Winn, Mark, Mimesis, and a Hopeful SBL Presentation

Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material
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Dr. Adam Winn’s second book, to the right, has been reviewed for RBL by Dean Deppe, of Calvin Theological Seminary. Deppe summarizes Winn’s core view on mimetic criticism with,

  1. plausibility demonstrated by the date of composition and availability;
  2. similarity in structure and order of events;
  3. shared narrative details and actions;
  4. verbal agreement; and
  5. the weight of these combined criteria.

Of course, I tend to agree with Deppe’s summation of the arguments made by Winn and more, with Winn’s arguments over all. While I do think that the Elijah-Elisha narratives play a large role in the development of the miracle traditions in Mark’s gospel, I believe that the overarching structure of the Gospel depends upon another work altogether, with pieces of the Septuagint used for mnemonic fodder to feed the imagination of the reader/listener, bringing in a dramatic message.

To be honest, I was hoping to be able to present at the seminar co-chaired by Dr. Winn at this year’s SBL, a remarkable honor (and feat considering I am a student and a would-be first time presenter), but the paper I had prepared went in a radically different direction than what the Seminar called for as well as not really being quite there for presentation, if you know what I mean. I submitted a paper (because as a first time presenter, I had to submit an entire paper, although I hope that these papers are considered nothing more than extended abstracts instead of the final, polished, work) anyway, with the focus on Josephus as Mark’s literary source. I felt and still feel that Mark is countering Roman Imperial Ideology (yes, all caps, because it’s a blog and that’s how I roll), but because the largest pusher of this drug is Josephus… that he is using Josephus as the basis of his literary work.

Let me give you the simple reasons, mimicking Deppe’s summary of Winn:

  1. Josephus composed a pamphlet in Aramaic (Mark was supposedly written in Aramaic), in late 70 or early 71. With the might of the empire behind him, this pamphlet was used and expanded, with translation into Greek, and used to secure Vespasian’s throne. McCasland has argued that only five years is needed to invest a culture with legends to the point that they would challenge beliefs. What happens if you add the Roman Emperor behind it?
  2. The structure between Mark 5.1-20 and the story of Vespasian’s ride into Gadara is reversed, but still parallel.
  3. The narrative, is the same, but again, reversed. The numbers match, the swine match, and there is even a figure molested with violence in both accounts along with rejection/acceptance.
  4. The verbal agreement is strained, I admit, although I believe that, and if the paper fails to make the mark I’ll post the chart here showing my conclusions in this regard (or you can ask for it), Mark 5.1-20 finds considerable verbal agreement with the Septuagint and Josephus.
  5. The weight of the combined material, along with Mark’s overall purpose of his gospel, I believe, supports that Mark has access to Josephus. Further, considering that Josephus wrote in Aramaic and made a “poor” translation into Greek, we find even more weight added to the notion that Mark was mimicking Josephus, and not just in imagery, but in style as well.

Now, if I could just put that on paper, submit it, and defend it verbally, boom. But, alas, I had to re-write the paper (because of my own misunderstanding and my usual overreaching) in a short time. I’m not sure I got everything across that I wanted to in it, and that it is the paper which I envision. But, I would implore you to purchase this book and…. ask for it on Kindle.

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2 Replies to “Winn, Mark, Mimesis, and a Hopeful SBL Presentation”

  1. Interestingly this reminds me of one of the reasons for the early second century dating for Luke-Acts is scholars revisiting the question for literary dependence with Josephus’s Antiquities. It sounds like you have an interesting thesis to me, so are you still waiting to hear back if it will get accepted? Your points 2, 3 and 4 might be your best bet if you can demonstrate there are enough vocabulary and thematic correspondences to make literary dependence more plausible than just known oral traditions circulating about the event. For points 1 & 5 (are you arguing Mark knew just the Aramaic pamphlet or the final text of War) some scholars have attempted to reconstruct some hypothetical Aramaic sources but I am not so sure our Greek NT Mark as a whole was a translation from Aramaic (unless you accept Papias that everything Mark recorded of what the Lord had said and done was based off Peter’s preaching alone as he served as Peter’s “interpreter” [translator]?) nor that Mark and Josephus translating Aramaic sources is distinctive enough to demand literary dependence (Josephus’ Greek and literary style is higher than Mark too). Anyways, wish you the best of luck with this; unfortunately I will not be able to make it to Chicago this time to see it 🙂

    1. Here’s the thing about the appearance of an Aramaic source for Mark… if Mark is flat out mimicking Josephus, and Josephus was writing in A and translating into Grk… them Mark would have picked up that style. Another scholar noted that this form of mimicking was prevalent as well.

      I do think that there is plenty of evidence for 2-4, with 1 and 5 being important, but…

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