Here, again, scepticism is rampant. Modern approaches to the Gospels consider the gospel material to be the product of a long and complex process of traditions-history, a view that has difficulty accommodating the direct connection between Mark and Peter suggested by Papias.
First, we must question whether the assuredness with which critics identify the origins and growth of traditions is always justified. In many cases the basis for such judgements does not appear to be strong, and we may well think that the derivation of a given pericope from Peter himself may satisfy the evidence equally well. The vividness and detail of the second gospel is said to point to an eyewitness.
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Only Mark, for instance, mentions that the grass on which the five thousand sat was green This focus may be narrowed by another feature of the gospel: the especially critical light in which the Twelve are displayed. While found in all four gospels, the picture of the disciples as cowardly, spiritually blind, and hard of heart is particularly vivid in Mark.
This, it is held, points to an apostolic viewpoint, for only an apostle would have been able to criticise the Twelve so harshly. First, Peter figures prominently in Mark, and some of the references are most naturally explained as coming from Peter himself e. Again, however, there seems to be no compelling reason to reject the common opinion of the early church on this matter. Early tradition is not unanimous about the place where Mark wrote his gospel, but it favours Rome. The anti-Marcionite prologue to Mark late second century?
Both Ireneus Adv. None of these points, however, carries much weight: numbers 1 and 3 could fit a provenance anywhere that boasted Gentile and Latin influence; number 6 is of questionable validity and, even if accepted, could point to several possible locations Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus ; numbers 4 and 5 are valid only if Mark was written in the middle sixties we will argue for an earlier date, in the middle or late fifties ; and number 3 assumes that there was only one Rufus in the early church.
Nevertheless, there is nothing in the gospel that is incompatible with a Roman provenance, and Mark may well have been in Rome with Peter for some years prior to the writing of 1 Peter. Two other specific provenances have gained support from modern scholars. While certainty is impossible, a Roman provenance is the best alternative, granted the strength of the early tradition and the lack of any evidence from within the New Testament to the contrary. Mark has been dated in four different decades: the forties, the fifties, the sixties, and the seventies.
A date in the forties has been proposed on the basis of historical and papyrological considerations. Another problem in the way of dating Mark as early as the forties arises if we give credence to the traditions that the gospel was written in Rome on the basis of the preaching of Peter. Although possible, it is not likely that Peter came to Rome in the early forties. The argument assumes that Acts ends where it does, with Paul languishing in a Roman prison, because Luke published the work at that time that is, in about AD If we then accept the prevailing scholarly opinion that Luke used the canonical Mark as one of his key sources, Mark must have been written by 60, at the latest.
The majority of contemporary scholars date Mark in the sixties, for three reasons. First, the earliest traditions favour a date for Mark after the death of Peter. The main argument for dating Mark as late as the seventies rests on the assumption that Mark 13 reflects the actual experience of the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans.
As several scholars have shown, Mark 13 shows very little evidence of being influenced by the course of events in AD As long as we grant Jesus the ability to do so, Mark 13 will offer no help in dating the gospel. Mark, then, is to be dated either in the late fifties or the middle sixties. While the latter is the majority view, we favour the late fifties.
Indeed, we are required to date Mark before AD60 if our assumptions about the ending of Acts and the priority of Mark are valid. Dating Mark in the fifties does go against the earliest traditions about Mark having been written after the death of Peter. But other traditions affirm that Mark wrote while Peter was still alive, so the early evidence is by no means unanimous on the subject.
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Mark is a self-effacing narrator. He tells his story with a minimum of editorial comments and says nothing about his purpose or his intended audience. We must, depend, then, on the early testimonies about Mark and on the character of the gospel itself for information about his readers and his purpose. The extrabiblical sources point to a Gentile Christian audience, probably in Rome. If Mark wrote in Rome, he probably wrote to Romans. This is either stated or implied in the early traditions about the gospel, which have Mark recording the preaching of Peter for those who had heard the great apostle in Rome.
As we have noted above, the many Latinisms of the gospel are incompatible with, if not conclusive for, a Roman audience.
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That Mark writes to Gentiles seems clear from his translation of Aramaic expressions, his explanation of Jewish customs such as the washing of hands before eating [—4] , and, in the few texts he includes on the subject, his interest in the cessation of the ritual elements in the Mosaic law see —23, esp. Interest in this question has been high because of its importance in redaction criticism, the most popular contemporary method of interpreting the Gospels.
Redaction critics typically stress theological purposes in the writing of the Gospels, and this has certainly been the case with respect to Mark.
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The large number of specific proposals forbids our giving anything close to a complete survey. We mention here three representative interpretations, the first focusing on eschatology, the second on Christology, and the third on apologetics. But the meeting with Jesus to which these verses refer is clearly a postresurrection meeting, not the parousia.
For one thing, evidence for a polemical stance in Mark is not at all clear he probably does not have any opponents in view at all. A specific kind of apologetic was discerned in Mark by S. According to Brandon, Jesus was a sympathiser with the Jewish revolutionaries, the Zealots. For this reason he was crucified by the Romans, a method of execution generally reserved for political criminals.
By branding Jesus as a rebel against Rome, his crucifixion made it very difficult for Christians to win a hearing from the Roman public particularly in the aftermath of the Jewish revolt in Palestine, when, according to Brandon, Mark wrote his gospel. As Ralph Martin has shown, two general concerns emerge from these characteristics: Christology and discipleship. Moreover, believers are to be followers of Jesus.
Mark also shows that Christians must walk the same road as Jesus — the way of humility, of suffering, and even, should it be necessary, of death. Mark thus wants to help his readers understand who Jesus is and what real discipleship involves. But we must recognise that Mark has many other things to say that cannot easily be placed into these categories. Recent study has stressed the theological purposes behind the writing of the Gospels, and we may agree that the evangelists were writing with some specific points to make to the Christian communities in their day.
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But we should not ignore two other, more general purposes, that were probably at work in the production of Mark: historical interest, and evangelism. Our ability to identify the sources Mark has used in composing his gospel depends on our solution to the synoptic problem. If, however, the two-source solution is correct, then both Matthew and Luke have depended on Mark, and we would possess no written source that Mark has used.
As we argue in chapter l of An Introduction to the New Testament , the two-source theory is much more likely to be correct.
And this, as the many conflicting reconstructions demonstrate, is a highly dubious procedure. His material may have come to him in small pieces of tradition, as the classic form critics thought, in both small pieces of tradition and longer oral summaries, or in a combination of these along with some written sources. This long ending is printed as verses 9—20 in the KJV, in modern English versions, it usually appears in the margin or with a notation.
But the arguments against this ending being original are very strong. Second, Jerome and Eusebius both state that the best manuscripts available to them did not contain this longer ending. Third, two other endings to the gospel exist: a shorter ending attested in the uncials L, , , and some other witnesses , and the longer ending combined with an interpolation attested in the uncial W and mentioned by Jerome.
The presence of these alternative endings suggests that there was uncertainty about the ending of Mark for some time. Fourth, the longer ending contains several non-Markan words and expressions. With the great majority of contemporary commentators and textual critics, then, we do not think that verses 9—20 were written by Mark as the ending for his gospel. Three main possibilities exist.
First, Mark may have intended to write more but been prevented from doing so by his death or arrest? This third possibility is becoming more popular and is perhaps the most likely. For him to conclude his gospel with a plain announcement of the fact of the resurrection v. It was only in the nineteenth century that Mark came into a position of prominence. The liberal school of interpretation, pioneered by scholars such as H.
This isolation of Mark was destroyed by the work of W. Specifically, Wrede argued that Mark had imposed on the tradition the notion of the messianic secret.
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The dominance of the form-critical approach during most of the first half of the twentieth century resulted in little interest in Mark as a gospel as such attention was focused on the tradition before Mark. Brandon, and Ralph Martin have been described above. To these could be added numerous other studies, devoted either to the gospel as a whole or to specific themes within the gospel. The methodology of interpreting the Gospels, and Mark in particular, has also been the subject of debate. Another direction is determined by the recent interest in the application of modern literary techniques to the Gospels.
These studies focus on the way in which Mark, as a narrative, is put together and how it may be understood by the contemporary reader. Older questions and methods continue to crop up in the recent literature as well. Notable in this respect is the series of articles by Martin Hengel, which show that Mark must be taken seriously as a historian of early Christianity and that his obvious theological interests do not force us to abandon his material as historically worthless.
One might be tempted to mimic the early church and wonder why one should bother with Mark at all. But that accomplishment in itself should not be underrated. Mark is the creator of the gospel in its literary form an interweaving of biographical and kerygmatic themes that perfectly conveys the sense of meaning of that unique figure in human history, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. Furthermore, by tying the significance of Jesus for the church so tightly to a specific series of historical occurrences in Palestine in the third decade of the first century, Mark has ensured that the church, if it is to be true to its canonical documents, never abandons the real humanity of the Christ whom it worships.
By reminding Christians that their salvation depends on the death and resurrection of Christ, Mark has inextricably tied Christian faith to the reality of historical events. The structure of the gospel has been understood in various ways.
Philip Carrington suggested that a synagogue lectionary sequence lies at the basis of its structure, . The kerymatic structure of Mark helps the readers of the gospel understand the basic salvation events and prepares them to recite those events in their own evangelism. This same bare-bones narrative sequence also throws into prominence the structural divide of Caesarea Philippi.