Am I going mad? This looks like a retraction that my memory just told me I have not yet had time to write! When did I do this? Too busy, too busy….. Anyway, here ’tis.
Again about a year or so ago I woke in the middle of the night with “a brilliant revelation” that I had to work out on keyboard asap. I had been exploring the range of views in the scholarship on the date and theology of the Gospel of Peter and it occurred to me that the Gospel of Mark, with so many cryptic unexplained references and incidents, might very well be best explained as a response to the sort of gospel narrative that we find in the Gospel of Peter. I was not arguing that the Gospel of Peter as we have it pre-dates GMark, but if GPeter was setting down in ink a previously known oral gospel then many apparent anomalies in GMark are resolved.
Alas, I have since in my mind revised this idea, but have not yet had time to put down my retractions in any essay yet. I did once begin to do this and on re-reading my GPeter-GMark piece began to wonder again if my retraction would hold water. Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’ve attached a link to my original essay on a GPeter related trajectory of the GMark and other synoptics. It did at least provoke some kind comments and thoughtful responses when first released. I may write something opposite tomorrow, but will leave this idea stand for at least discussion and thought nonetheless.
A year or so ago I wrote an essay discussing characterization in the gospel of Mark and attempted to show that the author paradoxically shows as little interest in the earthly person of Jesus as we find in Paul’s letters. A little thought about the way Mark depicts his characters demonstrates, I think, that he is working at a level as far removed from any interest in Jesus’ earthly history as was Paul. At the time I titled it a bit clumsily Notes on the fictive and parabolic character of Mark’s gospel.
A little while ago while trying to trace the evidence for Christian origins one block in the scholarship that frustrated me was the lack of dedicated studies to what was known of the gospel narrative in the mid-second century. There was no lack of resources on the asserted “sayings of Jesus” and supposed “canonical gospel” allusions, but the only way I decided I would find out what a mid-second century Church Father actually knew or understood the gospel narrative about Jesus to have been was to make the time to prepare this table which I have titled Justin Martyr’s Gospel Narrative.
Have updated and webbed a table to help me keep track of some of the bracket points found in the Gospel of Mark. The opening and closing scenes contain numerous matching “bookends” that are either intended to guide the interpretation of the gospel and/or to help an original oral storyteller recall how the narrative is meant to go (see Shiner’s ‘Proclaiming the Gospel, 2003).
It is not hard to see curious shifting reflections between the lead characters in Josephus and the Gospel of Mark. Judas first, then Simon with James and Simon with John are Jewish rebel leaders and Alexander and Rufus are two Romans responsible for their executions (though John is apparently spared). In Mark we have Judas, Simon Peter, James and John as leaders and Alexander and Rufus named as identifiers of the one pressganged into the execution of their leader. (And the one executed in place of that leader was anciently believed by at least one form of Christianity, and by modern deconstructionists, the author of Mark himself being characteristically ambiguous, to be Simon himself.)
But is there another name also shiftingly reflected between Josephus and Mark that has not yet been remarked on?
“The sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius (Quirinius in Luke 2:2) came to take account of the estates of the Jews, as we have shown in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.” (Josephus, Ant. 20.5.2, Whiston trans.) Continue reading “A Cyrenius-Cyrenian link between Josephus and Mark?”
While it is commonplace to think of the Book of Acts as an unfinished work, appearing to end without a real narrative resolution (with Paul left a prisoner in Rome for “2 years” — no trial, no death, no release) , I keep wondering if the real problem is that we are missing something critical about the intent of the narrative. As one small facet of this question I have raised before the possibility that the author of Acts was emulating the conclusion of the Primary History of Israel which ends with the king of Judah a prisoner in Babylon (sometimes later used as a cypher for Rome) and the circumstances of his imprisonment.
Now on reading bits of Josephus again I wonder if another piece is falling into place, Continue reading “Paul’s reception in Italy and Rome: another Josephus link?”
I originally posted this elsewhere in 2000:
A New paradigm:
On page 125 of his book Doherty writes: “When any set of assumptions is firmly in place, the evidence is usually interpreted in accord with those assumptions. Yet it is clear that the New Testament epistles present the Christian reader and scholar with difficulties and anomalies at every turn. These have traditionally been ignored, glossed over, or subjected to unnatural interpretations and questionable reasoning in order to force them into the mold determined by the Gospels.
“What is needed is a new paradigm, a new set of assumptions by which to judge the epistles (as well as the other non-canonical documents…), one capable of resolving all those contradictions and uncertainties. That paradigm should be determined by what we can see in the epistles themselves and how we can relate their content to what we know of the spirit and conditions of the time.” This is how Doherty approaches not only the epistles but the gospels and noncanonical writings as well. Continue reading “The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? / Early Doherty. (Canadian Humanists, 1999). Review”
In 1992 Philip Davies published a monograph that began a heated controversy over the origins of the Bible and what light archaeology shed on this question. Davies criticized conventional biblical scholarship for lacking the rigour found in archaeological studies of sites without theological significance. He argued that the archaeological evidence suggested that the Bible was composed as late as the Persian era and that the stories of Abraham, the Exodus, David and Solomon were mythical inventions. I have begun to summarize the argument of Davies’ book, In Search of Ancient Israel.
Book details: Davies’ In search of ancient Israel (Sheffield, 1997)
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