Tag Archives: Sea of Galilee

Did Mark Invent the Sea of Galilee?

And while we’re talking about interesting posts elsewhere I must add one by Paul Davidson on his Is That in the Bible? (Exploring the Judeo-Christian Scriptures) blog. His recent post is Did Mark Invent the Sea of Galilee? It’s an interesting discussion on why the author of the second gospel decided to call that lake a sea. Paul Davidson brings in a range of sources into the discussion. About the only one he doesn’t reference is the possibility (according to some) that the theological or parabolic adventures on that “sea” were based on Paul’s career.

One message is clear (at least to me): the author is writing a creative narrative rich in theological symbolism.

The story of Jesus: History or Theology?

One of the most interesting and easiest-to-read studies of the Gospel of Mark I have ever read is Werner H. Kelber’s Mark’s Story of Jesus. In this book he shows readers that the apparent random crossings back and forth across the “Sea of Galilee” by Jesus are not so random after all, but are really ciphers for a very cogent theological message.

Sea voyages 1 and 2

Jesus begins his ministry in Capernaum in Galilee, and his first crossing of the “Sea of Galilee” is from that Jewish territory (after having taught his many parables to his Jewish audience in Mark 4, and which he said they would not understand anyway) across to the other side where Gentiles lived, “the region of Garasenes/Gadarenes/Gergesenes” — Mark 5:1. read more »

Mark: failed geography, but great bible student

Picture of Map
Image via Wikipedia

Much has been said about Mark’s poor knowledge of the geography of Palestine. A classic case is his bizarre itinerary for Jesus leaving Tyre to go north, then south-east, then back east again, to reach is final destination. On the map here, locate Tyre, run your finger north to Sidon, then let it wander to the right and downwards till it reaches Decapolis, then zero up to the “lake” of Galilee.

That is the route that the Gospel of Mark says Jesus took in order to get from Tyre to the “sea of Galilee”.

Jesus’ travel agent must have been offering a super-bargain or Mark had little real knowledge of the geography of the area, or . . . . and there IS a very simple explanation, I think.

And that explanation is, suggests R. Steven Notley in an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature (128, no. 1, 2009: 183-188), that the author of this gospel was simply following a passage in the Book of Isaiah that early Christians interpreted as a prophecy of where the Messiah was to appear and perform his saving works.

Isaiah 9:1

. . . in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.

This passage is better known from the Gospel of Matthew (4:12-16). But Notley finds good reasons to suggest Mark knew it — and used it — in his gospel, and has suffered the reputation of being a geographic illiterate ever since! read more »