My last post must seem strange. It was in answer to a question from Tom Edmonson which was e-mailed to me and which I assumed was on the list. I don't think Tom would mind if I quote him. He wrote:
<<<I would be interested in knowing your (Kym Smith) take on Mark 6:14-29 which is by far the longest version of the death of John the Baptist. Perhaps "less is more" (I'm quoting Carl Holladay here) in the case of Mark.>>>
Tom also wrote:
<<<It seems to me that he has deliberately written a short gospel for the sake of effect. Does this mean that the gospel writers got together like screenwriters and all did different takes on the gospel tradition? I'm sensitive to the fact that the early church believed that Matthew was first and that Mark was later. Was it Augustine or Papias who believed that Mark had "epitomized" Matthew?>>>
I think it was Augustine, but the priority given to Mathew may mostly have been because of the usefulness of its additional content rather than because it was univesally accepted as the first to be written.
I think that Peter was much more involved in the gospel of Mark than we generally allow. I suspect that Origen, who said that Mark '...composed it, as Peter explained it to him', is probably closest to the truth (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, VI.25). But Mark was written and circulated with some urgency (Peter knew his time would soon be up) to encourage the Church for the short time remaining before - as Peter understood - Jesus returned. Peter probably did not expect that his book would still be being read beyond about four or five years after he wrote. It contains the essence of the gospel and revealed Jesus to have authority over the worldly and demonic forces that the Revelation pictured as militating against God's elect.
Following Nero's death and the end of the immediate threat, the remaining apostles knew that Mark was not sufficient for a Church which may outlast the apostles and eyewitnesses who had, until this time, provided much of Jesus' teaching that Mark lacked. It is probable that it was decided collaboratively that Matthew and Luke would write for Jewish and Gentile readers respectively, beyond that, how much they collaborated is debatable. John was 'the' collaborative effort, I suspect Mathew and Luke were left to work out their own expansions of Mark.
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