- To: Crosstalk
Cc: GPG, WSW
On: Mark (4)
Here is the next of Rikk's paragraphs:
RIKK: re "euaggelion": I expressed surprise, that Frankemölle's and
Stuhlmacher's work on the Isaianic background to the word rated only a
footnote. Particularly given a) that Adela affirms Mark's story was about
the fulfillment of Israel's scriptures, and b) although Adela mentioned the
importance of Paul's usage of euaggelion, she did not mention the recent
work of Hays, Wagner, Beale, Wilk, and others on the importance of Isa,
espec 40-66, for Paul's gospel.
BRUCE: Paul might be a separate matter; at any rate, it might be unwise to
mix him in with Mark at the outset. (He may well come in at the end; see
further below). As for "background" on the word in question, I should think
that a footnote is about the right place for it. Etymology is not
determinative for usage. A word means what it does in the particular
sentence under review.
"euaggelion" is an interesting word, like all the other words. I cannot work
up an interest in where it comes from. What interests me is what the text of
Mark (gMk) *does* with it. The root question, or course, is: Does the text
always do the *same thing* with it? It turns out that the answer is No.
"euaggelion" ("Gospel") sometimes means the good news of God's coming, and
at other times it means the good news of personal salvation through Jesus. I
forget who it was that first coined the contrast "religion OF Jesus /
religion ABOUT Jesus." Anyway, what I see on looking carefully at Mark is
that *both* of these things are present in Mark (the word is commoner in Mk
than in Mt, and as for Lk, forget it). The inventory in Mk, excluding the
title in 1:1, and the so-called Long Ending, is:
1:14 "preaching the Gospel of God"
1:15 "repent and believe in the Gospel"
8:35 "for my sake and the Gospel"
10:29 "for my sake and for the Gospel"
13:10 "the Gospel must first be preached to all nations"
14:9 "wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world"
I should think that it is about as obvious as things get in this business
that the Mk 1 uses of "Gospel" are indistinguishable from the message of
John the B: God is coming and people must repent. Jesus in that part of Mark
has just been baptized by John, and nothing is more narratively natural than
to consider him at this point as a follower of John, taking up the cause
following John's arrest (Mk 1:14). Now, John's message is liable to be early
within any sequence of Gospel messages generally. These passages, on their
narrative face and by their content as far as we know it, thus seem
theologically early. As far as any clues in Mk go, the "Gospel" here is the
beliefs Jesus took over from John, and thus can reasonably be called the
"religion OF Jesus," the things that the earliest documented Jesus himself
believed. The religion of Jesus, or anyway the point from which Mark begins
to tell us about it, was the "religion ABOUT GOD."
Group 2, on the other hand, half way through the book, strongly associate
the Gospel with Jesus; he and it together are the reason people do things.
Mark readers will readily associate other passages with these, such as
"those who cause one of these little ones *who believe in me* to sin." This
would seem to be in contrast with the previous group; here, the message of
Jesus has become Jesus himself. We have left behind anything that can be
related to Johannine preaching, and are in the world of belief in Jesus. We
might associate this phase with early Apostolic preaching, still essentially
directed at Jews, but bringing to the Jews the message of the salvific
Jesus. We unambiguously have the "religion ABOUT Jesus."
Group 3 assume a worldwide mission, unambiguously spreading beyond the
repentance of Israel and extending to the conversion of everybody. This is
indistinguishable from the enterprise in which Paul says that he was
engaged, and it thus belongs to a still later phase of things than Group 3,
a phase in which the "religion ABOUT Jesus" is being carried to the Pillars
So far the content of the several passages. Now we consider structure. Are
all these passages part of a continuous narrative in Mark? If so, then
however diverse in content, they will be part of the same text, and merely
reflect the compiler's eclecticism. If not . . .
It turns out that they are not. For example, among commentators who consider
such things, the Woman of Bethany episode (Mk 14:3-9) is widely considered
to be an interpolation, interrupting as it does the story of the Betrayal
Plot. As for Mk 13, fewer have noticed its incompatibility with the rest of
Mk, but it undoubtedly points to a definite event, for which the candidates
are either (a) Caligula in 40 or (b) Titus in 70. The last is obviously
late. Even the first (which I happen to prefer) is a long time after the
Crucifixion; a daughter born in that year would just be entering high
school, and Paul is already active in the Gentile mission field.
Intrinsic dates, and signs of textual insecurity in the Markan textflow,
thus join to confirm the impressions derived above from a consideration of
substance. Mark not only contains several senses of "Gospel," the
theologically later of those senses are contained in passages which are
themselves late additions to the text.
And yet, we can easily find books in the library in which "euaggelion" is
taken as a mark of Markan style, and Markan style in turn is characterized
as unitary. Such are the perils of trying to do stylistics with the lexicon.
It takes at least a dictionary.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst