Understanding the issues with Mark

Issues with Mark

Issues with Mark

Mark is not a chronological historical account that is intended to be historiography the way Luke isIn light of the observations of the Jerusalem School, Mark is clearly the “Re-Write Man”. Mark resulted in a modified, amplified text and an inauthentic dramatization of the Gospel story. Mark’s principal method was to replace about half of Luke’s earlier and more authentic wording with a variety of synonyms and expressions he culled from certain Old and New Testament books. Mark loved to find linguistic parallels to the text he was copying in other, often unrelated, books, and then mix words and phrases taken from these parallels with others of his sources. (Robert L. Lindsey, “My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution,” Jerusalem Perspective (2013)

Lukan Priority and the Jerusalem School

Scholars of the Jerusalem School attest that Luke is most faithful to the Hebraic source material grounding all the Synoptic Gospels. The indication is Lukan priority. The Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research is a group of “Jewish and Christian scholars collaborating in the land and language of Jesus; bringing historical, linguistic and critical expertise to bear on the synoptic gospels,” that holds to the Jerusalem school hypothesis, which is a theory against Markan priority. They provide many evidences to suggest that Luke’s version is the most accurate and that Matthew has been too often unduly influenced by Mark, even when he is correcting Mark with his parallel texts. The surprising result of this research “that of all the Synoptists Luke should prove to be the best in the preservation of earlier texts… the fact that Luke preserves a Greek text which normally retranslates easily to Hebrew and almost always fails to give even a hint of an expression which could be interpreted as the remnant of a Markan non-Hebraism should have led me to suspect that Luke is uninfluenced by Mark and derives his usually excellent translation-text directly from a proto-source.”

For more see Lukan Priority and the Jerusalem School

Statistical Validation of Lukan Priority

The order of the Synoptic Gospels is Luke->Mark->Matthew as indicated by a detailed statistical analysis documented in a four-article series by Halvor Ronning of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. The detailed analysis that includes a review of Triple Tradition, Double Tradition, Single Tradition, Semitic Influence Analysis, and a review of the Non-Linear Hypothesis is summarized in Statistical Validation of Lukan Priority. The extensive analysis indicates Lukan Priority as the best possible of all possible scenarios. Findings that are indications of the Luke→Mark→Matthew model are as follows:

  1. The elegance with which Lukan Priority explains the verbal identity relationships between the Synoptic Gospels, including its promotion of the minor agreements from a problem to a key part of the solution because of seeing Mark in the middle position (Part 1)
  2. The ability of Lukan Priority to give a consistent picture of each writer’s relationship to his parallel texts (Part 2)
  3. The ability of Lukan Priority to account for the level of Semitic influence in the various parts of each Gospel (Part 3)
  4. Neither Markan Priority nor Matthean Priority can explain the publicly observable facts and verifiable statistics, as well as Lindsey’s hypothesis of Lukan Priority (Part 4)


Mark the “Re-Write Man”

In the Article, Mark the “Re-write Man” Editorial Changes in Mark are outlined as previously documented in an article by David Bivin of Jerusalem Perspective on Mark’s Editorial Style. Mark was not interested in transmitting his sources as he had received them. Instead, Mark’s editorial style is characterized by creativity. Lindsey noted a number of characteristics in how Mark treated his sources. 

  1. Relocation of parts from the Lukan order to a new context.
  2. Rewriting parts by substituting synonyms for the words Mark found in his source(s).
  3. Rewriting parts using vocabulary Mark had picked up from various later sources. These “Markan pick-ups” allowed Mark to show how the stories about Jesus resonated in the experiences of the later Church.
  4. Radical abbreviation in some places
  5. Expansion of parts by adding detail and duplicating phrases
Summarized are the various Grammar, Vocabulary, and Literary Techniques that can be identified by analyzing Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark and by comparing Markan usage to the style of Luke (Mark’s main source).

Mark Borrows From Luke-Acts

In the article Mark Borrows from Luke-Acts, the editorial methodology of Mark is evidenced by examining the first chapter and instances of borrowing from other contexts of Luke-Acts throughout Mark. The Midrashic method that the author of Mark employed is one of homologizing and blending terminology from various sources in the composition of the work. Mark’s principal method was to replace about half of Luke’s earlier and more authentic wording with a variety of synonyms and expressions he culled from certain Old and Net Testaments. 

The author of Mark rewrote various Lukan pericopae using vocabulary Mark had picked up from the sections of Luke that Mark had omitted, from Acts, from the Pauline Epistles and from the Epistle of James. These “Markan pick-ups” allowed Mark to show how the stories about Jesus resonated in the experiences of the later Church.  Mark further exhibits a pattern of replacement, chiastic change, synonymity and word expansion.

List of Markan Stereotypes and Pick-ups

Mark’s version of the Gospel story is dramatic, exaggerated, creative and exciting, just like the creative interpretations of Scripture found in aggadic midrash and the targumim. Mark resembles a modern graphic novel, as it has features that are similar to comic book stories. Like a comic book, the Gospel of Mark uses bold lines and vivid colors that attract a reader’s attention. A Markan stereotype pertains to these unique alternative words and phrases incorporated in Mark that exhibit a pattern of use.

For example, Mark’s strange use of “immediately” εὐθύς (evthūs) is perhaps the most famous Markan Stereotype. It occurs 41 times in Mark, and reminds one of changes of scene in a comic book from one frame to the next. εὐθύς (evthūs) only occurs once in Luke 6:49, but was likely the inspiration for the prolific use in Mark. In typical Markan style, the single instance of εὐθύς in Luke (Luke 6:49) is not paralleled in Mark.

List of Markan Stereotypes and Pick-ups describes the most common Markan pickup and also links to a more extensive catalog of redactional words and phrases characteristic of the editorial style of Mark. Contributors to Jerusalem Perspective noted, “The purpose of the catalog is to collect in one place all the examples that might qualify as Markan pick-ups so that the cumulative effect of the phenomenon can be measured… While it may be easy to dismiss any one example as random, inconclusive, or explicable on other grounds, the cumulative evidence becomes more impressive.”

Embellishments of Mark

There are numerous embellishments in Mark. Mark exhibits the expansionist characteristics of a Jewish midrashic or targumistic storyteller. Due to this ‘targumic’ activity, the stories Mark told are almost always (literally 80% of the time) longer than the parallel accounts in Luke and Matthew. Mark is the longest Gospel, not the shortest in terms of the actual stories he decided to incorporate. Mark is the shortest only in terms of overall length, but that is only because of the stories and sayings he chose to omit. Mark’s expansionist style fits his character as a sophisticated targumic storyteller.

Embellishments of Mark listed include material unique to Mark or material in which Mark amplifies or adds sensational accounts to the text which is not substantiated by the primitive tradition of Luke. 

Mark’s Rewriting of Jesus’ Last Week

Examples of rewriting in Mark’s account of the episodes of Jesus’ last week reveal numerous instances where Mark restructured his story based on various motives. These are highlighted in the article Mark’s Rewriting of Jesus’ Last Week which The demonstrates that that Luke preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence.

Deficiencies of Mark

Deficiencies of Mark documents how Mark was not very popular in the early centuries as compared to the other Gospels. It was copied less frequently than Matthew and Luke, and there are few Greek manuscripts that attest to the original text. Versions of Mark also have different endings.  Scholars use early Latin texts of Mark to get a better indication of the original reading of Mark. During copying and transmission, many variants were added to Mark harmonizing it with Matthew. 

The Various Endings of Mark

The manuscript tradition has three different endings of Mark, with a couple of additional minor variations. The earliest preserved manuscript tradition is missing an ending, which suggests that Mark was never finished by the original author, the original ending was lost, or that the original ending was deliberately removed. There is notable evidence to suggest the lost ending to Mark was incorporated into John 21, an appendix that was added later to John. For more on this, see Various Endings of Mark

Luke over Mark Passages

Luke Over Mark Passages documents instances where Luke provides a more accurate and original reading than what Mark does.

Authorship and Dating of Mark

Authorship and Dating of Mark, summarizes the findings regarding the origins of Mark. Mark is a rewritten Gospel account based on other written sources, including Luke. It’s likely dating is in the 70s a.d.