Yes, I’m back – now to destroy Tom and save the Gospel of Mark

Illuminated Manuscript, Gospel Book, Evangelis...

Illuminated Manuscript, Gospel Book, Evangelist Mark, Walters Manuscript W.527, fol. 1v (Photo credit: Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts)

Parallelism is a dangerous disease, as I believe Tom has shown us with this post. In this post, he suggests the young man in Mark 14.52 and 16.5 are the same person but transfigured through the lens of 2 Corinthians 5. I am unsure as to how he has come to such a conclusion but it is one based on the wrong parallel.

The first young man (Mark 14.52) is quite possibly the author, or rather understood as the author; however, this is not likely the case given some other autobiographical footnotes along the way. The second (Mark 16.5) is also not the author as the women are meant to be the ones to have seen Jesus first, or maybe not seen Jesus but believed. Instead, it is reasonable that these two instances of linen-glad men are meant to represent something else.

In 2 Maccabees 3.22-34, there is a scene depicting a proposed blasphemy against God’s Temple. Twice a young man appeared. In the first instance, the young man “splendidly dressed” beat Heliodorus until he fainted, preventing him from damaging the Temple. Heliodorus was going to die until his friends pleaded with the high priest to entreat God for his recovery. To further protect the Jews, God restored Heliodorus to life. The young man reappeared to give Heliodorus a message that it was God who had given life. After the message was delivered, the young man disappeared. In both instances, the dress of the person is noted. Likewise, in both instances, it is a man and not explicitly an angel who is said to have appeared and disappeared. Given the location of the appearances of the young man in relation to Jesus, the Temple, and the Passion, I favor the use of 2 Maccabees — due to the placement of the appearances as well as the number of them in accordance to the placement.

Tom rightly turns to Matthew to judge Mark’s reception, but misses the mark here as well. In Matthew 28.5, the Evangelist plainly says ‘angel’ whereas Mark simply has a human. Whereas Tom attributes to Matthew some disagreement with Mark about the nature of the bodily resurrection, I suspect this is more about Tom’s hopes than Matthew’s intentions. At several times, Matthew has not corrected Mark, but placed into the light what Mark has only subtly hidden. This is such a case. Matthew is calling the young man at the Tomb what Mark hinted at him to be, an angel.

Mark follows the program of 2 Maccabees in hiding the divine identity of the angels. While Mark does expressly name angels, angels are given for a unique purpose, and that is to minister to Jesus or act as a minister of Jesus/God. Matthew changes this up somewhat when angels begin to speak to people, such as with Mary. So, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Matthew would dispense with Mark’s subtleness here and simply states the young man is an angel. Further, given the placement of these two events, it is not difficult to see something of 2 Maccabees rather than Carrier’s mathematical assumption of 2 Corinthians.

One final word about the placement of the two young men — In regards to placement, I think Anthony Le Donne is correct when he comments on Tom’s blog post (see link above). Note the use of angels in context of Jesus’s eschatological forecasting in Mark 13. Angels are promised to proceed/succeed the final event (destruction of the Temple). Before Jesus enters the Temple for his own passion, there is the young man. To assure that God has indeed restored life to Jesus (Israel?), there is once more the young man. It’s all about placement and context.

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Post By Joel Watts (10,052 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, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. 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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8 thoughts on Yes, I’m back – now to destroy Tom and save the Gospel of Mark

  1. Joel, good post, it sums up my issues with Tom’s post. One question, you said their are other autobiogrphical clues in Mark, I was interested in looking in to theories on Mark’s authorship and I was wondering if you could direct me to where the other clues are.

    • my book ;)

      I think Mark in 9.1 when he talks about how some will not see death until the kingdom comes is an autobiographical footnote.

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