E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Structural Evolution in Mark
SBL / New England, Episcopal Divinity School,
Cambridge MA, 21 Apr 2006

Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge


Branscomb 1937 (xx) argued that no single Christology can be attributed to the Gospel of Mark, and Naluparayil 2000 (217) reported a lack of consensus about Mark’s theology. Similarly, Larsen 2004 found little agreement in recent scholarship as to the artistic structure of the Gospel. This continuing uncertainty as to the form and implied message of the text may be due to a mistaken impression of its nature. I offer the suggestion that Mark is not a single artistic creation, but an accretional text, whose last few layers are concerned to update the text’s original views as to the nature of Jesus, and the nature of the Markan community’s expectations of Jesus.

One clear layer consists of the two self-related Galilee passages, Mk 14:28 and 16:7. As was acknowledged by earlier scholarship (Grant 1951 ad loc), these passages individually meet the standard test of an accretion. Together, they constitute a layer: the only places in the Gospel which envision an appearance of Jesus to his disciples three deays after his death (as distinct fromhis resurrection and later return in judgement). The passages concerning the Twelve Disciples (wrongly interpreted by Meyer 1921f as based on an early “Twelve Source”) can similarly be shown to be another late layer, closely associated with the Messianic Secret; a layer which is not only textually insecure within Mark, but is substantively at odds with a contrary report which survives in Mark itself, in the Gospel of Peter, and in later Rabbinic tradition, that Jesus had five disciples, one of them named Levi. Proceeding in this way, we reach a Markan text which is not only theologically and narratively less confused, but also shows signs of strong literary organization, an organization which emphasizes a Son of God interpretation of Jesus.

This is not necessarily the earliest state of Mark, but its attainment may be a useful step, which of itself can contribute to a clearer understanding of this puzzling yet obviously important text. There are also implications for the still debated question of Markan Priority, which appears to be strongly confirmed by this analysis

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