Category Archives: Thesis

Starting but not but I am my dissertation

Northumbrian Gospels -- John
Northumbrian Gospels — John (Photo credit: manuscript_nerd)

Does that make sense? No?

Anyway, I am starting to develop my dissertation. I need to keep most of this quiet at the moment, so sorry for the redactive style of this post. Anyway, so I have the requirements to start a phd program — location redacted for the moment. But before I do, I have to present thesis proposal. That’s what I am doing now.

The good thing is that I have narrowed it down pretty fast thus far. Because of this, I am developing with an eye towards making it my first chapter the state of current scholarship on a particular Gospel.

No, it’s not Mark. It is the second most creative Evangelist out of the six.

You know, five for the guy who wrote Revelation and the six for the guy who wrote Thomas.

Just had to share, because, well, I’m stuck.

Thinking of doing a new thesis… Singing Solomon’s Song: The Deuteronomist’s Sexual Ethics

That’s just a working title. I wouldn’t want to spend a month or so on it, since I am doing my second draft of my book starting next week.

But any suggestions? Any critical commentaries on SoS?

Things like that?


Fishermen and Peter…. in Jeremiah 16.16

ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τοὺς ἁλεεῖς τοὺς πολλούς λέγει κύριος καὶ ἁλιεύσουσιν αὐτούς καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἀποστελῶ τοὺς πολλοὺς θηρευτάς καὶ θηρεύσουσιν αὐτοὺς ἐπάνω παντὸς ὄρους καὶ ἐπάνω παντὸς βουνοῦ καὶ ἐκ τῶν τρυμαλιῶν τῶν πετρῶν (Jer 16:16 BGT)

Can’t say much about this…. but honestly, if you think that Mark is using classical Greek myth to tell his story, your theory is completely unsupported.

A Lucan Reading of Mark’s Gospel – Part I

ideology in cold blood lucan
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This is going to be a bit of a different type of post. As many of you know, my thesis work will be in the Gospel of Mark, and further, I will use Lucan as a basis of my viewpoint on Mark. In reading the book to the right, I’ve decided to posit a what-if scenario which will help me explore the connection between Lucan’s work and Mark’s Gospel.

Imagine the scene as a sort of modern author interview. Lucan (who died in 65 due to his involvement in an assassination attempt against Nero) is interviewing Mark right after the publication of his Gospel (73 or so). Now, I’ve taken some liberties with the situation, but…


Lucan: Good evening my fellow Romans – lend me your ears!

Tonight, we have a special guest with us. You know him as an author who has already published an epistle. He is a Christian, but, don’t hold that against him! At least he’s not lion…. Get it… lion! His latest work, published by Ecclesia Press, is already flying off the shelves, and is expected to be republished later in an expanded editions.

Folks, welcome to the conversation, John Mark, Evangelist!

Mark: Thank you, Lucan. I tell you, when I got this call to do this interview, I was surprised.

Lucan:  Oh?

Mark: I am your biggest fan. I’ve read all of your works, and really tried to pattern my present work on some of the things you’ve done in De Belle Civili. I mean, what you’ve done, putting all of those deep things into that one poem – I tell you, if it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I could attempt such a project.

Lucan: Well, it’s not everyday you get gushed over by the person you are gushing on. Thank you, John Mark – do you prefer John or Mark, or?

Mark: Well, I’ve often considered using John for some works, but I usually like Mark.

Lucan: And your first work – anonymous right?

Mark: That’s right.

Lucan: I’ve read it, and I have to say, that the language you use in that one is a little bit different than this one.

Mark: That’s right. In writing that letter on seeing Jesus as the Temple’s High Priest, I had to use the language of the elite. Of course, this was before the late war, but even then, I felt like that I needed to appeal to a group who would only receive the good stuff. With this latest work, I followed your style. I used the clipped language of an oppressed community.

Lucan: Now, some are saying that it is just suffering from a bad translation.. that your native Aramaic and your second language, Greek, doesn’t go good together.

Mark: Hardly. After all, I’ve had the Greek Scriptures all my life. I know Greek – I’ve written fine Greek. It’s just this time – I needed a different style. Look, we all know what the Empire did to Jerusalem – why use their language to tell my story? Sure, I need to use some of it to tell it, but I wanted to butcher it like they did my people.

Lucan: No, I understand. In Civil Wars, my Latin is so awful, my agent thought my pias wrote it. But, why use the language of Empire? Use it and destroy it. It makes for a good listener, I think.

Mark: Oh, I agree. Using Greek badly allows the work to be really focused on. I mean, you can either read a book or you can get in and chew on it for a while. Use the language of Empire means that it has been conquered just like Jerusalem – but, if I use the language baldy – it’s a…

Lucan: …rebellion all of its own.

Mark: Exactly. Plus, the traditor, Josephus tries to make an excuse for any poorness in his work by suggesting that he doesn’t know Greek as well as he should. While he too is a native Hebrew, speaking Aramaic, he doesn’t both Greek – but he is doing it to call attention to himself, I think. Here, by using Greek badly, I am answer him and the Empire. Rebel – in always.

Lucan: Wow… that’s a pretty powerful statement.

Mark: Yup – I just hope that my readers keep getting this point.

Lucan: Oh, I think they will. No one will ever say that John Mark didn’t know how to write Greek.

Mark: Indeed.

Lucan: Okay, so on to another subject. As you know, in my work, I make a lot to do about boundaries. I think I’ve noticed a few things like that in your work. Can you tell us about them?

Mark: You have a good eye, master Lucan. What I tried to do in telling the story of Jesus is to show that he often crosses boundary lines. Look at the times he crosses Palestine. He isn’t confined to just one area. His interactions with the sick erases those boundaries as does his interaction with the Gentiles. As you know, the Jews and Gentiles have a dividing line – something Josephus and Philo both point out is the Law. Well, in my story, I show how Jesus really breaks down those boundaries. In the Temple, when Jesus finally dies, the curtain separating the final sacrifice from the outside world is split down the middle. In his passion, Jesus suffers the cruel fate of having his body virtually destroyed. And, their is also the boundary between the narrator and the audience. It is broken several times. As you know, the story is often told in almost a first person sense. I mean, Jesus’s actions are almost always present. This breaks the boundaries between the narrator and Jesus.

When Jesus is carrying his cross – bam! Another boundary is broken. We get an audience member to carry the cross – who we know his name and his children’s name.

And of course, there is the boundary lines between Jesus and those, um, demons. They want him gone and away, and he rushes in.

Lucan: And, of course, a lot more. Now, tell me about Jesus. In my poem, I use Pompey, but I create Pompey. Does that make sense?

Mark: Oh, yes. As you know, words are representational. They are metaphors and allegories all by themselves. The Jesus which figures in my story is my own recreation of the Jesus who founded the community. Look, we all tell stories, that’s for sure, but each story is rooted in the fact – something people just don’t get. The Jesus in my story is based on fact. Our community traditions affirm that he was a prophet, a Son of Man, a miracle worker, an exorcist and that he was crucified. We also believe that he – no, I don’t want to ruin the rest of the book.

Lucan: No, I guess not! Well, we are coming up on our first commercial break. Hang tight, and we’ll pick right back up shortly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ll be right back with our guest, the author of the Announcement of Jesus the Messiah.

The Historical Pompey v. The Historical Jesus

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First, I’m not going to get into the full discussion – I will side with McGrath because I happen to trust his scholarship, and what’s more, that his scholarship is not driven by an agenda; however, I do find that a study of the way history was recorded, used, and promoted is one which helps the conversation with those who have somewhat of a sane view of the acceptance of facts.

One of those ways is Lucan’s use of the Roman civil wars several generations before his to create a hope for a return to the Republic. In writing De Bello Civili, Lucan uses several rhetorical techniques of the time, and some he seemingly invented, to juxtapose tyranny and freedom. He develops historical characters of which little is actually known, into full fledged heroes of the Roman people – if only the Roman people could accept them as such. Lucan’s hero, his one out of the many, is Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Pompey, the great Roman general. But, Pompey is nearly a complete fabrication of the author’s mind. It’s not that Pompey didn’t exist, but Lucan’s Pompey (we’ll call him LPompey) never did as Lucan portrays him. Lucan creates LPompey to be his hero, to play up the themes of honor, laws, and a host of other issues which the author needs symbolized in a shorten manner. Bartsch writes,

One Pompey is more or less the narrator’s creation; his presence relies on the frequent intervention of the narratorial voice to praise his achievements and his character and to paint them in as tragic a light as possible. For the narrator, Pompey is in the end a hero and Rome’s darling; his death is the last gasp of the moribund Republic.

Pompey is brought to life, and perhaps a different life than his actual one, by the voice of the narrator. Different LPompeys exist for the different crowds. Lucan is not so much concerned with the historical figure of Pompey, but for the reception of LPompey. LPompey appeals to the many because he is the one who stood against Caesar. Lucan quietly asks the audience to do the same, with the warnings and caveats of martyrdom and the like. I would go so far as to suggest Lucan’s Republic (LRepublic) which he is desperately fighting to restore hope for is itself a creation of the author. Yet, they exist because not because of the historical situation, but because they are constructed first in the mind of the audience and then in the mind of the author (the reverse is true in propaganda, after all. The author is not just telling a story, but crafting a story which the audience will accept; therefore, it is only proper that the audience comes first in story creation). Why does Lucan’s story work? Because LPompey and LRepublic were known to exist, but their memories are resurrected in such a way as to allow the author to shape them into his creation, so that they fit his need.

The same must be said for the Historical Jesus. Paul’s Jesus (PJesus) was no doubt a historical figure. But, when we come to the Gospels, we begin to see a development of Jesus – MJesus, MatJesus, and LJesus along with JJesus. The new reauthors of PJesus use an existing pattern in the mind of the audience, their audience which they know quite well, and rebuild the main character and his story in such a way as to effect something in them. For Lucan, it was the hope of the Republic. For the Evangelists, they sought to renew their communities in PJesus (which no doubt is why Mark seems to have something of Paul in his story. It’s about Plato’s patterns, after all).

For those unconvinced that PJesus existed, there is really no hope for you.

Review: Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material

Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material
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This is not going to be a traditional review. I purchased this book, for my thesis work, which was inspired by Dr. Winn’s first work. This book has sat on my shelf for a while, waiting to be read in depth. Due to a recent review, I decided to spend some time with it. Of course, this work will help my own MA thesis, and my future dissertation. As a personal note, the first work by Winn has shaped my understanding of Mark, leading to independent research verifying, I believe, this view. This second work has strengthened my own work considerably, in my opinion. Frankly, I do not think you should begin to look at the Mark, and in many ways, the Synoptics and Acts, without reading Winn.


Since reading Adam Winn‘s first work, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, I have become intrigued with the use of Mark’s Gospel to counter Roman imperial ideology. Further, as I tested this theory on Mark 5.1-20, I discovered that Mark was employing mimetic rhetoric to counter the encroachment of imperialism into his community. In a 2003 work, Brian Incigneri, briefly mentioned mimesis as a possible motive of Mark’s imitation, but he classified this as an appeal to emotion (Incigneri, 2003, p53-55). This was not enough, as in my own explorations of Mark, a simple appeal to emotion was not the author’s primary purpose in using mimesis, especially as I tested the imperial ideological motif (per Winn) on other sections of Mark. In his second work, based on the completion of a post-doctoral fellowship under the direction of Thomas L. Brodie, Winn moves away from the imperial motif; however, what he does in return is to supply a set of strict criteria to all future interpreters of Mark that I believe can easily be incorporated into his previous monograph.


Before we progress, let me note that Winn’s purpose in this book is not an all encompassing survey of mimetic sources that Mark employs, although I will later note my problems with what appears to be a selective selection of sources and the hope that other sources will be considered as additional literary layers. Before the reader leaves the introduction, Winn gives the purpose of this work: “to build on the preliminary work already done by Brodie, and explore the possibility that Mark’s gospel is imitating the Elijah-Elisha narrative (10).” This book will also establish criteria for examining the use of imitation, especially in the Gospel of Mark. In my opinion, as a student of mimetic criticism, Winn’s criteria which he establishes must become the core criteria for any serious mimetic critic, scholar or student.


Winn’s book is in nine short chapters (the book has about 119 readable pages), giving a succinct examination of his subject. Unlike those of us who are blessed with the gift of verbosity, Winn manages to accomplishes his goals in less time than I fear this review will take. We may divide these chapters into two parts. The first part deals with Mark and Imitation, and after setting the stage, he shows how imitation can be used to show that Mark made use of the Elijah-Elisha narratives to flesh out his story of Jesus. To break down the first part more, and will examine the criteria in a later part of this review, we see Winn reviewing recent additions to Markan studies made through Dennis MacDonald and Wolfgang Roth (chapter 2 and 3 respectively) after first examining an ancient use of imitation as used by Virgil (70 BCE – 17 BCE) as he refigured Homer for his Aeneid. While a mimetic scholar must make use of the material provide for by Winn in his dissection of Virgil, this is a weakness of Winn’s work here. Virgil is more than 80 years removed from Mark’s composition and there are those who are closer, in ideology and rhetorical technique than Virgil. However, Winn is able to use Virgil’s recomposition of Homer to establish his criteria securely.

Why is new criteria important? As Winn notes in his introduction, source, form and redaction criticism has left us with too strict a criteria in searching for literary sources (7). Through source criticism, Mark has been established as a priority, therefore, Mark’s sources are ignored. Form criticism focused on the oral traditions which supposed underlie Mark’s Gospel, something Brodie has shown to be an unusable hypothesis (although Winn makes the point to note that the search for literary sources does not demean the use of oral sources). Finally, redaction is maintained only with a sort of copy and paste method. These criterion are just too strict to actually get to Mark’s sources. So, Winn develops new criterion which include: (1) accessibility; (2) structural similarity; (3) shared narrative details; (4) verbal agreement (although he allows that imitation from one language to another may preclude this); and (5), how the use of these criterion are combined to show that imitation has occurred.  This criteria is important as Winn moves forward in his examination of both MacDonald and Roth’s positions on imitation in Mark.

Winn is able to make quick work of MacDonald’s position in which the latter scholars is sure that Mark used Homer. Here, the use of Winn’s criteria is important and is developed further to rely on “clear and obvious” examples (49-50) in preference to those which bare only a minute similarity. This method shows the faultiness of MacDonald’s resulting conclusions on Homer/Mark, but what Winn is careful to do is to show respect for MacDonald’s methodology, in that it was MacDonald who pioneered the use of mimesis in the study of the New Testament, even if other commentators believe he has gone too far. Winn sets out clearly why MacDonald’s examples fail which are generally due to failing the “clear and obvious” test created by the author himself. He does much the same thing with Roth’s work, although Roth’s work provides its own fodder for Winn. Where MacDonald provides for imitation in examining Mark, Roth provides the parallelism between Elijah-Elisha and Mark. Winn, however, suggests that Roth may be wrong on trying to use the narratives to interpret Mark’s use of the material. While not truly a weakness of Winn (as he noted, interpretation is not the goal of this present volume), the lack of finding purpose in borrowed material will continue to keep imitation from achieving its full potential, in my opinion.

In chapters 4 through 9, Winn puts his methodology to the test to reveal the Elijah-Elisha narratives as mimetically similar to several of Mark’s accounts of Jesus. His strengths here include the structural similarities shared between the two narratives, as well as the initial mention of Elijah in Mark 1.2-3 along with other Elijah-like material in Mark’s prologue (chapter 1). His one weakness here is the resurrection accounts shared between the two. I would have liked to see Winn focus his time spent on this area in developing other episodes, as this one leaves just a little bit too much lacking for me to be convinced of the sharing of this one episode. That both conclude with a resurrection, albeit one which is unknown and the other which doesn’t happen to the protagonist, doesn’t really satisfy all of Winn’s criteria. Yet, even in this weakness, there is still very much something to consider. Perhaps Mark received his abrupt storytelling methods from these narratives. Regardless, the testing of the criteria by the author shows that his methodology is readily applicable to New Testament studies , and I would go one to say that it is one of the most convincing of current critical methodologies, as he pays attention to things often missed by other commentators due to their strict criteria.

This is the most important book on mimetic criticism in print today. Winn introduces sound criteria. He tests Brodie’s hypothesis of a Markan imitation of Elijah-Elisha and moves it from this category to a theory, if not law, but examining episodic events in Mark next to passages from the narratives. He meets his criteria and, because of this, one has to begin to accept his criteria as legitimate, and what’s more, that mimetic criticism, pioneered by MacDonald, mitigated through Brodie and fleshed out by Winn, is a valid rhetorical tool to get to the literary sources of the Gospels, if not more of ancient texts. In regards to interpretation, he, as a scholar, leaves this for others to decide. As a student of Adam Winn’s work, I am more enthused with the course that his work has established in this volume than I was with the first, although they are intimately connected.


I am choosing to post the reflections separate from the actual review (which has been posted on Amazon with five stars) because of their nature.

As I mentioned above, there are several issues I have with the complete work.  First, the criteria is excellent, but I do find that it lacks one key aspect, purpose. If Mark is using the material only to tell a different story, which was allowable in the time and place of composition, then it may be that interpretation is unnecessary (that it is unnecessary is not Winn’s point); however, if the author is using imitation to create a different reality or to counter ideology, then this purpose will guide the interpreter into determining the lengths of imitation, the historical value of the final work, and quite possibly, the original sources including oral sources. I’m not saying that Winn is not interested in the purpose, but it was not included in the criteria. Unless we are willing to forgo any hope of understanding the initial reception of the work, we must add to Winn’s criteria the “why.” For Virgil, the reasons seem to be implicit. Homer was virtually Scripture to the Greeks. As Roman culture began to mimic Greek culture, Homer saturated the Latins. Using Homer, then, would have given Virgil’s poem of Roman ascendancy some cultural allowance in the minds of his audience that this was important, that his work was blessed by the gods. For Mark, Winn begins with 1.2-3 to suggest, and rightly so, that Mark has left enough clues for his audience that he is wanting them to keep in mind Elijah-Elisha; yet, no mention is made of his previous work, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, in which he has laid down the challenge meant by Mark 1.1. I find it disheartening that his previous work is mentioned twice, regulated to the footnotes. This is a bit disappointing to someone who sees a great value in this former work, and the strong connection between that one and this one. If you remove the establishment of purpose from the criteria, the mimetic critic may in fact miss several of the sources used by the author.

Another issue that I find in the work is the use of Virgil, and subsequently Livy (72n9), as if they are the closest to Mark’s cognitive environment. Now, I need to be careful here, because my own work on imitation in Mark has been shared with the author, and the section of possible influences, received what I would consider positive comments. I do not mean to imply that the author should follow my work or that this present volume is the end of his scholarship in this area. My intention in citing this issue, and I avoid calling it a weakness in the work, is just as I did above, to note that both of Winn’s works can easily be joined. Winn cites Walsh who noted that Livy (59 BCE – 17 CE) used but one source of imitation and added new detail. Virgil does almost the same thing, using Homer as a sole source, adding his new detail to the finished product. Yet, Lucan (39 CE – 65 CE), someone much closer to Mark, uses not one, but several mimetic sources, such as Virgil, Homer, and (his uncle) Seneca. After Lucan, the Roman poet Statius (45 CE – 96 CE) did the same thing. While Winn does not implicitly suggest that Mark uses only one source, his use of Virgil, and the note by Walsh on Livy, allows me to worry enough that Winn may see only one narrative source for many of these passages. I believe that Mark is following Lucan and others in combining several sources; however, in at least one passage, there is an implied multi-level use of sources being used by Mark to further tell his story. In Winn’s previous work, he has correctly identified the purpose of Mark’s Gospel. Yet, he doesn’t return to this purpose for clues as to Mark’s literary sources.

It is my hope that Dr. Winn will continue on with this course of thought and fulfill the words of the Preacher, that of the making of books there is no end, as I believe, through my own independent research, that both of his works will be continuously validated, open the doors for theologians seeking to draw from the text sincere meaning giving new hope to Christians today, and continue to show the masterful hand of the author of the Gospel of Mark. Thus, if there are to be continuous books, like some of them be by Winn.

Do all literary sources need to be, well, literary? Adam Winn on (non-)literary sources

Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material
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I am trying to write my proposed SBL paper (since it is my first time, I have to turn the entire paper in). It will be fore Markan Literary sources:

This Seminar on Markan Literary Sources will explore Mark’s literary dependence on extant literature, especially Jewish, Christian, and Greco-Roman—a topic that has long been neglected. The method will include awareness of: (a) ancient methods of reshaping texts; (b) recently-developed criteria for judging literary dependence.

For those who have followed my blog – and to Robert who constantly has to hear about mimesis – you can see why I would love this section.

Anyway, as I am preparing my paper, I am discussing five scholars and their take on Mark 5.1-20. While Dr. Adam Winn doesn’t necessarily discuss Mark 5.1-20 (he does somewhat, just not like the others), his second work, pictured above (could you do me two favors? 1.) Order the book and 2.) request it on Kindle), provides me with something to set my mind at ease. After noting the problem with source and redactional critics and their use of strict criteria, Winn notes that this criteria for literary dependence “need(s) to be significantly revised in light of ancient writing practices – in particular the practice of mimesis or imitatio.” He notes that the lack of “strong verbal agreement and specific similarity in detail” are not the only criteria for a literary dependence. Other sources, in concludes, should be considered.

Okay, so that’s how far I’ve got into this book… but it is enough to convince me that my thesis is allowable. Woot.

Mimesis Explains Why We Struggle with Isaac’s Binding

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As a reminder, I am reading several books on mimesis for my upcoming thesis work. This is not a review or a reflection, but an internal dialogue to which you are a party too. Further, it helps for me to summarize my work for later use. Feel free to drop suggestions, but remember that this is not the final book that I’m going to read on the subject and that my thoughts on all things are left to better facts if there are any.


I’m not doing this for a ‘real-life’ discussion which I was having yesterday, but because of the real-life discussion which I had yesterday, and the reading which took place after that discussion in a book I have been reading through, I will now post a post completely unintentionally related to a real-life discussion I had yesterday day.


In reading the section on Realism yesterday, Potolsky mentions Erich Auerbach who has done work with mimesis in Western Literature (representation of reality). He has also considered Christianity in this examination, to which he has brought some keen insights. First, we have to understand the difference between Plato and Aristotle’s vision of this concept. Second, Auerbach compares Homer’s Odyssey to the story of Abraham in Genesis. Auerbach contends that the former is related to Plato (ironic? because Plato was writing in part against the use of Homer as almost Scripture) due to the fact that noting is left to the imagination. Everything which the main character is thinking, all of his deliberations, is there on display. Everything is clearly seen, so that the audience knows why the person made his or her choice. Compared to this, the sparsity of Abraham’s plight is a psychological web, becoming akin to the Aristotelian Mimesis.  Nothing else is really given except God’s command, not having spoken to Abraham for a long time. Abraham dutiful obeys. Potolsky draws attention to the lack of detail in all of this, and of course, we still struggle with it. Auerbach through Potolsky contends that the “Biblical characters ‘have a greater depths of time, fate and consciousness’ than do the characters of Homer.” This lack of the knowns create an emotional attachment to the characters because the audience supplies their own feelings to the event, creating a psychological attachment, an emotional appeal. This leads Auerbach to develop two kinds of realism: Homer with his outward details leaving nothing for the audience to supply and the “interior, psychological realism of the Bible” which forces the reader of the Text to place themselves into the story in an unusually frightening way.

Potolsky goes on to offer a statement which I find as equally interesting, “For the Christian tradition, by contrast, every life is wracked by profound conflicts of faith.” I would amend it to include the Jewish life as well, considering the genesis of our tradition. However, the issue is that in the Tradition(s) which engage the Binding of Isaac meet those who struggle with the story with a harsh reality because we cannot understand how Abraham could so blindly follow God’s request. We have come up with good answers to placate us, more so on why God would ask rather than Abraham’s answer. We are angered at both God and Abraham, and perhaps ourselves, because of the request, the faith, and our questions. We do not know what went on in Abraham’s mind as he deliberated with himself over this choice. But, I think that in struggling with it, we are supplying to the story the much needed element, in that we are Abraham and suddenly Isaac is our son. We struggle against our own weaknesses and become attached to the situation much more so then if we could follow Abraham’s logic, listening to him as he deliberated on whether or not to kill his son for God.

And, I believe, that is what we are meant to do.

Summary of Mark’s Incipit… From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel, Craig A. Evans

This will be a summarization of Craig Evan’s article on Mark[1]. You can find the original here.

On the third page of the article, he notes that “Mark appears deliberately to highlight parallels between Jesus’ behavior and his treatment at the hands of the Romans, on the one hand, and Roman traditions and practices concerning the Ruler Cult, on the other. “ He then goes on to enumerate several of those parallels, but I will use a few for my purposes. For one, (his number two on the list), is the use of omens and prophecies. As we have discovered with McCasland, omens were often times a Roman tool, although employed by Josephus and of course, Mark. Here, he notes that the omens are around the transfiguration, a historical referent which I will explore later. Further, he notes the Roman Triumph and associates this with Mark 11.1-11. There is the divine terms used of Jesus and the healings. Here, he notes the ratio of healings to the length of the story (8).

He assigns the date of writing to the mid to late 60s, although he thinks that a different social backdrop would have been present had Mark’s Gospel been written in 68 or 69 (12-14).

So, pretty short, but there is the connection between Mark’s Gospel and Rome, something Adam Winn explores in his book, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel.

[1] Evans, Craig A. “Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel .” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 1 (2000): 67-81.

Summary of The Jewish War and the Sitz im Leben of Mark – Joel Marcus

JUDAEA, First Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel ...
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This is a summary of what caught my attention while reading this article. It is by Dr. Joel Marcus[1]. This is only for me to better keep track of the information that I am gathering.

My thesis, if I am allowed to, due to time and other restrictions which may be placed on a Master’s Thesis, will focus on identifying Mark’s use of ancient rhetoric, in a particular style, in his Gospel. Marcus calls the idea that something happened a generation before the Jewish War, in the life of Jesus, a superimposition. I believe that this is wrong, and instead, would identify the technique being used, not as an apologetic imposition, but as mimesis, and used in a specific way. While I disagree with Marcus’ allowance, I found his article, overall, important, and in many places, I found myself holding my breath as I flipped the electronic pages, waiting to see if he had so succinctly stated my thesis for me. Fortunately, he did not.

I agree with him, and I assume “a growing minority of recent studies” (441) that Mark was written close to Palestine[2], by an eyewitness to the Reality (re: Aristotle). I do not agree with him, however, that Mark’s gospel came to be written either “slightly before or slightly after the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70[3]” (442), as I would place Mark’s writing near between the publication of the now lost Commentaries of Vespasian and Titus and Josephus’ work, the War of the Jews. I will, no doubt, stick to this date, given McCasland’s argument and the fact that the historical referents in Mark needed to be identified and attached to emotionally. Thus, I would say no later than 76, if Josephus published his work in 75, and not earlier than some time after the fall of the Temple.

Marcus begins by addressing the ‘who’ and ‘when’ of Mark 13[4]. The Desolating Abomination has been identified as several historical figures, generally Titus or Eleazar son of Simon[5], but in my thesis, I will make the case that neither of these take into account another figure, whom would have been challenged before in Mark, via mimesis, and who would have directly challenged the Jewish-Gentile Christian community in Jerusalem. Marcus notes the “prophecies of false messiahs[6], war, persecution, and betrayal in chapter 13.6-13 (447). This is something which I believe do reflect the experiences of the community, and that list includes at least one prophecy which is directly countered by Jesus[7]. Of the infernal offender, Marcus writes,

…”Danielic “abomination of desolation” in 13.14 (“let the reader understand”) calls attention to an event that either has already occurred or is prominently on the horizon, and that event probably has something to do with the incidents that occurred in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem during the Great Revolt.” (447)

It’s like a puzzle piece, or a race to find the clues. I would agree with Marcus, but disagree with whom he selects in regards to the Abomination, although he comes so very close to my conclusions. I feel that some of my thesis at this point will focus on countering Marcus, as he even notes that the “occupation of the Temple by revolutionaries” is what caused the subsequent destruction. According to Josephus, Titus actually sought to prevent the destruction. Therefore, for that and other reasons, I have to discount Titus as the Abomination.

Marcus looks at 11.17, which I do believe he has correct. I’m not sure how I could use this in my thesis, but Marcus’ interpretation (450) of it fits well into Josephus’ account of the Destruction of the Temple.

In regards to Simon bar Giora, see 458-9, see n86.

See also his rebuttal of Theissen’s date on 460, and his suggested location (which makes absolute sense) on 460-61. I disagree with him on the dating, which seems to be intertwined with the choice of Eleazar son of Simon, but overall, he has shown me how to pick the historical referent.

[1] Marcus, Joel. “The Jewish War and the Sitz im Leben of Mark.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111 (1992): 441-462.

[2] See 444, which gives an allowance that the Latinisms in Mark can happen around Roman Garrisons, such as the garrison which overlooked Gadara.

[3] He bases this date, in part, on the prophecy of Jesus to “free from Judea” (Mark 13.14), but fails to connect this to anything in history. He will contend on 454 that this line prevents Titus from being the Abomination, allowing it to be Eleazar. While he makes a solid case, I believe that he has misses some of the evidence.

[4] Marcus notes the “wide variety of evidence from chapter 13” which calls attention to the fact that Mark 13 arose in response to the Jewish War. I agree with him. Further, I agree that the Gospel writers might have followed Jesus in using surrounding events to repeat in parabolic form in order to tell a Truth. (448)

[5] Marcus directly proposes Eleazar son of Simon as the historical reference to the Abomination of Desolation (454).

[6] Marcus pits Theissen and J.R. Donahue against each other. Theissen is quoted by Adam Winn in his dissertation. What is interesting is that both of the previous authors or correct in who the False Christs were. (448, n35)

[7] For fleeing, see Josephus who has a list of the false prophecies.

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Summery of Portents in Josephus and in the Gospels – S.V. McCasland

This is a review, for memory’s sake, of an article related to my eventual thesis.

Entitled, Portents in Josephus and in the Gospels[1], the author, S.V. McCasland makes the case that the ‘signs’ of Josephus were of pagan origin, rather than of Hebrew style. He begins by quoting Bultmann in noting that the literary form of the author, in this case both Josephus and the Evangelists, cannot be seen as an “aesthetic” concept but must be rather understood as a sociological one. For Mark, then, we have to understand not just  what we expect Mark to be saying as Jew, but as a Jew in a Roman world, and perhaps, look more closely for the Sitz im Leben, beginning there and only then seek to perform a proper exegetical surgery. We understand Josephus’ station in life, as he was a former Jewish officer who was caught by Vespasian, and turning traitor, because the chief propagandist of the Imperial Cult, going so far as to declare Vespasian the Jewish Messiah. But, what is Mark’s? In this, I have to agree with S.J. Case who writes,

Every statement in the records is to be judged by the degree of its suitableness to the distinctive environment of Jesus, on the one hand, and to that of the framers of the gospel tradition at one or another stage in the history of Christian on the other[2].

In examining the three selected passages, they have been singled out exactly because they suit the determined sitz im leben more so than the previous suggested situation and context, because they find suitable historical referents which settle Mark’s sitz im leben.

McCasland suggests that the miracles stories are made difficult to suggest by the fact that some are explainable while others are not. Healings would fall into the first category, but expulsion of demons into the latter. He also suggests that they are made difficult by our inability to determine the context, from language to location, of when they were first produced. Given that the Gospels were given in an oral society, it would behoove us then to try to determine similarities with other stories and to, again, examine every record by whether or not they are suitable to the time of Jesus. This feeds into the goal of his paper, to determine the original place of the signs mentioned in Josephus which were to foretell the destruction of Jerusalem.

Here, for future reference, McCasland draws me away from worrying about the origin of Tacitus’ voice which he mentioned coming from the Temple, as he is able to piece together the portents which Josephus used, including a divine voice.

I note his statement, “To catalogue the woes that shall precede the messianic age is the usual device of this literature.” Later, he notes that only Matthew and Luke use portents to describe the birth of Christ and a few to describe the death of Christ. (326)

McCaseland notes that the prophet of which Josephus spoke was the only Hebrew element to his story, with everything else, including dreams and signs, being a regular feature in pagan tales. (329; see also 330).

He notes on 331 that the “flames of war were fed by Messianic expectations.” This is true in the case of one of the identified historical referents. He concludes on 332 that “There is no sufficient reason to doubt that these portents of Josephus are a true reflection of the apocalyptic mind in Jerusalem.

I find it ironic that as Rome was adopting Jewish Messianic signs to proclaim the Roman Emperor Messiah, the Jews were busy adopting pagan references to proclaim him not.

Of interest is the dating of Josephus to the years between 75-79. He notes, further, that Josephus wrote them down in 70, giving the solidification of the legend only five years to take hold (334).

[1] McCasland, S. V. (1932). Portents in Josephus and in the Gospels. Journal of Biblical Literature, 51(4), 323-335

[2] Case, S.J., Jesus: A New Biography, 1927, 115