This is a very short section, containing one short chapter on Mark in the Historical Record. Oden is going to now look at Mark’s African identity through the historical lens he has spent some time repudiating. He wants to now look at how the “ecumenical consensus” was developed textually. I’m not sure if I want to look at a Tradition this way, as it seems we are appearing under the hood and once the mystery is gone, it becomes a another mechanical piece to tugged at by less than sympathetic hands. In this, I think, he is still trying, and good for him, on the Christian textual history.
He does so by opening the books on pre-Constantinian history, inviting us to relive the history shaped by John the Elder, Papias and others of this time. The looming question remains on whether or not we, 1900 years and many cultural shifts removed, have the right to judge history any better than those who claimed to follow immediately after the Apostles, knowing, sometimes, the very Apostles that they were writing about. I do have a problem, however, with the idea that those further removed can ‘confirm’ something (as he states that Origen did, 191) rather than affirm history and received tradition. No doubt, we need to understand the way and the track which Christians secured their history, but there is a difference between confirmation and affirmation. Of course, I think that Oden is rather looking at the fact that their was no “dissenting opinion” (192) on Mark in the early Church, which seems to be confirmation in of itself. I would much rather allow that the mixing of history, tradition and textual considerations affirm the narrative rather than confirm it.
He accepts Morton Smith’s Secret Gospel of Mark. Ugh and Blah. He writes several pages on this ‘work’, showing in detail what this missing ‘piece’ would mean for the African memory, but allows, finally, that it may be spurious. After all that wasted ink? If there is a glaring weakness in this entire book, thus far, it is this small subsection. One should not place the emphasis which Oden has (207) on such a contested work, as it builds a strawry argument, which if removed, takes something away from the whole.
After that deplorable section, Oden moves to engage with Eusebius, who one must agree, is a notable Christian historian, second only to Luke in the pre-modern era. Arguably, however, Eusebius had a special connection with the Origen party in Alexandria. He handles this section masterfully, detailing some exaggerations of the ancient historian and how to handle them.
Interesting is his theory on postcritical inquiry.That needs more attention when addressing Christian history and Tradition as well as Theological Development.