jesus is from passages where a such ambiguity was strumentalized (to say the least) by Marcion. I have found another “coincidence”, number 4:

          The episode of Bartimaeus is found in both Mark and *Ev. It may be strumentalized in a marcionite way along the following lines: Bartimaeus gives up to hail Jesus as davidic only after, not before, he gains the sight (just as Adam and Eve realize the salvific function of the Serpent only after their act of disobedience). Realizing the danger of the marcionite interpretation, Mark adds the episode of the blind of Bethsaida that is exactly simmetrical to the Bartimaeus episode: Marcion has only the rapid healing of the blind called Bartimaeus while
          Mark has added the delayed healing of the blind of Bethsaida. The delay is explained by the vision of “men as tree walking”, i.e. blind people want a king-messiah for themselves (the allusion is to Judges 9:8-15). The inference is that Bartimaeus has healed rapidly just because he recognized Jesus as already the davidic Messiah and didn’t wish one yet to come. In this way the initial recognition of Jesus as davidic messiah by Bartimaeus is not seen more in (Marcionite) antithesis to his secondary recognition of Jesus as son of god.

          1. My point above is SIMPLY that Mark is removing ambiguity about who (the father of) Jesus is from passages where a such ambiguity was strumentalized (to say the least) by Marcion.

            Understood. But you have not responded to my question about your point here. What evidence is there in the Gospel of Mark that the narrative is focused on secrecy about the father of Jesus? I do not recall reading this particular secret among the several listed by Wrede in his work, The Messianic Secret. From what I can see, the idea that Mark’s father is a “secret” is introduced into your reading of Mark by the assumption that it is responding to Marcion’s gospel. But it is that assumption that needs to be tested or proven — not assumed.

            In other words, your interpretation of Mark (that it involves the secret of the identity of the father of Jesus), is read into any place in Mark where Jesus’ father is mentioned or suggested. It is not read “out of” the text but “in to” the text.

            It is not some emotional knee-jerk need to preserve Markan priority that is making me resistant to your idea, but the logical fallacy (begging the question, as I see it) that I have described above.

            The same difficulty, as I see it, applies to your interpretation of Bartimaeus and the blind man at Bethsaida. You are reading one possible interpretation into the texts. There is nothing that I can see in the text itself that would prompt a reader or lead the reader to make your interpretation. Other interpretations are possible and are found in the commentaries. So how does one decide which interpretation is the most likely to have been in the author’s mind? To answer that one is best advised, I think, to look for specific clues in themes, motifs and vocabulary in the Gospel of Mark itself. Otherwise, are we not “reading into” Mark an interpretation that we want to read rather than one we are compelled to read — much the way many read gospel narratives into certain passages in the Letters of Paul instead of trying to understand Paul first of all from the context of the letters alone?

  12. What evidence is there in the Gospel of Mark that the narrative is focused on secrecy about the father of Jesus?

    Mark 11:28: “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”

    1. There is no “secret” here. On the contrary, the narrative only works because the author knows the readers have long since understood Jesus’ authority to be “from heaven”. The Pharisees refuse to answer because they fear offending the people — not because of any secret. Jesus does not give an answer explicitly because he has already turned the tables and trapped the Pharisees with his question. It is a “trap” question, not a secrecy question.

      1. The Transfiguration episode is able to introduce the voice from heaven “this is my beloved son” in a way that contradicts the same voice at the baptism “this is my beloved son”, since in the latter case Jesus is rewarded for the his apparent submission (via baptism) to John the Baptist/”Elijah” while in the former case Jesus is rewarded for the his evident superiority over Moses and Elijah. The reason is that it is not the same god who is talking from above.
        I would invite you to review the Vinzent’s book Christ’s Torah with this necessary corollary: that even if Marcion didn’t write *Ev (contra Vinzent), it is the threat of a marcionite interpretation of *Ev to provoke a reaction in Mark.
        A valid analogy is the apology advanced by propaganda service to justify why some Ukrainian soldiers have as tattoo a swastika: it would be an “innocent” old Indo-European symbol. This apology doesn’t persuade insofar the interpretation usually connected with this symbol makes it a perverse symbol of evil.

        1. You are still reading your interpretations into the text and not out of the text. You begin with your theory and read evidence for it into the data, or interpret the text to fit the theory. That’s “begging the question”. It is “confirmation bias” — such an approach cannot be falsified. You can interpret everything that way and apply ad hoc rationalizations to whatever does not fit the theory. That’s not good scholarship or even logical reasoning. It’s finding what you want to find, not what is actually there.

          There is no contradiction between the “this is my beloved son” episodes (John’s baptism and transfiguration) – except what you are reading into the two. Nothing in the text itself supports your interpretation. Your interpretation is what you have begun with and you are reading it “INTO” the text, not “out of” the text.

          I have read Vinzent’s Christ’s Torah (I actually translated it before it was published in English and sent Vinzent my translation) but I prefer to take things slowly, checking out each footnote, thinking through the implications vis a vis what else we know and comparing with other interpretations.

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