Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Musings on Mark: 1/16/08

In what will hopefully become a weekly tradition, here are a few particularly juicy tidbits from Prof. Adela Collins' introductory comments in yesterday's inaugural meeting of Greek Exegesis of Mark:

One of the most provocative questions concerning Mark is the question of genre. A number of major theories have been advanced: 1) that it belongs to a unique, independent, inherently Christian "gospel" genre, a theory which was particularly popular in the 1960s and 1970s; 2) that it should be classified as Greco-Roman "biography" (Gk. βιος), a theory which has been revived in recent years by Charles Talbert and Richard Burridge; 3) that it is an attempt to accurately depict the history of Jesus of Nazareth and his first followers, a theory which was wildly popular in the early modern period but was sharply curtailed by the criticisms of Karl Ludwig Schmidt and William Wrede. In her recently completed commentary, Collins describes Mark as an "eschatological historical monograph," borrowing the term "monograph" from Hans Conzelmann's earlier commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. She applies the adjective "eschatological" in light of its pervasive apocalyptic elements, which are not present in Greco-Roman texts. She does, however, note that Mark possesses some affinities with βιος, particularly its didactic and historical sub-genres.

*Although many scholars have assumed that Mark and the other canonical gospels circulated anonymously until the second century, Collins accepts the arguments of Martin Hengel, who argues that this was not the case. As she notes, if the gospel had remained anonymous until this point, surely the early Christian communities would have selected a more notable figure (e.g., Peter) for pseudonymous attribution. Furthermore, under these conditions one would expect to see a variety of attributions, with some communities assigning the gospel to one major figure, other communities to another; no extant copies of Mark bear the name of another author.

*Two schools of thought have emerged concerning the date of Mark, with Jesus' comment concerning the Temple in Mark 13:2 ("Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down") serving as the key to both. Some have argued that this prediction indicates that the gospel was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE; Collins, on the other hand, argues for a date of composition during the Jewish War, possibly during the siege of the Jerusalem, but not after 70.

*The gospel's origin has been traditionally regarded as Rome, and a number of recent studies have also supported this theory, but Collins does not find the arguments convincing. Any major cosmopolitan area, including Jerusalem and Caesarea Maritima, is a possibility.

I hope that I haven't done any injustice to Prof. Collins' fine work through these brief comments. If you want to know more about any of these topics, don't ask me... pick up her commentary! ;-)

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