A Lucan Reading of Mark’s Gospel – Part I

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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.

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