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The Gospel on the Margins

The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century

Michael J. Kok
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    The Gospel on the Margins
    Book Description:

    Scholars of the Gospel of Mark usually discuss the merits of patristic references to the Gospel’s origin and Mark’s identity as the “interpreter” of Peter. But while the question of the Gospel’s historical origins draws attention, no one has asked why, despite virtually unanimous patristic association of the Gospel with Peter, one of the most prestigious apostolic founding figures in Christian memory, Mark's Gospel was mostly neglected by those same writers. Not only is the text of Mark the least represented of the canonical Gospels in patristic citations, commentaries, and manuscripts, but the explicit comments about the Evangelist reveal ambivalence about Mark’s literary or theological value. Michael J. Kok surveys the second-century reception of Mark, from Papias of Hierapolis to Clement of Alexandria, and finds that the patristic writers were hesitant to embrace Mark because they perceived it to be too easily adapted to rival Christian factions. Kok describes the story of Mark’s Petrine origins as a second-century move to assert ownership of the Gospel on the part of the emerging Orthodox Church.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9430-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Most Markan scholars are preoccupied with the “originary” historical and social context ofThe Gospel According to Mark(τò Eυαγγλιov κατά Mάρκov).¹ If the patristic witnesses are consulted, it is usually with a critical eye on whether or not they are reliable guides on the origins of the Gospel. Their conviction, beginning with Papias of Hierapolis (in Eusebius,Hist. Eccl.3.39.15), that the evangelist “Mark” recorded Peter’s eyewitness recollections is upheld by many conservative commentaries.² Conversely, other critics surmise that Papias could have spun the whole tale out of an erroneous inference from 1 Peter 5:13 (cf.Hist. Eccl.2.15.2;...

  6. Part I. The Construction of Mark as the Interpreter of Peter

    • 1 The Decline of the Patristic Consensus
      (pp. 19-56)

      If Mark’s apostolic credentials purchased its admission into the canon, it was not treated as an equal partner alongside the other three Gospels. Not until the advent of the theory of Markan priority—partly due to the discovery of Mark as the middle term among the Synoptics and partly in reaction to the radical criticism of Strauss or the Tübingen School—was Mark placed in the spotlight. The result was a new sense of excitement among modernist scholars about Mark as the primary record of the Jesus of history straight from an apostolic eyewitness, untainted by legendary accretions or dogma.¹...

    • 2 The Re-emergence of the Patristic Tradition
      (pp. 68-106)

      Many Gospel scholars proceed on the assumption that form, redaction, and literary criticism has dispensed, once and for all, with the patristic testimony about the evangelists. In this chapter, I will track the conservative backlash against the new methodological approaches to the Gospels and the re-emergence of the patristic tradition in some quarters of scholarship, exemplified in the work of Robert Gundry, Martin Hengel, Samuel Byrskog, Richard Bauckham, and Michael Bird. There is a pressing need for dialogue between scholars with different presuppositions of the origins of the Gospels and a fresh evaluation of the evidence to determine if the...

    • 3 From Paul’s Fellow Worker to Peter’s Interpreter
      (pp. 107-160)

      The New Testament and patristic references to an individual named “Mark” need to be put under the microscope to pinpoint when he became linked with Peter and identified as the author of a Gospel. Confidence on the grounds that “[t]he evidence of the tradition supporting Markan authorship can be described in general as early, universal and extensive”¹ is less secure if all the witnesses are carried by the same stream of tradition that has its source in Papias. The argument that “Mark,” as a minor character, was not an obvious choice has more force.² Then again, apocryphal Gospels were attributed...

  7. Part II. The Ideological Function of the Patristic Tradition

    • 4 Toward a Theory of the Patristic Reception of Mark
      (pp. 163-184)

      In pushing the classification “Petrine” or “Pauline” on Mark, the ghost of F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School lingers on to haunt the halls of the academy.¹ Since the work of Walter Bauer, this rigid dichotomy has given way to an appreciation of the variegated nature of the Christ movement, a richly diverse landscape in which the evangelist was an active participant.² This anonymous text was a voice among many in the Christian wilderness, shaped by and in reaction to a social context. Although the patristic writers tried to balance the particular and the universal in their localizing traditions...

    • 5 The Gospel on the Margins of the Canon
      (pp. 185-228)

      At the start of my investigation, I chased a trail of implicit clues on the manuscripts, citations, and emendations of Mark to exhibit its lukewarm reception. Brenda Deen Schildgen has an apt summary of the patristic sentiment: “The gospel [of Mark] lacks the necessary data found in Matthew and John useful to the fathers in clarifying liturgical, ecclesiastical, doctrinal, or sacramental practices.”¹ Turning to the explicit patristic statements, Mark is both affirmed and disavowed. Its apostolicity is affirmed at the same time as its literary or theological qualities are denigrated—the Gospel is not in order (τάξις) (Papias, inHist....

    • 6 The Clash of Rival Interpreters
      (pp. 229-266)

      Mark was grudgingly tolerated in centrist Christian circles. It is time to inquire whether it was positively received elsewhere in the same way that the Montanists had affection for John or Marcion for an expurgated version of Luke.¹ Although fewer patristic comments explicitly name a community that principally cherished Mark, I will delve into the scribal revisions and patristic exegesis of Mark in the context of the polemical situation in the second century. Learned scribes and exegetes correct Mark to counteract an actual, or what was feared as a potential, aberrant reading. Specifically, they were wary about how Mark lends...

  8. Conclusion: The Centrist Christian Appropriation of Mark
    (pp. 267-270)

    Unless the evangelist had some relationship with Peter in actual fact, something must have overcome the patristic ambivalence about Mark’s literary or theological value to motivate their incessant insistence that the Gospel was Petrine. Many scholars are puzzled by the disjunction between the tradition about the evangelist “Mark” with the contents of the canonical Gospel that came down in his name. There is no sound basis in the earliest external evidence or the internal evidence of the Gospel that the author really was the interpreter of Peter. Unable to conceive of a reason to call Papias’s integrity into question, David...

  9. Appendix: The Carpocratians and the Mystic Gospel of Mark
    (pp. 271-300)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-328)
  11. Index of Subjects and Modern Authors
    (pp. 329-346)
  12. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 347-384)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-385)