NT Wright's Mark as "meta-apocalypse"?
- In his first big book, "The New Testament and the People of God", NT
Wright outlines a perspective on the genre of Mark, which he
characterizes as a sort of hybrid between a historical Greco-Roman
biography of the historical Jesus and an apocalypse on "Israel's
story" (which he terms a "meta-apocalypse").
Presumably, this entails four assumptions:
a) Wright's view of "apocalyptic", that is, metaphorical OT language
that invests historical events with their theological significance,
must be the same view that Mark held of that genre.
b) The gospel was written during or shortly after the destruction of
Jerusalem in 70 AD, such that Israel's "national history" that began
at the Red Sea could be presumed complete from a Christian POV.
c) The historical Jesus, as Mark knew Him, was an apocalyptic
prophet (as outlined in Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God) with
three levels of secret: a) the prophet is the king, b) the kingdom
will come with the death of the king, c) the dying king is Israel's
God in person. And Jesus' earthly ministry constituted a conscious
embodying of all these OT typologies.
d) Mark took a) what he saw as "Israel's history", in all its
national and individualistic story cycles and the story of the
historical Jesus, and created a gospel that tied the two together
through a series of OT allusions.
This perspective seems to solve all kinds of problems regarding the
more difficult passages in Mark's gospel, but also introduces others:
1) Is it the reader's task to hunt down and decode all the OT
allusions in Mark's gospel in order to have any chance
of "understanding" the gospel, which has apparently been
misinterpreted "literally" for 1900 years or so?
2) When is an allusion not an allusion? Do the allusions only occur
in isolated form-critical units, or are there long-running portraits
of David, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, the Tabernacle, etc. embedded from
3) Did Matthew and Luke interpret Mark's gospel "literally" or did
they engage in the same kind of OT allusion imagery? (And does John
therefore have more in common with Mark than is assumed,
constituting a "decoded" version of the second gospel?)
What is the panel's understanding and critique of this two-decker
picture of Mark's story? (From my POV, this seems to be a major
breakthrough in understanding Mark's genre.) Comments?
Brian W Smith