Studies in Philology
The Gospels of Mark:
E Bruce Brooks
It has long been acknowledged among New Testament scholars that Mark is the oldest of the Four Gospels. It should follow that it is also the best source for information about the Historical Jesus, but many have been reluctant to accept that implication, in part since the Jesus of Mark differs at many points from the Jesus of orthodox tradition. This study sharpens the issue by pointing out that Mark itself is an accretional text, and is witness not to one, but several stages in the evolution of post-Crucifixion ideas about Jesus. In Mark, we can observe the early movement continually rethinking what the life and death of Jesus meant.
It is philologically obvious that many passages in Mark are interpolations: later insertions into previous narrative. These interpolations together join to make not one but several layers of late material, suggesting that there were several points, not just one, at which the original narrative of Mark was amended by addition. The general tendency of the late material is to treat Jesus as a more exalted figure, anticipated in Old Testament prophecy, and to sanction, or address, events such as the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles, which were causing controversy in the Forties and Fifties. These developments are visible in the series of all four Gospels, with Matthew and Luke as a stage beyond the furthest point reached by Mark, and John (end of the 1st century) as cosmic and mystical view of Jesus.
This book begins by confirming that the common opinion of the sequence of the Gospels (Mk > Mt > Lk > Jn) is correct, notes some important early research identifying interpolations and textual extensions in Mark, systematically identifies other interpolated passages, and assembles them into layers, each of which reflects one stage in the evolution of Jesus as his later followers came to see him. The earliest of those layers gives the first and least adulterated portrait of Jesus; the latest shows the early Jesus movement coming into contact with the preaching of Paul, and determining what would be its policy toward the novel idea of the mission to the Gentiles.
Mark is a book we did not know we had. Having learned to read it, we can see the entire history of 1st century Christianity in sharper perspective, and in more detail, than was possible before..
Extracts from The Gospels of Mark:
1. Mark Among the Gospels
2. Some Previous Results
3. The Late Layers
4. The Early Layers
5. The Original Gospel of Mark
9. John Mark
Index to Passages
This book is addressed to the scholarly few, and not to the faithful many. But those of the faithful into whose hands it may chance to come may not be dismayed to find that the earliest account of Jesus - the core narrative of Mark - shows him as a remarkably forward-looking figure: striving to cleanse Judaism of its legalistic encrustations, to bring it back to the moral basics, and to renew Israel's covenant with God. The Jesus movement and the orthodox Judaism of the time would later abandon each other, producing enmities which are still with us today. Mark shows us a Jesus who sought to realize that wider vision entirely within Judaism, keeping faith with what he found to be the best in Jewish tradition, which turned out to be the moral essentials which Judaism shared with the rest of humanity..
For the writings of the Alpha followers of Jesus in the first Christian century, see the companion volume Xristos.
E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The Gospels of Mark: Rethinking Jesus
Approximately 192 pages.
Tentative $50.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-41-1
Tentative $27.95 paper. ISBN 978-036166-81-7
Tentative Release Date: November 2017
When announced, this book may be ordered from the University of Massachusetts Press
14 August 2010 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page