Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Geography Error in Mark 11:1

Expand Messages
  • vincentsapone
    Mark 11:1 reads: 1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Approaching Jerusalem from Jericho (v. 10:46), Jesus
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 4, 2004
      Mark 11:1 reads: 1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage
      and Bethany at the Mount of Olives.

      Approaching Jerusalem from Jericho (v. 10:46), Jesus and his
      entourage would have reached Bethany then Bethphage--the reverse of
      what Mark has.

      Many scholars refer to Mark 11:1 as yet another geography error
      within the Gospel. Some scholars hold out and take a different view.
      In his massive commentary on Mark, Robet Gundry argues that Mark
      mentions Jerusalem, the place of fulfillment first and works his way
      out from there. Mark had a Jerusalem focused mindset which caused
      him to mention Bethphage first since it was closer to Jerusalem.

      "The historical present tense of "they draw near", and the mention
      of Jerusalem before Bethphage, Bethany and the Mount of Olives even
      though Jerusalem lies beyond them emphasize Jerusalem as the place
      where Jsus' passion-and-resurrection predictions will be fulfilled.
      As a result of mentioning the place of fulfillment first, Mark has
      to work backward to Bethphage, probably siuated on the west slope of
      the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley to the east of
      Jerusalem. Pilgrims coming from Jericho would go through or past the
      villages in the reverse order. The awkwardness of two successive but
      unappositional phrases beginning with "to", shows how very intent
      Mark is to make Jerusalem the center of attention because it will
      become the place of fulfilment...." R. Gundry P. 623, Mark A
      Commentary on His Apology for the Cross

      Gundry also wrote:

      "The order Jerusalem-Bethphage-Bethany does not betray topographical
      ignorance, for the succeeding narrative shows knowledge that
      Jerusalem is Jesus' destination, not an intermediate point on the
      way to it."

      I suppose Gundry's view that John Mark actually wrote GMark and
      lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) could influence his view somewhat. I
      do not share this assumption. Marcan authorship aside, I'm curious,
      does this theory have much merit? Are there any other examples in
      antiquity where this was done?

      Matthew 21:1 removes the reference to Bethany which removes any
      potential problem. Luke keeps the Marcan order as it is (did he just
      miss it?).

      Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

      Vincent Sapone
    • Bede
      ... It s at times like this that I real feel for the poor Gospel authors. They wrote down their stuff for the benefit of a few fellow Jesus types and now
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 5, 2004
        > Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

        It's at times like this that I real feel for the poor Gospel
        authors. They wrote down their stuff for the benefit of a few fellow
        Jesus types and now their works are turned upside down and the
        slightest mistake or inconsistancy subject to research papers.

        Mark made a slight mistake here. I am not sure it tells us anything
        except that Mark made a mistake (which we all do). Only taken with a
        lot more evidence could this be taken as part of a case that Mark
        didn't know the area. If I say that we headed to Bristol from London
        and stopped off at Bath and Swindon, I do not expect anyone to pick
        up on the fact that Bath is nearer to Bristol than Swindon. If they
        did, I'd suggest they got out doors more often.

        While most liberal scholars don't accept divine inspiration, they
        continue to labour under the impression that every jot and tittle in
        the NT must have some reason for it. And for what it's worth,
        Guthrie is clutching at straws when he should just shrug.

        Sorry for the slight cynicism, but at times the mill seems to grind
        very fine indeed.

        Yours

        James Hannam
        Pembroke College, Cambridge
      • vincentsapone
        ... fellow ... Actually, this incident is just a tiny part of a larger consideration of Marcan geography which is in turn just a tiny part of a larger
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 5, 2004
          > It's at times like this that I real feel for the poor Gospel
          > authors. They wrote down their stuff for the benefit of a few
          fellow
          > Jesus types and now their works are turned upside down and the
          > slightest mistake or inconsistancy subject to research papers.
          >

          Actually, this incident is just a tiny part of a larger
          consideration of Marcan geography which is in turn just a tiny part
          of a larger consideration of Marcan authorship and provenance. I
          simply want to be thorough.

          > Mark made a slight mistake here. I am not sure it tells us
          anything > except that Mark made a mistake (which we all do). Only
          taken with a > lot more evidence could this be taken as part of a
          case that Mark > didn't know the area. If I say that we headed to
          Bristol from London > and stopped off at Bath and Swindon, I do not
          expect anyone to pick > up on the fact that Bath is nearer to
          Bristol than Swindon.

          Mark has a "chronological" (or psuedo-Chronological) journey of
          Jesus. He is at Jericho in 10:46. From there the order is reversed
          with the two villages. Yes, even natives of a land can make
          mistakes, but there are of course certain mistakes natives do not
          make. This is not conclusive but on a probability scale it would
          slightly push me away from its author having lived in or directly
          around Jerusalem given the author confuses the order of two
          surrounding villages.

          Also, contrary to what you write, the passage constitutes evidence
          that Mark did know the area. It tells us several things. You
          mentioned several places in your thought example. I have no idea
          where Bath and Swindon are. I've never heard of them and could never
          describe them in a journey as Mark has done with his locations. But
          Mark knows of Jericho, he knew, apparently of the major road leading
          from their to Jerusalem (on Meier's maps in MJ series), he knew of
          Jerusalem and several surrounding villages (Bethany, Bethphage, etc).

          The text shows Mark did know of the land but he reversed the order
          of two towns. Does a resident (native?) of that area make this
          mistake? Also it should be noted that this is not the only
          Palestinian geography error in Mark either. I take it he didn't live
          near Geresa and wasn't directly familiar with the Decapolis either.

          >
          > While most liberal scholars don't accept divine inspiration, they
          > continue to labour under the impression that every jot and tittle
          in > the NT must have some reason for it. And for what it's worth,
          > Guthrie is clutching at straws when he should just shrug.

          Details are what drive sound scholarship IMO. On the grand scheme of
          things this single detail and village reversal isn't going to change
          much. Questions of authorship are important enough though--though
          this is a rather dead issue as the author of Mark is anonymous.
          Though I'd still rather learn all I can about the "author detectable
          by contents". Its a part of source evaluation which is a critical
          cornerstone of scholarship.

          Vincent Sapone
        • Brian Trafford
          This raises a more general question for me. How wide spread was the use of maps during the 1st Century? In other words, is there evidence that maps were used
          Message 4 of 5 , Aug 5, 2004
            This raises a more general question for me. How wide spread was the
            use of maps during the 1st Century? In other words, is there
            evidence that maps were used extensively, especially by authors of
            texts written decades after the fact (here I am thinking of authors
            like Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Plutarch, etc.), or that their
            knowledge of places was all that reliable, especially when taken from
            what would have been second hand sources? The author of Acts, for
            example, gets some pretty obscure details on places and people right,
            but is this more the exception, or the rule for ancient documents of
            this type?

            Thanks,

            Brian Trafford
            Calgary, AB, Canada
          • Bob Schacht
            ... This is a good question. Consider that there were no printing presses, of course, so that each map, as well as each book, had to be copied by hand. Its a
            Message 5 of 5 , Aug 5, 2004
              At 10:18 AM 8/5/2004, you wrote:
              >This raises a more general question for me. How wide spread was the
              >use of maps during the 1st Century? In other words, is there
              >evidence that maps were used extensively, especially by authors of
              >texts written decades after the fact (here I am thinking of authors
              >like Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Plutarch, etc.), or that their
              >knowledge of places was all that reliable, especially when taken from
              >what would have been second hand sources? The author of Acts, for
              >example, gets some pretty obscure details on places and people right,
              >but is this more the exception, or the rule for ancient documents of
              >this type?
              >
              >Thanks,
              >
              >Brian Trafford

              This is a good question. Consider that there were no printing presses, of
              course, so that each map, as well as each book, had to be copied by hand.
              Its a whole lot easier (and perhaps more tedious) to copy a book than to
              copy a map. I suspect that Roman military commanders had access to maps, as
              well as the chief civilian administrators. It seems to me that I recall
              that there was an emerging class of international merchant traders who
              dealt only with governments and wealthy individuals; they probably had some
              access to maps, too, because it was important in their business. I would
              guess that maybe half a dozen people in Judea, and another half dozen in
              Galilee, had access to maps. Probably the numbers in Alexandria were much
              larger. Antioch, maybe somewhat larger. Damascus, maybe half a dozen to a
              dozen people.

              In other words, Jesus and his friends probably had no access to maps
              whatsoever. Mark's access to maps would have depended on who his patrons
              really were. I doubt that he had any maps of his own, unless he made some
              sketch maps while viewing someone else's map. However, even making a decent
              sketch map copy of someone else's map assumes a level of geographical
              awareness and map sense that may have been uncommon. We're so used to maps
              that we take the perspective of a map for granted. But I'm just speculating.

              Let me illustrate. In my days as an archaeologist, I would of course make
              drawings of layers of my portion of the site as the excavation proceeded,
              and of the soil profiles in the sides of the excavated area. My trained eye
              knew what to look for, and provided guidance about what features were
              important enough to draw, and what features to ignore. [This is a highly
              developed sense, akin to a musician being able to pick out the part played
              by the third clarinet in the second movement of a symphony, just by
              listening to the recording. ] When in the course of work I would try to
              discuss what we were doing with my workmen, sometimes I attempted to use my
              drawings to try to help in the process of communication. Mostly, these
              workmen just stared blankly at my drawings, unable to comprehend the
              relationship between my drawings and the ground they were working in.
              Conceivably, my drawings weren't very good <g>. But a map represents a
              symbol environment that can be at least as mystifying as a printed page to
              someone who is illiterate.

              This has a bearing on the historical value of GJohn. It is sometimes
              suggested (e.g., Brown?) that John shows special knowledge of palestinian
              geography, and this is used as evidence for the author's historical
              credibility. Good maps make it easier to fake geographical knowledge. The
              paucity of good maps makes it easier to argue for genuine personal
              geographical knowledge.

              At any rate, a good question, and I hope that someone with more knowledge
              of ancient maps and who used them will respond.

              Bob
              Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
              Northern Arizona University
              Flagstaff, AZ

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.