Most scholars seem to agree that Mark, Luke, and Matthew used a common source, a sayings source. A list or record of Jesus sayings. This now lost source is called Q, from the German Quelle, meaning source.
The stories about John Belushi in this book were written down at about the same time distance as the stories about Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.
Though the oldest written fragments of the Gospels are on papyrus from 100-200 CE, most scholars seem to agree Mark was written around 70 AD.
Richard Bauckham, author of this book:
and this one:
makes a strong case, I believe, that one of Mark’s main sources was Peter. Directly or indirectly, who knows. But in Mark we’re getting something like Peter’s version. Peter himself is a character in the story. Mark tells stories only Peter (or only Peter and a few others) could have known.
There are times in Mark when Jesus is angry and frustrated with Peter. In a way Mark tells Peter’s version of a story of a complicated bromance with Jesus.
How much was Mark getting his stuff from Peter? Or other eyewitnesses to Jesus? Here is a lowkey fiery debate on this topic. Gets very hot around 19:54 as these guys try to jab each other over how many people were literate in Palestine two thousand years ago. (Hard not to root for the American tbh.)
Luke alone has receipts:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
It feels infuriating that Paul says that the time he’s writing 1 Corinthians (15:6) there are 251 at least (?) eyewitnesses still alive who saw Jesus after the crucifixion:
New International Version
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
New Living Translation
After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
and yet Paul doesn’t bother interviewing any of them! Paul was a better philosopher than a reporter I guess.
Going back to the source is a passion here at Helytimes.
My take? Yes! Definitely, sounds like he had some sisters too!
This isn’t that hard. Mark 6:
6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
We’ve been talking about Mark, and how the evidence is compelling that it is probably the oldest record we have of a guy who lived and taught sometime around years now marked 1-30 AD named Jesus.
Mark says that guy had brothers and sisters.
The Greek word used is (I’m told) adelphos.
In Paul’s Letters, written sometime after this Jesus was executed, he mentions Jesus’ brother.
In a number of other early Christian sources, there are discussions of Jesus’ brothers.
Why is it a problem that Jesus had brothers, maybe sisters too?
Unless having brothers and sisters like a human of his time screws up what you think you’re supposed to believe about Jesus God status.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches are determined to insist that Mary was a perpetual virgin who never had sex.
That seems twisted and conjured up out of nowhere. When I hear that I’m like ok I think maybe you guys are a little weird about sex.
You can ponder and explore for yourself why the theologians cooked up that one. I’m sure there’s whole shelves in the Catholic libraries about it. It matters enough that you find scholars twisting themselves into pretzels about the meanings of different words for brother in 1st century Greek and Aramaic.
But hey, maybe they really were his cousins!
Well, if you are trying to get back to primary sources about a historical Jesus, and what that guy actually said, and what he was like, and possible brothers, or cousins so close they used the same word to describe them, that’s something.
Of the brothers, James comes up the most in early Christian history. What this James believed Jesus was up to is too big a question for us today.
What I can tell you about James’ views is that he and Paul did not see eye to eye.
Interesting to me, because it suggests you could be a Jesusist without being a Paulist.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions cites Romans 13.
Jesus, it’s easy to forget, was arrested and executed for causing trouble for the authorities.
Discussion question for brunch:
Which characters in the New Testament remind you most of the Attorney General and the President? Do you like those characters?
Have a joyful Sunday everyone! (We welcome your letters btw! I know we got some Bible scholars out there who can school me!)
lol Ross Douthat are you doing a bit?
(h/t the Wrensh)
Fifth in our series about the Book of Mark:
Mark One, about the scraps of Mark on Papyrus One.
Mark Two, an intro to Mark, and what’s going on with it.
Mark Three, about “The Secret Gospel of Mark.”
Mark Four, about J. B. Phillips.
As a kid the first time I heard The Book of Mark was read aloud to me, in deliberate boring tone, in Catholic church, a notoriously stiff and elderly kind of place, not all that appealing to the average child.
On the plus side, you did get a good education in a way in the Bible and some aspects of human behavior.
Wanted to stand up and cheer when I got to this part of Ross Douthat and Tyler Cowen’s conversation. Connecting Catholic theology to what the Guy says on the hillside in Galilee in the Gospels takes insane mental labyrinth building. A fun project in a way but not what the Guy himself seems to describe as the way forward.
Here’s what the NIV gives as the rough sections of this chapter.
Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man
Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman
JB Philips gives it:
Jesus meets a violent lunatic
Faith is followed by healing
Weird, supernatural type stuff. How’re you gonna deal with this? Unpacking the events of Mark Five could probably be a career for a theologian.
Hard to make your church last 2,000 years without sanding the edges down a bit I guess but when you go back to the source you can sometimes feel like what’s missing is the compelling, almost alarming strangeness of the story.
Let’s say only that by Chapter Five of his book, Mark’s Jesus is unstoppable, coursing with power that flows almost like electricity.
If Mark is avail they should hire him for a Marvel movie.
Latest posts in our series on the Book of Mark, one of the weirdest and most popular books of all time.
on Papyrus One
Or like this?
Here we see the Mar Saba monastery in Israel, twelve miles outside Jerusalem:
Cool structure. Would make a dope boutique hotel.
This is where Morton Smith supposedly found a
previously unknown letter of Clement of Alexandria transcribed into the endpapers of a 17th-century printed edition of the works of Ignatius of Antioch
The letter, which would’ve been from like the year 200, says (I paraphrase) “hey there’s a more spiritual, weirder version of the Gospel of Mark floating around, heads up.”
Was there a “Secret Gospel Of Mark”? Says Wiki:
Ron Cameron (1982) and Helmut Koester (1990) argued that Secret Mark preceded the canonical Mark, and that the canonical Mark is in fact an abbreviation of Secret Mark. This would explain the narrative discontinuity above. John Dominic Crossan (1985) has also been supportive of these views of Koester: “I consider that canonical Mark is a very deliberate revision of Secret Mark.”
An interesting question for sure. As Wiki says:
The process of canonization of the New Testament was complex and lengthy.
The version I’m using is this one:
I don’t think the late J. B. will mind my excerpting his helpful introduction:
When J. B. talks about “the manuscript of Mark,” I’m not sure what he means. Wiki tells me the oldest complete version is the Codex Vaticanus,
and the Codex Sinaiticus, which they found at St. Catherine’s Monastery:
which would also make a cool boutique hotel. The Codex got taken to Russia, and then:
In 1933, the Soviet Union sold the codex to the British Museum for £100,000 raised by public subscription (worth £6.5 million in 2017)
You can read it if you want online.
The oldest known written scrap of Mark appears to be Papyrus 45:
which came from who knows where. American-Anglo-Irish industrialist Chester Beatty, the “king of copper,” was mad for papyri apparently and bought tons of them from illegal dealers.
His first job in the mines earned him $2 per day as a ‘mucker’, clearing away rock and soil from mine tunnels. He was quickly promoted to supervisor of the Kektonga Silver Mine.
Papyrus 45 is now in Chester’s library/museum in Dublin:So, that’s how we get to Mark.
NEXT TIME in our series on Mark:
Translator J. B. Phillips, who started working on the New Testament in a bomb shelter during the London Blitz.
“Why Mark?”, I asked. “Because it’s short“, he replied. I was willing to give anything a go, so I took the vicar’s advice and read it and the Gospel of Mark just swept me up.
So says Australian musician Nick Cave
in his intro to the Gospel of Mark, which I found on this Italian Nick Cave fan site.
The Gospel of Mark has to be one of the weirdest and most compelling books ever written. Nick Cave continues:
Scholars generally agree that Mark’s was the first of the four gospels to be written. Mark took from the mouths of teachers and prophets the jumble of events that comprised Christ’s life and fixed these events into some kind of biographical form. He did this with such breathless insistence, such compulsive narrative intensity, that one is reminded of a child recounting some amazing tale, piling fact upon fact, as if the whole worlddepended upon it – which , of course, to Mark it did. ‘Straightway’ and ‘immediately’ link one event to another, everyone ‘runs’, ‘shouts’, is ‘amazed’, inflaming Christ’s mission with a dazzling urgency. Mark’s Gospel is a clatter of bones, so raw, nervy and lean on information that the narrative aches with the melancholy of absence. Scenes of deep tragedy are treated with such a matter of factness and raw economy they become almost palpable in their unprotected sorrowfulness.
Couple things about the Gospel of Mark:
- there’s no Christmas. Jesus just turns up one day down by the river where John The Baptist is doing his thing.
- the oldest gospel. “Most scholars agree” is a term you come across again and again when you read into Bible stuff, especially New Testament stuff. Let’s acronym that as msa. As far as I can tell most scholars do agree on this one.
- the shortest gospel. 11,304 words. Very cool.
- simple language. Mark is written in Koine Greek which I can’t read. I’m told this was a simple version of Greek that people could use all over the Mediterranean. “Koine” just means “Common.” Mark wrote Common Greek.
I’m told Mark’s Greek is “rough”:
Now, “rough” sure but “unrehearsed”? Isn’t it likely Mark was writing down stories and quotes that had been transmitted orally, and thus were quite rehearsed?)
The version I’m reading is:
Here’s what J. B. says:
J. B. seems more confident than others that Mark = John Mark, but who cares?
It’s cool to imagine in the rubble of burned out Rome Mark starts going around saying “guys, I got some good news.”
Other scholars insist that Mark was written after 70 AD, because that’s when the Temple was destroyed after the Roman Siege of Jerusalem:
which was a traumatic time. That chronology is the one Reza Aslan believes:
Me personally? I’m no expert but I think it’s possible someone like the writer of Mark might’ve been obsessed with the idea of the destruction of the Temple before it happened.
Maybe Mark saw things coming the way the Simpsons saw President Trump coming:
But let’s say Mark was written in 70. He’s writing about Jesus, who msa died around 33. So it’s like writing a book, today, about a guy who died in 1980.
John Lennon, say, or Colonel Sanders.
Mark isn’t writing a biography of Jesus though, he’s writing the “good news.” A good point by theologian Marcus Borg over at HuffPo:
Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.
Here’s the craziest part about Mark imo. The last sentence of the original version, msa, is 16:8.
The women were shaking and confused. They went out and ran away from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
What a freaky ending to your book!
Learned a lot about the Gospel origins from the PBS series From Jesus To Christ. Li’l snippet from this essay by Marilyn Matthews on their website:
What message did Mark intend to send to his audience? Scholars do not agree. Some argue that Mark deliberately constructs a bleak and frightening picture because that was the experience of the people for whom Mark composed his work. Elaine Pagels offers a different interpretation: “And the last words of the original gospel are ‘and they were terrified.’ It would be very bad news if it weren’t that underneath this rather dark story is an enormous hope . . . that this very promising story and its terrible anguished ending is nevertheless not the ending. That there’s a mystery in it, a divine mystery of God’s revelation that will happen yet. And I think it’s that sense of hope that is deeply appealing.”
This is Helytimes so next time we will have a look and see if we can find the oldest source of Mark.