Adam Winn has made a decisive turn from the search for the literary sources of the Gospel of Mark to discovering the Roman ideology, or rather the counter to Roman ideology, buried in it. His new article in JSNT can be found here:
Tyrant or Servant? Roman Political Ideology and Mark 10.42-45 – Journal for the Study of the New Testament, first published on April 11, 2014 (Here).
Long time readers know that it was Winn’s 2008 volume, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, that got me going on Markan literary sources and in many ways, Roman imperial ideology. While others may not see what is plainly there, I believe Mark is written to do several things, but it is written because of Vespasian and the changes he wrought in the κόσμος. (<—yes, that is on purpose.)
Before we go further, let me call attention to my friend Garet’s post, wherein he states he disagrees with such enterprises. He is honest about his paper, that it is a “critical inquiry for apologetic purposes.” But, I do not think we can dismiss those who see anti- imperial ideology in the New Testament as somehow anti-apologetic. To understand what I mean, read pp23–24 in Winn’s article.
Winn examines Mark 10.42–45 as if it were read by a Roman audience. To introduce his readers to this worldview, Winn first lays out the groundwork necessary for “Mark as a ‘Roman Gospel,'” giving clear reasons for such a statement. He focuses largely on his work and one by Brian Incigneri, although he doesn’t fail to bring in other sources (even sources considered somewhat conservative – Evans). The reader must pay attention at this point, because the object rightly raised to any Roman understanding of Mark 10.42–45 is that it contains no directly related imperial language. Later, Winn can draw his readers back to this point to show them that Mark does not have speak the language consistently in order for his audience to understand him — after all, the sum of the Gospel is subversion of the imperial order.
Following this, Winn gives his reader a crash-course on the political ideology of Roman rulers and the recusatio. Without this section (and you may need to read it first before the article and then once more within the article), Winn’s arguments would falter. We are simply given what it meant to be a Roman prince.
Finally, the author exegetes Mark 10.42–45 section by section, drawing together his arguments thus far. Unlike previous volumes by Winn, he has little to no trouble offering a solid interpretation of his work and what it might mean, theologically. It is here that the genius of the thesis comes into play — one can actually hear how this section is read in the forum magnum next to Tacitus and Suetonius.
My concerns are tangential. I would like to have seen more developed in the narrative/Christological interpretation section. What sort of ruler, besides the self-sacrificing kind, is Jesus? Divine, or otherwise.[1 I am presenting a paper at AAR-EIS in a few weeks that I believe points to something of a high Christology in Mark, although different than John. It is higher than adoptionism, but not binitarianism.] Of course, this may be a theological bridge too far for such an article. Further, I feel 10.45 could be developed to show the “ransom” language is somewhat imperial (especially if you connect it to the Triumph – something Winn has already connected (in the article and elsewhere) to the Passion). Beyond that, his arguments are sound, if not near airtight.
Note, this is an article — not a book. I recognize that.
Winn does a masterful job of filling the void of reading this section of Mark as might have been read against the backdrop of political ideology. I rather appreciate the fact that the pericope’s interpretation is not because of language directly in the pericope, but taken as a whole from the Gospel. He also doesn’t date the Gospel of Mark, so we can take the article as a broad reaction against Roman imperial ideology. Further, he gives due attention to the author and the audience, rather than focusing on literary sources. Because of this new focus, Winn brings out the message as heard by the audience rather than any latent construction used by the author. He is careful to note Mark’s turning (he labels it “radicalizing”) of certain words and phrases and is equally anxious to let his readers know that what he is proposing is not emulation, but subversion. (Note, Garet misses this difference, as do many). In other words, even with his firm stance, he allows his audience some room in applying certain aspects of his thesis to their own stances.
A fantastic piece!