Confirmation of Peter’s ἔξοδον, and Mark’s late date, in Irenaeus

I can’t find the Greek text, and I really don’t want to spend any more time on it, but this is what we hear Irenaeus say:

“And after their [Peter's and Paul's] departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter”

Several scholars suggest that the word here translated as departure, ἔξοδος, simple means that Peter and Paul left Rome, only to return later and die. By rights, they may be correct to some extent, unless we can supply a better lexicographical meeting. There is a canonical source which does provide us with some suggestion that Irenaeus meant death, and further, that this word is in fact a very Christian understanding of death.

I mean, sure, there is Luke 9.31,

οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

But, that doesn’t really go well. Luke-Acts is connected to Exodus, and the use of the word here is only a hallmark of the author’s internal theology. We need something else… Something which connects Peter to this particular word and concept.

σπουδάσω δὲ καὶ ἑκάστοτε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς μετὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἔξοδον τὴν τούτων μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι. (2Pe 1:15 BGT)

If you follow Bauckham, and to some extent Witherington, then 2nd Peter can be dated between 90 and 100 CE. If you follow some scholars, we can date it to 160. Origen has issues with it, but there is some hints at it in earlier (than 160) works. But, what comes first? If you are going to make a letter look authentic, you need to borrow from existing phrases. That argument is not to be balanced here.

On the other hand, regardless of the date, we can assume that one author is in the other author’s audience. 2 Peter used the word to signify death, or rather, the Christian notion of departing this world for the next.

Get my book sometime early next year. Boom. This is important.

Post By Joel Watts (9,925 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, working on the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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14 thoughts on Confirmation of Peter’s ἔξοδον, and Mark’s late date, in Irenaeus

  1. Here’s the Greek text, from TLG.

    Ὁ μὲν δὴ Ματθαῖος ἐν τοῖς Ἑβραίοις τῇ ἰδίᾳ αὐτῶν διαλέκτῳ καὶ γραφὴν ἐξήνεγκεν εὐαγγελίου, τοῦ Πέτρου καὶ τοῦ Παύλου ἐν Ῥώμῃ εὐαγγελιζομένων καὶ θεμελιούντων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. Μετὰ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἔξοδον, Μάρκος, ὁ μαθητὴς καὶ ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρου, καὶ αὐτὸς τὰ ὑπὸ Πέτρου κηρυσσόμενα ἐγγράφως ἡμῖν παραδέδωκεν. Καὶ Λουκᾶς δέ, ὁ ἀκόλουθος Παύλου, τὸ ὑπ’ ἐκείνου κηρυσσόμενον εὐαγγέλιον ἐν βίβλῳ κατέθετο. Ἔπειτα Ἰωάννης, ὁ μαθητὴς τοῦ Κυρίου, ὁ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ ἀναπεσών, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐξέδωκεν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἐν Ἐφέσῳ τῆς Ἀσίας διατρίβων.

      • Iowa has an institutional subscription to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. I just did a lemma search for “ἔξοδος” within Irenaeus. You’ll probably also be interested to know that it’s the only time he uses the term.

        • Indeed. This is why I would insist that Irenaeus and 2 Peter should be used to define the term for each other.

          • Yeah. I’d wager that Irenaeus is dependent on 2 Peter in this regard. Irenaeus uses ἀποθνήσκω 11 times, whereas he only uses ἔξοδος once, in the same context that 2 Peter uses it.

            Another option, I suppose, is that Irenaeus is using the term independently of 2 Peter, as a euphemism for the deaths of two people he respects, much the same way we’d use “pass on” or “pass away” to describe the death of someone close to or respected by us. But this option seems less plausible than the one above.

          • And if he is using it independent of 2 Peter, 2 Peter may be using it dependent upon Irenaeus. More than likely, the use of the word is tied in some way to Luke’s use of it in 9.31 to describe the death (and resurrection) of Christ. 2 Peter and Irenaeus may be using it in a deeply theological manner to describe the Christian view of death – that it is simply a move.

          • Wouldn’t it give too late of a date to 2 Peter if it’s dependent on Irenaeus? Schaff dates Adversus haereses to around 180, while 2 Peter is, by the most extreme estimate, from about 160. Plus, Irenaeus was a strong supporter of apostolic succession, starting with Peter and Paul (“the two most glorious apostles”) at Rome, which suggests to me that he would have held traditions surrounding Peter’s death, including 2 Peter, in high enough regard to adopt 2 Peter’s euphemism. That, and I’m not sure I see a plausible connection between Luke 9:31 and 2 Peter 1:15.

          • No, I agree. I do think that 2 Peter (following Bauckham here) is about 80 or 90.

        • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought there weren’t any Greek manuscripts of Irenaeus available, just Latin manuscripts and quotes from Eusebius.

          • I think that is true for some of his works. Papias is the only one given to us by quotes, in both Irenaeus and Eusebius.

  2. Yeah, I agree that ἔξοδος is probably a euphemism for death. The clincher as I see it is there is little evidence that Peter and Paul both leaving from Rome around the same time, even if there is any truth to some scholarly reconstructions that Paul was released from his first (?) Roman imprisonment and had a further ministry or fulfilled his plans to go to Spain. But the question is whether Irenaeus or any of the patristic tradition on Mark is historically reliable, especially as Clement of Alexandria contradicts Irenaeus on having Mark written during Peter’s lifetime :)

    • I’d say that since Irenaeus is more likely to have access to more solid tradition, since he is writing with a rather near-to-Roman provenance, that his facts are more likely to be write. Further, the tradition of moving things closer to Apostolic tradition is more likely to be dated from the actual source.

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