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Old 08-14-2001, 10:22 PM   #1
boneyard bill
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Post Was Mark a simple historian?

On another thread, I raised the issue of Earl Doherty's theory concerning the non-existence of a historical Jesus. Unfortunately, that thread has become dominated by personal disputes. I don't know if no one wants to discuss this type of issue or if they just don't want to wade through the vituperative esoterica. So I've started this new thread suggesting that the author of Mark was a simple historian operating in the tradition of Talmudic scholars.

I propose to portray Mark as a believing Christian schooled in a Pauline Christian tradition. This tradition is based on a mythological Christ figure as Doherty suggests or a figure from the remote past as Wells claims. In any case, it believes in a spiritual, not a physical, resurrection. If Mark doesn't have Paul's writings, he is at least familiar with the major factual claims of the tradition i.e. that Jesus was handed over, crucified, buried, and resurrected and that all of this happened in accordance with scripture. He has the Old Testament, and he has a more recent oral tradition. Imagine that he is writing according to Talmudic principles. There can be no contradiction in scripture. Imagine also that he regards the Pauline tradition as scripture. Anything in the oral tradition would have to be interpreted in the light of scripture which can not contain contradiction. The oral tradition would have to give way to scripture.

Given the assumptions listed above, if we know Paul, and we know scripture, and we take them out; what's left is the oral tradition. Let's narrow our study to the passion story. Now what's left? I'm no Biblical scholar, so I can't easily pick out the Old Testament references or clearly ascertain what might be Pauline. However, I suspect that, aside from the details of Palestinian geography, we are left with the Last Supper, a few personalities like Peter, James, and John, Judas Iscariot, and Mary Magdaline. And besides that? - A Galilean martyr and an empty tomb.

So you have the leader of a Galilean sect. He was killed. How was he killed? Maybe stabbed by a disciple. But Pauline tradition (as good as scripture to Mark) says he was crucified. He was betrayed by a disciple. But Pauline tradition says he was "handed over." (If "Iscariot" is a bastardization of sicarii (assassin) as some scholars have speculated, this would fit nicely).

He was crucified by the "powers and forces of the world." Who were the powers and forces of the world in Jerusalem? Pilate, Herod, the High Priest, and the Sanhedron. When was he killed? At the feast of tabernacles? Scripture says he was the "passover lamb." He must have died at passover.

Imagine a Jewish sect whose leader is assassinated. They are thrown into grief and despair and then. His tomb is empty! (From what I understand there are a number of ways this could happen). Maybe he didn't die. Maybe he's still alive, and will return. Could he have been resuscitated? Could there have been a miracle? At any rate, a sense of expectancy would pervade this sect. They go about their business for a generation or so still thinking about the messiah who might soon return. Then the Jewish War breaks out and some of them flee to Jewish communities outside Palestine. Here they meet others who also speak of a savior/messiah (Jesus Christ), and mingle with this group. But now disagreements arise over factual questions concerning the messiah. Someone has to write the history of the sect and sort out the facts in good Talmudic fashion.

Mark stops at the empty tomb. Why? Because the reonciliation of the two traditions is complete at this point. No messiah returned to save Jerusalem. (The messianic secret could be a subtle reference to this misunderstanding of the true nature of Christ's mission). The Pauline tradition has won this one by default. Christ is a personal messiah who saves the individual from eternal death. There's no need to explain a physical resurrection. It remained for the next generation to reconfigure the story as a physical resurrection possibly in response to the discovery of gospel Q.

I can't recall any references in Paul to either baptism or the eucharist. If not this approach would explain their emergence as rituals of the younger Galilean sect, and would explain why Mark begins his gospel with Jesus' baptism.

I would be interested in any comments anyone has on this two-tradition theory. I would also be interested in what people involved in such studies think of the proposed methodology of assuming the priority of Old Testament and Pauline Christianity in Mark's thinking and trying to ascertain an oral tradition from the remainder.
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Old 08-15-2001, 05:53 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally posted by boneyard bill:
Mark stops at the empty tomb. Why? Because the reonciliation of the two traditions is complete at this point. No messiah returned to save Jerusalem. (The messianic secret could be a subtle reference to this misunderstanding of the true nature of Christ's mission). The Pauline tradition has won this one by default. Christ is a personal messiah who saves the individual from eternal death. There's no need to explain a physical resurrection. It remained for the next generation to reconfigure the story as a physical resurrection possibly in response to the discovery of gospel Q.

I can't recall any references in Paul to either baptism or the eucharist. If not this approach would explain their emergence as rituals of the younger Galilean sect, and would explain why Mark begins his gospel with Jesus' baptism.

I would be interested in any comments anyone has on this two-tradition theory. I would also be interested in what people involved in such studies think of the proposed methodology of assuming the priority of Old Testament and Pauline Christianity in Mark's thinking and trying to ascertain an oral tradition from the remainder.
There are a couple of observations you may want to consider in amending your theory. First, Mark does know of resurrection appearances of Jesus. Mark 14:28 and 16:7 make this clear. Mark definitely believed in a physical resurrection. For what other reason would he describe an empty tomb? His point was to emphasize the bodily nature of the resurrection. He wants his readers to believe Jesus’ body has been raised.

Second, Paul does refer to the Eucharist and baptism. See 1 Corinthians 11 in reference to the Eucharist, and the references to baptism are also clear, including Paul’s comments stating that he baptized others in 1 Corinthians 1 (also see Romans 6:4, etc.)

What are your thoughts on this?

Peace,

Polycarp
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Old 08-15-2001, 09:47 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by boneyard bill:
<STRONG>Was Mark a simple historian?</STRONG>
Hey!! Less of the historian please.

Mark
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Old 08-15-2001, 11:54 AM   #4
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Polycarp writes:

Quote:
First, Mark does know of resurrection appearances of Jesus. Mark 14:28 and 16:7 make this clear. Mark definitely believed in a physical resurrection.
Well it means my theory gets shot down on the very first post. But that's OK I just made it up because a certain other theory can't be discussed in this forum without personal issues getting involved. I'm well aware that all kinds of scholars of all persuasions have been digging into these matters bringing a lot more resources to the effort than I have.

I was trying to show how two traditions, neither of which necessarily believed in a physical resurrection could come to hold that view over time, and how it my be dug out of the written record. The two verses you cite have Jesus saying he will meet the disciples in Galilee. Does that really prove Mark believes in a physical resurrection? I can't say for sure but it sure does shift the burden proof for anyone contending otherwise.

As for baptism and the eucharist, in my theory you would just shift those rites to the Pauline tradition.

Thanks for the info.
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Old 08-16-2001, 08:51 AM   #5
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riginally posted by boneyard bill:
Well it means my theory gets shot down on the very first post.


One thing you should get in the habit of is actually looking at the Bible verses that get quoted at you in these forums, because they more often than not contain no support for the apologist's position. However, we are dealing with Polycarp, who is usually pretty circumspect....

(Blue Letter Bible)
14:28 But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

16:7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Note that neither of these verses provides support for either a physical or "spiritual" resurrection. The empty tomb means that the body is gone, only, not that it has been physically resurrected. Interpreting it as saying that the body has been physically resurrected is a post hoc interpretation by the Church, in response to Docetism.

Further support for Mark's compatibility with either position is the assertion of the patristic father Irenaeus, writing c. 180, who (as I recalled) pointed out that the Docetics had a special affinity for Mark's gospel.

Michael
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Old 08-16-2001, 10:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by turtonm:
One thing you should get in the habit of is actually looking at the Bible verses that get quoted at you in these forums, because they more often than not contain no support for the apologist's position. However, we are dealing with Polycarp, who is usually pretty circumspect....

(Blue Letter Bible)
14:28 But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

16:7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Note that neither of these verses provides support for either a physical or "spiritual" resurrection. The empty tomb means that the body is gone, only, not that it has been physically resurrected. Interpreting it as saying that the body has been physically resurrected is a post hoc interpretation by the Church, in response to Docetism.

Further support for Mark's compatibility with either position is the assertion of the patristic father Irenaeus, writing c. 180, who (as I recalled) pointed out that the Docetics had a special affinity for Mark's gospel.
I should have elaborated more on the bodily resurrection. Looking at it from a strictly literary level, I think it is apparent that Mark believed in a bodily resurrection. Jesus predicts his resurrection, says he will appear to his followers at a specific location, is crucified, his body placed in a tomb and the tomb covered by a large stone, the tomb is discovered empty, a young man in a white robe then announces that Jesus “has been raised. He is not here… Go tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you into Galilee.”

Anyone claiming Mark did not believe in a bodily resurrection is going completely against all of the literary evidence. Why did Mark have the empty tomb if there was no bodily resurrection? The empty tomb functions as proof of the bodily resurrection for Mark. The body isn’t in the tomb because of the fact that it has been resurrected, and Jesus will make this known even more clearly to his followers by appearing to them. Why would he also mention the post-resurrection appearances in a specific locale? Examining two verses without placing them in the context of the rest of a literary work will often give skewed results. We don’t judge Shakespeare’s intent by studying two sentences out of one of his works while ignoring the rest of the story.

Yes, Michael… I know you know this about Shakespeare, but it seems like you’re applying different criteria when it comes to Mark. Do you seriously think that Mark did NOT believe in a bodily resurrection? If you do, then please tell us why.

Peace,

Polycarp
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Old 08-16-2001, 12:41 PM   #7
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The interesting point to me is not whether Mark knew of the bodily resurrection. It seems quite clear that Mark was so confident about the matter that he could end at 16:8, with the women fleeing the tomb saying nothing to no one, knowing that his audience knew exactly what had happened. I think what is more interesting isn't Mark's alleged silence on the matter but rather Matthew's and Luke's spirited enlargement of the post-resurrection stories. The later Synoptists seem well aware of Docetism (the view that Jesus did not suffer on the cross) and so wrote an apologetic for a resurrection of the flesh that also served to provide additional evidence in defense of skeptical pagans and Jews in the Diaspora. The early Q gospel has nothing to say on the resurrection, Mark very little, and the later Matthew and Luke a great deal.
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Old 08-16-2001, 12:43 PM   #8
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Yes, Michael… I know you know this about Shakespeare, but it seems like you’re applying different criteria when it comes to Mark. Do you seriously think that Mark did NOT believe in a bodily resurrection? If you do, then please tell us why.

You may be correct, but unfortunately we look at Mark through the lens of 2000 years of the Church's anti-Docetic theology.

Indeed, looking at it in a literary way, there is no way to know for certain what Mark thought. If he had believed Jesus was resurrected in a bodily way, why is there no clear statement of it, like Thomas sticking his hand in the side of Jesus? An empty tomb does not mean anything, Polycarp, either way; it signifies only that Jesus has been resurrected, but not in what form. Did Jesus himself predict in Mark that he would come back with a physical body?

The body isn’t in the tomb because of the fact that it has been resurrected,...

because Jesus has been resurrected. But this does not imply that his body has. The resurrection could well be spiritual. If this interpretation is so rock-solid, why didn't the Docetists reject this gospel? But at least one source said that they actually liked it especially well.

.... and Jesus will make this known even more clearly to his followers by appearing to them. Why would he also mention the post-resurrection appearances in a specific locale?

Who knows? But spirits are often associated with specific places. The fact that he specified a place could mean anything, and again does not necessarily imply a physical resurrection -- nor does it deny it. It seems entirely orthagonal to the question.

Like I said, Mark is compatible with either position, and Docetics who believed only in a spiritual resurrection, and who were a lot closer to the actual writing of Mark than we are now, had no problem utilizing Mark's gospel, at least according to Irenaeus.

I do not know what the writer of Mark believed as far as a resurrection of the Jesus' body. Evidence appears to support either position, and has in the past. Thus, I cannot make up my own mind on the position.

Michael
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Old 08-16-2001, 01:12 PM   #9
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Turtonm:

Quote:
One thing you should get in the habit of is actually looking at the Bible verses that get quoted at you in these forums, because they more often than not contain no support for the apologist's position. However, we are dealing with Polycarp, who is usually pretty circumspect....
I did look at the references but only after I had written my post. And I agree that the language is ambiuous enough to allow a non-physical resurrection and save my theory, but I got involved in other posts and never got back here until now.
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Old 08-16-2001, 01:18 PM   #10
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Poycarp writes:

Quote:
For what other reason would he describe an empty tomb?
I gave a reason. His systhesis is complete. It may not be a very good reason. I've said I no scholar. But why isn't it at least a reasonable explanation?
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