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8612Re: [XTalk] Dating of GMark

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  • Ted Weeden
    Dec 3, 2001
      Brian Trafford wrote on Friday, November 30, 2001:

      > 1) The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:1-36/Matthew 24:1-51/Luke 21:5-36)
      > Mark 13:1-2 [snipped]
      > A lot of the debate surrounding the dating of the Synoptics hinges
      > around whether or not Jesus could have made this prophecy so long
      > before the events that led to the actual destruction of Jerusalem and
      > the Temple in the Jewish War 66-70CE. [snipped]. [T]he majority
      > of scholars argue that Jesus did not make this prophecy, and that it
      > was a later addition by Mark, when it became obvious that the Jewish
      > revolt would be put down by the Romans, and in traditional Roman
      > style, Jerusalem would be leveled, so Mark was not really going out
      > on a limb in making this forecast, even if he did make it at the
      > beginning of the War (66CE).
      > There is a serious problem with this argument however, and one that
      > leaves those arguing for this relatively late date in a bit of a
      > dilemma. If we assume that it was the author that added this prophecy
      > later on (when it was relatively safe to do this), why did he also
      > then add the other parts of the prophecy that clearly had not
      > happened (and have still not happened) by the late 1st Century. Worse
      > yet, why would Matthew and Luke put them into their works, especially
      > if these prophecies would embarrass Christians, and possibly expose
      > Jesus to the charge of false prophecy?

      My response:
      Apocalypticists are always predicting events with timetables which turn out
      to be an embarrassment when the timetables are not met. The Book of
      Revelation, as in the case of the Synoptic little apocalypse, has always
      been an embarrassment to Christians, particularly for those who have read it
      literally, because the world still goes on, its prophecy of the end of the
      world notwithstanding.

      I am also puzzled by your suggestion that the creation of the prophecies
      would have the effect of exposing "Jesus to the charge of false prophecy,"
      only for you to state the following a few paragraphs later:
      > (d) Finally, we have a cataclysmic prophecy of the end of the world
      > found in verses 19-26. If Mark is endorsing such a prophecy, it makes
      > very little sense to assume that Mark invented it himself, then
      > attributed it to Jesus, especially since it had not come true even by
      > the late dates of 80-100 commonly ascribed to Luke and Matthew. It
      > seems much more likely that he believed that Jesus had said it
      > himself. And if Jesus said these prophecies, then why would he not
      > have also said the others?

      And still later you state:
      > But if one is going to posit the prophecies as
      > Marcan inventions, then a plausible explanation needs to be offered
      > as to why he would attribute these words to Jesus when they had
      > clearly NOT been fulfilled. By contrast, acceptance that the
      > prophecy did come from Jesus explains very well why it was included
      > in all three of the Synoptics.
      > This is why I am more inclined to side with scholars like Michael
      > Grant, who argues that it is very probable that these prophecies came
      > from Jesus himself.

      If the prophecies originated with Jesus, and those prophecies by the time of
      writing of Mark, as you propose, had not been fulfilled, does that not
      still subject Jesus "to the charge of false prophecy." I have difficulty
      seeing how Jesus is any less subject "to the charge of false prophecy" if
      the prophecies originated with him than he is if the prophecies have been
      falsely ascribed to him. With regard to whether Jesus would have uttered
      such prophecies to begin with, I, with many other Jesus scholars, do not
      think that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptist and, therefore, I do not
      consider the apocalyptic sayings attributed to him to be authentic..

      You go on to state:
      > Given the explicit nature of
      > the prophecies, and the clear fact that they had not been fulfilled
      > during the period in question (mid to late 1st Century), how likely
      > is it that a pure invention would be put in the Gospels and
      > attributed to Jesus himself?

      My response:
      Much pure invention is put into the Gospels and attributed to Jesus. Most
      Jesus scholars today recognize that a number of the sayings attributed to
      Jesus are "pure invention" of his followers post facto. Classic examples
      of such pure invention, to name some among many of them in the Gospels, in
      my view, are the discourse of Jesus in John 13-16 and the prayer in John 17.

      You proceed:
      > Let's look at the prophecies:
      > (a) Major wars would break out (Mark 13:8), with "nations rising
      > against nation". The Jewish War was quite regional in nature, and
      > certainly did not bring on any kind of world wide conflagration
      > (b) The Gospel must be preached to all nations first (v. 10). None of
      > the Evangelists could have believed that all of the nations of the
      > world had heard the Gospel even by 80-100CE.

      My response:
      Mark is not the first early Christian given to hyperbole. Mark and
      other Christians at the time the Roman-Jewish War must have felt like their
      whole world was either at war or threatened with war (see below on my
      location of the Markan community). Likewise with respect to the
      evangelization of the world, I consider this again to be Markan hyperbole.

      > c) In verse 14 we are told of the `abomination that causes
      > desolation' standing where it does not belong". In the words of
      > Donald Guthrie, "the key item in the internal evidence is the
      > reference in Mark 13:14 to the `abomination that causes
      > desolation.' . . . If it be admitted that Jesus himself predicted the
      > event, Mark 13:14 would cease to be a crux . . . The phrase used to
      > describe the event is of such vagueness . . . that it is even more
      > reasonable to assume that it belongs to a time well before the actual
      > happenings." (D. Guthrie, _New Testament Introduction_, pg. 86-87.) I
      > am aware that some speculate that Mark is thinking about the Roman
      > desecration of the Temple in 70, but I think it is far more likely
      > that he is referring specifically to the apocalyptic language found
      > in Daniel 9:27. Whether this reference originates with Jesus, or
      > with Mark, one can hardly use it as a means to date Mark to a post 70
      > time frame.

      My response:
      Are you familiar with Joel Marcus' article, "The Jewish War and the *Sitz im
      Leben* of Mark" (_JBL_, 1992: 441-462) and his interpretation of 13:14 and
      its historical allusion to the occupation of the Temple by Eleazer and other
      Zealots during the winter 67-68 CE, and also the links between Josephus'
      account of the time and Mark 13? I think that Marcus' scenario fits well
      with the struggle that the Markan community is facing as a result of the
      Roman-Jewish War, and I recommend it to you for your consideration. There
      are points where I differ with Marcus (e. g., the issue of Davidic
      messianism as it is related to Mark, as well as his location of the Markan
      provenance, which I note below), but the basic scenario he suggests is

      > That said, the argument that Mark would have used these images of
      > suffering and destruction in the late 60's because of the
      > persecutions by Nero after the great fire in 64 has some merit. After
      > all, this was the first great mass persecution directed specifically
      > at Christians, and it was taking place in the heart of the Empire, at
      > what Christians were already coming to see as the "Whore of Babylon".
      > Apocalyptic beliefs and literature abounded at this time as well,
      > both in the Christian and Jewish communities. And if Mark was written
      > in Rome at this time

      My response;
      As Mahlon Smith has suggested in a post-response to your argument for a
      Roman provenance for the Gospel, I find little convincing support for Mark
      being written at Rome (see below on Peter as source for Mark), and have
      argued instead for the Markan community being located in the village area of
      Caesarea Philippi (see my Xtalk essay of 2/29/00 in the XTalk archives,
      "Guidelines for Locating the Markan Community," See also Joel Marcus'
      article in which he argues against a Roman provenance. Marcus argues
      that the Mark community is located in a Hellenistic city and that Mark
      wrote just before or after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. I agree with
      him that Mark with respect to the dating of Mark and that it is written in
      the midst of a Hellenistic environment. He locates the Markan community
      at Pella. I think, as I state in my essay, that the text itself gives
      clues that the author lives in the village region of Caesarea Philippi.
      Caesarea Philippi had a significant observant Jewish ghetto, which could
      have been the source of some of the tension between the Markan
      Christians and the Jewish ghetto.It also helps account in part for the
      anti-Judean position, as well as anti-Temple position, which Mark takes.
      I also would argue that the Jerusalem church fled to Caesarea Philippi
      as the Roman assault on Jerusalem appeared imminent. The admonition
      to flee to the mountains in Mk. 13: 14, in my opinion is a historical
      allusion to these Judean Christians who fled to the mountainous region
      (Mt. Hermon, etc.) of Caesarea Philippi to avoid the conflagration.

      > 3) Peter as Mark's Source
      > Since even by the most conservative estimates, Mark could be dated to
      > as late as 66, it is not inconceivable to imagine that Peter (who
      > died c. 65-67) could have been at least one of Mark's sources.
      > Certainly the external evidence (found in Papias) supports such a
      > belief, and given Peter's obvious high status within the early
      > Church, it is very plausible to see him as the main source of one (or
      > more) of our earliest Gospels.

      My response:
      Given Mark's vendetta against Peter and the Twelve, as I have articulated in
      my _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_, I find it inconceivable that Peter is a
      source for Mark. Unless Peter is in to assassination of his own
      character, I do not see how it is possible that Peter could be the source
      of the negative profile Mark gives him, a profile that Matthew and Luke try
      assiduously to correct..

      > 4) Simon, Father of Alexander and Rufus
      > Perhaps the most compelling internal evidence for a probable early
      > dating (c. 50-55CE) for Mark comes from his mentioning of "Simon (of
      > Cyrene), the father of Alexander and Rufus" (Mark 15:21).

      I am agreement with Mahlon's position that, while one cannot prove or
      disprove the historicity of the Simon of Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus (Mk.
      15:21), I think they may well be literary inventions of Mark, much the same
      as Judas (as I have argued in several essays on XTalk and still plan one to
      answer critiques of my position) and Barabbas and others likely were. By
      the way in a study of the frequency or lack of frequency of names in the
      time of Jesus, Margaret Williams, in her essay, "Palestinian Jewish
      Personal Names in Acts," in _The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting_,
      finds that "Simon" is "[a] perennial favourite with Jews, especially those
      in Greek-speaking areas... and the commonest male name by far in 1st-century
      Palestine." And she notes with respect to "Alexander " (ALEZANDROS), a
      Greek name (contra your statement that it is a Roman name in your 12/3
      post), that it was not a name commonly used "among 1st-century Jews despite
      its earlier popularity there in aristocratic circles. Most of the
      (1st-century) individuals of the name mentioned by Josephus belong to the
      royal family and all but one of those occuring on the Jerusalem ossuaries
      came from the Diaspora" [She cites Avigad and Sukenik ("Jewish Tomb") at
      this point]. She goes on to say: "In the Diaspora, its [the name
      "Alexander " ] fortunes were mixed. In Egypt and Cyrene there is only a
      scattering of cases and in Greece and Asia Minor not many at any time"
      (96f.). Josephus mentions four men with the name "Rufus," none of them
      Jews:, namely, a Roman calvary commander, a consul, an Egyptian who is a
      soldier in the Roman army, and the Roman procurator of Judea (12-15 CE).
      I may have missed it, but what is the date given for the ossuary? I am
      assuming first century CE, given your position.

      Thank you for stimulating our thinking with your essay.

      Ted Weeden
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