Other “stuff” in Mark

This section contains a summary of a few other things found in Mark not discussed above, with a few brief comments.

The passion is, of course, a major theme in Mark (Mark 14 and 15). There is also the theme of the messianic secret. We as readers are let in on the secret from the beginning, and the demons know, but others in the narrative have to discover that Jesus is the Son of God.

Mark is a short gospel. There is no infancy account in Mark for example. Mark starts with the baptism by John, where Jesus receives the Holy Spirit from God.  In contrast, Matthew and Luke both have a nativity and a genealogy of Jesus, although their accounts are very different from each other. Matthew and Luke start telling the same story in almost the same words at the point that Mark’s gospel starts. This makes sense since they both used Mark as a source, but each added different prologs. It’s also interesting to note here that while all three of our modern gospels say (Mark 1/ Matthew 3/ Luke 3) (KJV) “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased” some ancient authorities for Luke say “Today I have begotten thee”. This echoes Psalm 2 – “I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh. He said to me ‘You are my son. Today I have Fathered you.’”  A possible indication that Mark may originally have contained this language is the echo of Psalm 2 in Mark 1:37-38 “…so that I may proclaim the message there too, because that is why I came”.  Neither Matthew, nor Luke contains this passage. Scholars think that some ancient Christians believed that the spirit of God joined Jesus at baptism, and left him just before he died. We may hear an echo of this belief in Jesus’ words on the cross (Mark 15:34) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Mark ends with the empty tomb. We are told that Jesus has risen, but Mark’s gospel does not contain an appearance by him. The current “long-ending” we have for Mark (Mark 16:9-20) is a late addition, not present in the best ancient authorities. It is also written in a different style that the rest of Mark.. There could have been a lost ending to Mark of course, but what we have from the original author ends with the empty tomb. Then, it is interesting that who the women encounter at the tomb varies from gospel to gospel. Matthew has an angel of the Lord descending. Luke has two men in brilliant clothes. John has two angels in white sitting. Mark has a young man in a white robe.

The young man in Mark might possibly be the same one we see during the arrest of Jesus, in a passage unique to Mark (Mark 14:48-52 New Jerusalem) “Then Jesus spoke, ‘Am I a bandit,’ he said, ‘that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I was among you teaching in the Temple day after say and you never laid a hand on me. But this is to fulfill the scriptures.’ And they all deserted him and ran away .A young man followed with nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the cloth in their hands and ran away naked.” However, another possibility here is that this is another reference to Isaiah, although this is rather speculative.

Isaiah 47:3-4 is a difficult passage in Hebrew and translations vary a lot here. The first part is fairly clear, “Let your nakedness be displayed and your shame exposed. I am going to take vengeance”. Then we have “no one will”, conjunction, “I will”, “not”, “Our redeemer”.... Now I make no claims here as to what the author of Isaiah meant, but maybe Mark’s community wanted to claim that it could be parsed this way, “Let your nakedness be displayed and your shame exposed. I am going to take vengeance. No one [else] will. I will. Not our redeemer”. Mark then has Jesus saying “I will not take vengeance, God will”.

The connections between the two passages are “uncovered nakedness” in both and vengeance in Isaiah with a situation where Jesus declines violence in Mark. There is also the fact that Jesus says we should be looking for a scripture here. The fit is not very good, but then no scripture with a better fit has been proposed as far as I know. I think we would have to speculate that Mark, in his crafting of fulfilled prophecies, stretched a bit too far with this one. 

If we want to speculate that Mark wanted to push this even further we can note that the passage continues, “Yahweh Sabaoth is his name, the Holy One of Israel”. The verb “says” is then missing in the Hebrew, so the sentence could end there. “Yahweh Sabaoth” is “Lord of armies”. Mark calls Jesus, “The Holy one of God”, and “Lord of the Sabbath”. Could Mark have wanted his audience to think “Lord of the Sabbath” = “Yahweh Sabaoth” and “Holy One of Israel” = “Holy One of God”? That would assume that Mark was either confused about the meaning of “Sabaoth” himself, or knew that his audience was unfamiliar enough with Hebrew that he thought he could get away with that. This argument is very speculative, and I don’t wish to push it too far, but it is an odd bit in Mark, no matter what we do with it.

To look at a couple of other feature in Mark, I need to refer to my preferred solution to the synoptic problem. I think my statistical study
http://www.davegentile.com/synoptics/main.html demonstrates to a very high degree of probability that Mark was first, and that Matthew and Luke both used Mark, or at a version of Mark as a source. Also, although this result is much less clear than my result indicating Mark was the first gospel, the study suggests that a least a little of Matthew’s vocabulary found its way into Luke. Scholars have also made these same observations in other ways. The problem with this is that for other reasons many scholars have argued that it seems fairly unlikely that Luke actually had a copy of Matthew in front of him as he worked. Generally, this leads me to support something intermediate between the standard 2-source hypothesis, and the “Mark without Q” hypothesis. I think Luke had access to at least some of Matthew’s text, and “Q” is smaller than generally supposed.

One way Matthian language could have gotten into Luke is that we could imagine that the gospel of Matthew comes into use in one city. Luke, in another part of the Mediterranean region writes to his friend in the city that now uses Matthew. Luke’s friend tells him some things about the new gospel, and includes certain pieces of the text of Matthew in his letter, but does not send a whole text of Matthew. Luke then creates his gospel from his copy of Mark, a sayings source, and his friend’s letter about Matthew.

This idea works well for a section of text like the “casting out Satan” controversy. (Mark 3) Scholars have long recognized that the relationship between the three synoptic texts seems different here than in most sections. In most sections Mark’s text seems to be intermediate between Matthew’s text, and Luke’s text. This makes sense, if Matthew and Luke both used Mark's text independently. However, in the controversy section, Matthew’s text is the intermediary one. Another clue here involves where Luke located the controversy in his gospel. He does not locate it with other text that he got from Mark; he locates it with text that is generally assigned to “Q”. Matthew on the other hand has the controversy at a location is his gospel that corresponds to the location of the controversy in Mark.

The scenario that works best for me here is that Luke is working from a copy of Mark that does not have the controversy, and a section of text identical to Matthew's controversy. Since Mark's controversy breaks up two references to the family of Jesus, it is easy to suppose it might not have been in some copies of Mark. Luke’s copy of Mark would then have read something like (New Jerusalem) “He went home again, and once more such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relations heard of this they set out to take charge of him; they said “He is out of his mind”. [When his relations] arrived and standing outside they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."” This text would come immediately after the call of the 12 disciples in Mark.

That seems a little harsh. His family thinks he’s nuts and he seems to disown them. So we could speculate something like a margin note was made here in a version of Mark, explaining why Jesus could not really be insane / possessed by an evil spirit, as his family thought. Then in a subsequent copy of Mark the controversy got added to and broke up the main text. Also Mark has one phrase that could be seen as an after-life judgment (Mark 3:30). It has this directed against the Pharisees - “Anyone one blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is guilty of eternal sin”.  However, as argued above Mark seems to believe in a purgatory, and not a form of eternal punishment. That makes this uncharacteristic of Mark. The Trinitarian formulation may also indicate that it comes from a later period that the original Mark. This adds more weight to the argument that this section was not originally in Mark.

So Luke gets this text from his friend’s letter about Matthew, and locates it in his gospel separated from the material he got from Mark. Luke modifies Matthew’s text, which was already a modification of Matthew’s version of Mark. This makes Matthew look like the intermediate text between Mark and Luke, which is what we see in this section. The history of movement that I would propose for the “controversy” then is, “margin of Mark” to “a version of Mark leading to our Mark” to “Matthew” to “a letter to Luke” to “Luke”. It was never in the original Mark nor was it in “Q”.

There is another possible way for Matthian wording to get into Luke. Our surviving copies of Luke could all have been harmonized to match Matthew in some parts. So Luke originally used Mark and Q, but the gospel of Luke was later modified with text from Matthew. We do know that Matthew’s gospel became the favorite of the early church, and we also know that the heretic Marcion had a version of Luke that was different than the one used by the proto-Orthodox church, but we don’t have a copy of Marcion’s version of Luke. It seems reasonable that in losing all of Marcion’s Luke we have lost some of the original Luke.

Both forms of influence of Matthew on Luke are plausible. There is the possibility of pre-production written influence (a letter to Luke), and post-production influence (church harmonization) on Luke. So it might be best to just say Luke was influenced by Matthew, and then on a case by case basis figure out which sort of influence seems to work best for a particular piece of text where influence looks to be probable.

One good candidate for post-production influence is the “special preaching of John the Baptist” (Luke 3:7-18). In its current reconstruction “Q” mostly contains sayings, but it also contains some material that is more narrative in character, and therefore looks less “Q” like. The John the Baptist text fits this description, and is particularly suspect, since we know that Marcion’s Luke was supposed to be missing material related to John. According to this hypothesis then, these narrative bits were probably authored by Matthew, and later made their way into all surviving copies of Luke.

This could be important for the project of attempting to re-construct the historical Jesus. Mark has some apocalyptic material, see Mark 13 for example. Although in contrast to Matthew who talks about the end of the world (24:3), Mark only talks about the destruction of Jerusalem. One of the main arguments that some of this material goes back to the historical Jesus is that since John the Baptist who came before Jesus was apocalyptic, and Paul who came after Jesus was apocalyptic, it is likely that Jesus was as well. This is not the only argument, but it is an important one. However, I’m not so sure John was apocalyptic. Mark does not have apocalyptic teachings on the lips of John. Matthew and Luke have this, and this is generally attributed to the Q source. But, I would say that this more narrative bit of text originated in Matthew and was transferred to Luke. So, in my reconstruction, neither of our earliest sources, Mark nor “Q”, point to John as an apocalyptic prophet. I’m not saying that Jesus couldn’t have been apocalyptic, but my confidence here is less than some scholarship on the subject, that assumes John’s apocalyptic message was in “Q”.

Finally one last feature of Mark that, to me, seems almost paradigmatic of the contrast between Mark and Matthew is that Mark is inclusive. Mark 9:40 – “Anyone who is not against us is for us”, in contrast to Matthew who is exclusive. Matthew 12:30 – “Anyone who is not with me is against me.”
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