Markan Theory Essay

3650 words - 15 pages

BackgroundQuestions concerning the authorship, date, place of composition, audience, and purpose of Mark's Gospel continue to receive a variety of answers from contemporary scholars. The shortest of the three Synoptic Gospels (661 verses as compared to 1,068 in Mt and 1,149 in Lk), the Gospel of Mark was probably the first of the three to be written, and Matthew and Luke made use of it as a major source in composing their own Gospels.AuthorshipAlthough the Gospel is attributed to "Mark," the author of the Gospel never explicitly identifies himself. The superscriptions or titles of the Four Gospels ("According to Matthew," "According to Mark,") come from the late 1st, or early 2d, century when it became necessary to distinguish one Gospel from another. Eusebius (263–339), however, preserves an important quotation from Papias, a 2d century bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor, that identifies Mark as the author of the Gospel and associates him with Peter. In this text, Papias relates a quotation from someone called the PRESBYTER.This, too, the presbyter used to say. "Mark, who had been Peter's interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord's sayings and doings. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of His followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter's. Peter used to adapt his teaching to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord's sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only—to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no misstatement about it." Ecclesiastical History (3, 39, 15)This text is difficult to interpret since it is not clear if the entire quotation is from the Presbyter. Part of this quotation may represent Papias's commentary on the Presbyter's words. If this is so, where does the quotation from the Presbyter end and the commentary of Papias begin? Moreover, the statement that Mark was Peter's interpreter (hermeneutes Petrou) can have a number of meanings ranging from translator to some kind of authorship. Nonetheless, this text stands at the origin of a constant tradition that relates the author of this Gospel to Peter and thus anchors the Gospel in the witness of an apostolic figure. For example, Justin Martyr speaks of Peter's memories (en tois apomnemoneumasin autou; Dialogue with Trypho, 106, 3), probably referring to Mark's Gospel. Irenaeus says that Mark, "the disciple and interpreter of Peter" (ho mathetes kai hermeneutes) wrote after the deaths of Peter and Paul (Against Heresies, 3.1.1). An ancient Latin prologue to the Gospel says that Mark was Peter's interpreter (Iste interpres fuit Petri) and that he wrote in the regions of Italy after the death of Peter. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, on the other hand, says that Mark, a companion of Peter, wrote during Peter's lifetime at the urging of the people of Rome where Peter preached (Ecclesiastical History, 6, 14,...

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