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Bibliography on the Figure of (John) Mark

Following my previous post, here is a brief bibliography if you want to further research the various New Testament references to a figure (or figures) named Mark or John Mark (cf. Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5; 15:37-39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24; 1 Peter 5:13) as well as their later Christian reception.

  • Bauckham, Richard. “Paul and Other Jews with Latin Names in the New Testament.” In The Jewish World Around the New Testament. Edited by Richard Bauckham, 371-392. WUNT 233. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.
  • Bauckham, Richard. “The Gospel of Mark: Origins and Eyewitnesses.” In Earliest Christian History: History, Literature, and Theology: Essays from the Tyndale Fellowship in Honor of Martin Hengel. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Jason Maston, 145-169. WUNT 2.320. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.
  • Black, C. Clifton. “The Presentation of John Mark in the Acts of the Apostles.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 20.3 (1993): 235-254.
  • Black, C. Clifton. Mark: Images of an Apostolic Interpreter. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001.
  • Bruns, J. Edgar. “John Mark: A Riddle within the Johannine Enigma.” Scripture 15 (1963): 88-92.
  • Bruns, J. Edgar. “The Confusion between John and John Mark in Antiquity.” Scripture 17 (1965): 23-26.
  • Furlong, Dean. The John also Called Mark: Reception and Transformation in Christian Tradition. WUNT 518. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020.
  • Furlong, Dean. “John Mark.” In Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online. Edited by David G. Hunter, Paul J. J. van Geest, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
  • Holmes, B. T. “Luke’s Description of John Mark.” Journal of Biblical Literature 54 (1935): 63-72.
  • Kok, Michael J. “The Flawed Evangelist (John) Mark: A Neglected Clue to the Reception of Mark’s Gospel in Luke-Acts?” Neotestamentica 46.2 (2012): 244-259.
  • Kok, Michael J. The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015.
  • Moon, Jongyoon. Mark as Contributive Amanuensis of 1 Peter? Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2009.
  • Oden, Thomas C. The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing Early Church Tradition. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2011.
  • Parker, Pierson. “John and John Mark.” Journal of Biblical Literature 79 (1960): 97-110.
  • Taylor, R. O. P. “The Ministry of Mark.” Expository Times 54 (1943): 136-138.
  • Williams, Margaret H. “Palestinian Jewish Personal Names in Acts”. in The Book of Acts in its Palestinian Setting. Edited by Richard Bauckham. BAFCS 4. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

Jonathan Bernier’s Critique of my Theories on the Traditional Authorship of Mark’s Gospel

It is almost a decade since I finished my PhD on the tradition about the Evangelist Mark, which was revised for publication in The Gospel of the Margins. You have a limited window to try to put forward a relatively new idea so, like many scholars, I look back on my dissertation wishing I had read more to strengthen some arguments, revise others, and edit out the howlers! I take reassurance in Paul’s words that we always just know in part and see through a mirror dimly. Anyways, I am grateful for the reviews from Christopher Skinner, Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, and David Evans. I am also grateful for Jonathan Bernier’s extensive critique of my arguments in his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity that I want to engage on this blog. I will respond to select quotes from his critique.

“Indeed, as Hengel demonstrates in the following pages (48-56), the oft-stated ‘fact’ that not just the Gospel of Mark but all the canonical gospels originally were anonymous works simply does not hold up to scrutiny. There is, in fact, no evidence that they ever circulated without the traditional attributions. These attributions, of course, might well be false, and thus the works pseudonymous, but it defies the evidence to describe them as anonymous works.” (128n.4)

I do not consider this to be an accurate characterization of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, which make no explicit (and I would even add implicit) authorial claims within the texts. One could make a case for or against pseudonymity when it comes to Acts or the Johannine epilogue (e.g., John 21:24), but I lean towards viewing the “we” in Acts as a dramatic literary device or possibly the remnants of an earlier source and both the third evangelist and the Johannine beloved disciple are left unnamed. The attributions to Mark and Matthew are attested early by Papias, but I am not persuaded that he wrote anything about Luke or John and he stands alone in referring to the authorship of the Gospels before Justin Martyr. In my book, I cited Helmut Koester‘s counter-argument that the earliest mention of a “Gospel” along with a named author is from Theophilus of Antioch (Autol. 2.22). I do not share Hengel‘s confidence that the standard titles attested in the late second century in our limited textual evidence can be dated so early and stand by my argument that the “Gospel according to [named evangelist]” was formulated to differentiate the Gospels from each other when they were grouped together in an authoritative collection.

“… [C. Clifton] Black actually does not say that there were fourth-century copies of Mark’s Gospel that lacked the superscription, but, rather, that the fourth-century De recta in Deum fide does not refer to the superscriptions of either the Markan or Lukan Gospels when discussing who wrote these texts.” (129n.4)

I should have been more careful in my footnoting of Joel Marcus and Black and double checked Black’s argument, so I accept Bernier’s correction. I realized I had made a mistake when reading a similar critique from Richard Bauckham of Marcus’s commentary on this point.

“Most properly then, we should state that Kok permits a date between 100 and 110 for Papias’s treatise.” (131n.11)

I followed some leading experts on Papias in settling on 110 CE (e.g., Schoedel, Körtner), but Bernier is right that my arguments allow for a range from 100 to 110. I am now even inclined to date Papias’s writing activity closer to 100 CE, shortly after he met the Elder John in the beginning of Trajan’s reign. See this post on the date of Papias.

“[Kok argues that] second century orthodox writers distance Peter from Mark’s Gospel, in order to protect the apostle from associations with a marginal narrative, at the same time that they use the Petrine association as part of ‘a deliberate power play by centrist Christians to co-opt this Gospel to advance their agenda.'” (p. 132)

I would nuance this summary. The orthodox writers had to deal with Mark’s Gospel because it was the earliest biography of Jesus and circulated widely enough to be used as a source by Matthew and Luke, but they had some literary and theological issues with it. Their solution may have been to defend its apostolicity, while blaming its perceived shortcomings on an intermediary like Mark. This was my attempt to explain the ambivalence in the traditions that Peter’s interpreter Mark did not put his material in order, wrote without Peter’s knowledge or after Peter’s demise, and received the epithet stump-fingered.

“[Kok’s thesis] relies upon a very questionable ordering of early Christian texts (1 Peter-Papias-Acts, and that is leaving aside the question of when Colossians was written: not every scholar would assent to treating it as functionally coeval with Galatians). It is little more than assertion that 1 Peter, even if pseudonymous (an open debate in New Testament studies), randomly selected Silas and Mark for inclusion as Petrine colleagues, and, moreover, Kok has provided no evidence indicating that Silas and Mark could not have been companions of both Peter and Paul; in fact, the assertion is, if anything, refuted by the very material which Kok supposes these figures were extracted” (132; footnote 16 also notes that Col 4:10 associates Barnabas with Mark and Gal 2:13 has Barnabas aligning with Peter against Paul)

I would have thought that Bernier would be a fan of challenges to the consensus on the dating of Christian sources based on his recent book :), but here is how I would respond to his individual points:

  • My view of the epistle to Philemon as a prison epistle sent from Paul in Rome is conventional, though the letter could be dated earlier if Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus. Verse 24 notes Mark as Paul’s colleague.
  • I am open to the epistle of Colossians being written either by Paul during his Roman imprisonment or shortly after his lifetime and both options find plenty of support in the commentaries, but others date this disputed epistle later in the first century. Col 4:10 identifies Mark as Paul’s colleague from the circumcision and Barnabas’s cousin.
  • Numerous scholars doubt that the literate, rhetorically-trained writer of 1 Peter was a Galilean fisherman and date the letter between the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by “Babylon” (i.e. Rome) in 70 CE and its earliest attestation by Papias, Polycarp, and 2 Peter. Silvanus is referred to as the letter-carrier, though most of the references in Acts and Paul’s letters associate him with Paul, and Mark is called Peter’s son. I accepted David Horrell’s case that 1 Peter is a unifying document drawing on a range of traditions and that its inclusion of the names of two known colleagues of Paul was consistent with its use of other Pauline language and themes, but I will respond to Bernier’s fair objection below.
  • I joined an increasing minority of scholars who date Acts to the early second century, while Bernier supports an equally minority position in dating Acts before Paul’s martyrdom. Acts introduces Silas as an emissary from the Jerusalem apostles before joining Paul on his missionary journeys and places John Mark in Jerusalem before narrating his travels with Paul and Barnabas. Acts mainly links them with Paul and the new detail about Mark’s Semitic name is consistent with the other characters whose Semitic names are highlighted (e.g., Saul/Paul, Silas/Silvanus, Joseph/Justus). Despite Acts’ late date and theological tendency to subordinate Paul to the Twelve in Jerusalem, I was too hasty in downplaying the data that Silas and Mark may have mediated between the Jerusalem Pillars and Paul. Certainly Barnabas performed this role and Gal 2:13/Acts 15:37-39 note that he and Mark sided with some Jewish Christ followers against Paul during the Antioch incident, though tensions must have smoothed over by the time Colossians was written. I still think that Mark was added to Acts 12:12 to link Peter to Paul and Barnabas and reflects developing traditions about Mark.
  • Revisiting my case as a whole, I would allow that the author of 1 Peter may have picked Mark and Silvanus as known intermediaries between the Jerusalem pillars and Paul, which fits the letter’s theme of unity. However, the close association between Peter and Mark still seems to me to be a secondary development first attested in 1 Peter 5:13. Bernier has a blog post where he suggests that the John Mark of Acts could have been the fourth evangelist, so I will refer readers to my response to Dean Furlong’s brilliant defense of this position in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly.

“[I]f we do not know enough about [the Elder John] to render judgment upon how he obtained his information, then surely we cannot state that the information is bad with any greater confidence then we can state that it is good” (p. 132)

It matters whether the Elder John was the Apostle John who was part of Peter’s inner circle, a disciple of Jesus outside of the Twelve, or a second-generation follower of Jesus in Asia Minor when evaluating the credibility of his testimony. I evaluate the internal evidence within Mark’s text differently than Bernier as I do not think that it supports Papias’s view of it as a Petrine Gospel.

“Kok does not actually provide any evidence that centrist and non-centrist Christians were engaged in such a struggle over Mark’s Gospel during the years between c.70 and 110, that is, the period during which he posits the fictional link between Peter and Mark was developed… he describes the evidence that Papias and even Justin were ‘caught up in a war over the ownership of the Gospel texts’ as ‘vague hints’, hardly a sign of confidence that such conflicts were taking place in the early second century, let alone the late first centuries [sic]. From Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Irenaeus, he presents some evidence that conflicts were taking place in the later second century, but given his own insistence that the Papian evidence cannot inform us about events occurring less than forty years before Papias’s time, it is unclear how he can suppose that these writers can inform us about events occurring between eighty and a hundred and thirty years before theirs” (pp. 132-33, 133n.20 critiques my doubt that the tradition about Mark goes back to the 80s CE).

Bernier may overlook my arguments about Matthew’s and Luke’s redaction of Mark’s Gospel, from adding birth and Easter narratives to editing select verses (e.g., Mark 6:5; 10:18; 15:34) that were liable to being misinterpreted. Francis Watson and Mark Goodacre seem to make similar points about how Matthew’s and Luke’s editorial work helped rehabilitate Mark’s reputation. I also reviewed Bart Ehrman’s arguments about the theological effect of certain scribal corrections to Mark’s text, though I recognize the weaknesses of trying to discern a scribe’s intentions and some would demur from his judgments (e.g., the presence of “Son of God” in Mark 1:1). I admitted that Papias’s polemic against those who say many things or teach foreign commandments and Justin’s stress on Jesus’s historical fulfilment of Psalm 22 may be too vague to know if the conflicts involved Mark’s Gospel and Bernier fairly objects that much of my data comes from Irenaeus’s Against Heresies. One could add Clement’s Letter to Theodore which testifies that there was another edition of Mark’s Gospel in Alexandria that was misappropriated by Carpocrates (ca. 125 CE), but Clement is a late witness too and the text may be even later if it was an ancient or modern forgery. One figure that I wish I had discussed is Cerinthus. Irenaeus claims that those who divide the human Jesus from the divine Christ preferred Mark’s work and summarizes Cerinthus’s perspective that the divine Christ aeon descended like a dove on Jesus at his baptism and departed from him before he died (Haer. 1.26.1; 3.11.7). He shares an anecdote about a confrontation between John, the Lord’s disciple, and Cerinthus in a public bathhouse in Ephesus that he inherited from the students of Polycarp (3.3.4). If he confused the Apostle John with the Elder John, might this hint that there was a late first-century conflict between two rival theologians who both used Mark’s Gospel?

Bernier’s valid criticisms have forced me to re-evaluate some points and make a better defense of others. In the end, I still at least hold that the figure of Mark begins to be more closely associated with Peter in the last decades of the first century, the second canonical Gospel circulated anonymously before the Elder John created the tradition about its authorship, and the reception of the text may have been controversial in some circles which made the defense of its apostolic origins necessary. But I might be wrong and Bernier might be right, so it is worth testing all our theories. And I should note that this critique is a small part of Bernier’s book, which makes an important contribution on historiographical methodology in the study of the historical Jesus.

Engaging Jeremiah Coogan’s Article on the Gospels according to Matthew and the Hebrews

I have read with interest the open-acess article by Jeremiah Coogan, “The Ways that Parted in the Library: The Gospels according to Matthew and according to the Hebrews in Late Ancient HeresiologyThe Journal of Ecclesiastical History 73 (2022): 1-18. Full disclosure: I am convinced by the two Gospel hypothesis advocated by notable scholars such as Simon Claude Mimouni, Petri Luomanen, and Andrew Gregory and have argued that the Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Ebionites postdated Papias of Hierapolis in this article. I will also offer a different take on how these two Gospels became associated Matthew in a chapter in a forthcoming book, though I am at the proofs stage so may have limited interaction with this article if I can get it in, and I have been working more on the Gospel of the Ebionites including compiling a bibliography on it for the e-clavis Christian Apocrypha.

The article begins by contextualizing the Christian “bibliographic debates” in light of the wider Roman world, when educated readers commented on how to determine the authorship and authenticity of literary works. He argues that the efforts to distance the Gospel according to the Hebrews from the Gospel according to Matthew, when earlier Patristic witnesses may have regarded them as variant versions of a similar text, also reflect attempts to encourage the “parting of the ways” between Christian and Jewish communities. He rightly points out that titles such as the Gospel of the Ebionites or the Gospel of the Nazoreans are modern creations, that Epiphanius (Pan. 29.9.4; 30.3.7; 13.2) and Jerome (Vir. ill. 3; Tract. Ps. 135; Comm. Matt. 12.13) associate Matthew in varying ways with the texts that they entitle the Gospel according to the Hebrews, that Irenaeus’s statement that the Ebionites exclusively used Matthew’s Gospel (Haer. 3.11.7) was understood by Eusebius as a reference to the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Hist. Eccl. 3.27.4), and that there are parallels to Matthew’s text in the fragments of what are usually seen as discrete Jewish Gospels.

I agree with Coogan that Jerome was aware that the Nazoreans had their own translation of Matthew’s Gospel that he expounds on in his Commentary on Matthew, though I think that he has confused it with the Gospel according to the Hebrews that he read about in earlier Christian sources like Origen. I too doubt that there was a separate Gospel of the Nazoreans. I agree that the textual variants ascribed to to ioudaikon (“the Jewish Gospel”) were probably to Matthew’s text. I agree that there are Synoptic parallels in the passage on the rich young ruler in the Latin translation of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew (15.14) which I ascribe to the “Gospel according to the Hebrews”, in Epiphanius’s citations which I ascribe to the so-called Gospel of the Ebionites, and in the parable of the talents cited in Eusebius’s Theophany (theoph. fr. 4.22) though Gregory has persuaded me that this source was not the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

However, I disagree with his thesis that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was an alternative version of Matthew’s Gospel rather than a separate text entirely that may have at points been influenced by the Synoptics (e.g., John’s possible use of the Synoptic tradition is an analogy). It seems to me that a number of fragments from the Gospel according to the Hebrews are not just variants of passages in Matthew’s Gospel, but completely unrelated it to it, and the earliest Patristic witnesses do not ascribe it to Matthew. Clement (Strom., Origen (Comm. John 2.12.87), and Didymus of Alexandria (Comm. Ps. 184-9-10) never refer to it as Matthew’s Gospel “according to the Hebrews.” Origen and Eusebius clarify that it is a non-authoritative text, in contrast to Matthew’s Gospel which is part of the fourfold Gospel canon. Irenaeus assumed that the canonical Gospel of Matthew was appropriated by the Ebionites in the same way that the canonical Gospel of John was by the Valentinians, but Eusebius misunderstood the point that he was making. Epiphanius and Jerome continued to confuse matters after Eusebius when they linked the texts that they identified as the Gospel according to the Hebrews to the old, probably erroneous tradition going back to Papias that our canonical Gospel of Matthew was a translation from a Hebrew or Aramaic original.

In my view, the Gospel according to the Hebrews likely originated in Alexandria in the second century and has its own distinctive retelling of Jesus’s sayings and deeds. The text that Epiphanius cites should not be confused with it. For instance, its account of the baptism is not only completely different from it (compare Epiphanius, Pan. 30.13.7-8 to Jerome, Comm. Isa. 11.1-3), but it conflates the Synoptic passages to a far greater extent than what we see in most of the other fragments on the Gospel according to the Hebrews and this is not the sole example of it doing so. The Gospel of the Ebionites is just a modern title given to it because Epiphanius attributed to the Ebionites, rightly or wrongly, and I suspect that his text was pseudonymously attributed to the twelve apostles (cf. Pan. 30.12.2-3) and was designed to replace the Synoptic Gospels. Epiphanius thought that it was a corrupted version of Matthew’s Gospel because he was influenced by Papias and the text that he had also highlighted Matthew’s conversion story (30.12.3).

Wherever you land on the debate over the Patristic testimonies about the Jewish Gospels, it must be admitted that the evidence is extremely fragmentary and amenable to different interpretations. This article makes a great contribution and is well-worth reading. The author should be congratulated on winning an award (i.e. the Eusebius prize) for it. I will try not to say more about the topic so that I do not give too much away in my forthcoming publications.

Blog Posts on the Longer Ending of Mark

The vast majority of text critics argue that the longer ending in Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition to a text that ended at 16:8, though whether the evangelist purposely ended the narrative on the note of the women leaving the empty tomb or the original ending was lost is a more debated question. However, there are a few monographs that have been written in defense of the originality of the longer ending:

  • Farmer, William R. The Last Twelve Verses of Mark. SNTSMS 25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • Lunn, Nicholas P. The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. Cambridge: James Clarke and Co,
  • Snapp Jr., James. Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20: 2016 Edition. Amazon Digital Services, 2011.
  • See also the contributions of Maurice Robinson and David A. Black in Black, D. A., Editor. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008.

There are two informative posts written by James Snapp and Peter Head debating the textual evidence for the longer ending of Mark 16:9-11. Snapp has also contributed a website on “Resources for the Study of Mark 16:9-20” and frequently discusses this issue on his blog “The Text of the Gospels“, while Head is a contributor to the blog Evangelical Textual Criticism that also has a number of informative posts on this topic. Stephen Carlson has written a critical review of Lunn’s book for the Australian Bible Review. A conference on Mark 16 was put on by Claire Clivaz, Mina Monier, and Dan Botovici. My take is that the scribal addition of a longer ending to Mark’s Gospel, like Matthew’s and Luke’s redactional changes (e.g., adding other traditions about Jesus’s birth or post-Easter appearances and editing select verses such as Mark 6:5 or 10:18) or the Patristic traditions linking the evangelist to the Apostle Peter, ultimately helped rescue Mark’s narrative for Christian orthodoxy and preserved Mark’s distinctive voice in the canon of Christian Scripture.

Session on Matthew for the SBL Conference

I also have a paper that has been accepted for a session on Matthew that focuses on the relationship between Matthew’s unique material and the historical Jesus. Here is my abstract:

“Taking Markan priority as a starting point, scholars have long been puzzled by the redactional replacement of Levi the son of Alphaeus with Matthew at the toll booth near Capernaum (cf. Matt 9:9; contra Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). Richard Bauckham (2006) has demonstrated that there are no adequate contemporary parallels for a Second Temple Jewish individual to have two popular Semitic names like Levi and Matthew. It is further implausible that the Apostle Matthew was the author of either the Gospel that was named after him or one of its major sources, for the Matthean redactor evidently did not have any firsthand knowledge about how Matthew actually met Jesus, but just copied the Markan pericope about a toll collector named Levi. The Gospel was originally written anonymously rather than pseudonymously (contra Kilpatrick 1946). Other explanations for why Levi was switched for Matthew in Matt 9:9 include that the Gospel writer restricted the circle of disciples in Jesus’s lifetime to the twelve apostles (e.g., Pesch 1968), there is a wordplay between the name Matthew and the Greek noun mathētēs or ‘disciple’ (e.g., Kiley 1984; Sonnet 2021), or the name was changed by a later scribal copyist (e.g., Bacon 1930). Building on the arguments of Bauckham (2006) and Ulrich Luz (2001), I have argued that the Matthean evangelist may have had access to a lost source that identified Matthew as a ‘toll collector,’ so he or she borrowed the details from Mark’s chreia about Levi to narrate Matthew’s own call to discipleship (cf. Kok 2020). More specifically, the evangelist may have relied on a non-Markan list of the twelve apostles that labelled Matthew as a ‘toll collector’ (cf. Matt 10:3) and redacted Mark 2:14 accordingly. This inherited tradition about the Apostle Matthew’s former profession stands in tension with the evangelist’s redactional Tendenz to portray toll collectors in a very negative light (cf. Matt 5:46; 18:17). The tradition may preserve a memory that would have otherwise been forgotten that one of the Twelve commissioned by the historical Jesus was a toll collector.”

And here is the schedule according to the online program book:

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Matthew and the Historical Jesus

Nathan C. Johnson , University of Indianapolis
Jesus and the Other Messiahs in the Memory of Matthew (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Social-Scientific Approaches (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology) (Interpretive Approaches), Historical Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Michael Barber, Augustine Institute Graduate School
Rethinking the Use of the Gospel of Matthew in Jesus Studies (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Historical Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Caleb S. Cooke, Duke Divinity School
Will the Real Elijah Please Stand Up?: Matthean Redaction and Social Memory (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels – Mark (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Emily Fero-Kovassy, Australian Catholic University
God the “Father in Heaven”: A Matthean Expression of Jewish Notions of God (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Michael J. Kok, Morling College Perth Campus
A Lost Source Identifying Matthew as a Toll Collector? (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels – Matthew (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Redaction Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Historical Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Interrelations of the Gospels SBL Unit

Update: The program book is now available on the website, so it refreshed my memory about what I wrote in the abstract. Here is my abstract:

“David B. Sloan and James R. Edwards have revived the antique hypothesis that there was a single ‘Gospel according to the Hebrews’ underlying the diverse Patristic testimonies about it and that it was a significant source behind the Synoptic tradition. Specifically, Sloan and Edwards equate this reconstructed text with either Q or L, two hypothetical sources in B. H. Streeter’s classic solution to the Synoptic Problem, respectively. In this paper, I will first defend the most common scholarly view that the text known to Epiphanius which modern scholars entitle as the “Gospel of the Ebionites” should be differentiated from the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” that is initially cited by the Alexandrian Christian scholars Clement, Origen, and Didymus. The general academic consensus is that Epiphanius’s Gospel was a Greek text that, at points, harmonizes passages from the Synoptic Gospels. Second, I will focus on the baptism story in the “Gospel of the Ebionites” in order to demonstrate that it replicates Matthean and Lukan redactional elements, thus making it unlikely to be the source of the Synoptic double tradition or the Lukan Sondergut. The ways in which it expands on or omits details in the Synoptic Gospel narratives can be explicated on redaction-critical principles. The counter-proposal that one or more of the Synoptic evangelists redacted the baptism account in the ‘Gospel of the Ebionites’ is less plausible.”

The schedule is also now online and you can see it below:

Interrelations of the Gospels
Joint Session With: New Testament Textual Criticism, Interrelations of the Gospels
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Textual Criticism and the Interrelations of the Gospels

Elizabeth Schrader, Duke University, Presiding

David B. Sloan), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Western Non-Interpolations and the Interrelations of the Gospels (20 min)
Tag(s): Text Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Source Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Timothy B. Sailors, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
Divergent Readings in Gospel Texts: Difficulties in Distinguishing between Redaction-Critical and Text-Critical Alterations (20 min)
Tag(s): Redaction Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Text Criticism (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Michael J. Kok, Morling College Perth
The Gospel of the Ebionites and the Synoptic Gospels (20 min)
Tag(s): Gospels (Early Christian Literature – Apocrypha), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Social-Scientific Approaches (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology) (Interpretive Approaches)

Discussion (10 min)

Gregory M. King, Universität Wien (doctoral student); Campus Danubia (lecturer)
The Fourth Gospel as Source and Recipient of Harmonization in the Four-gospel Tradition: John 1:27 as Test Case of a Scribal Habit (20 min)
Tag(s): Text Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Scribes (Epigraphy & Paleography), Gospels – John (Biblical Literature – New Testament)

Discussion (10 min)

Roundtable Discussion (30 min)

Bible Odyssey on Levi/Matthew the Tax Collector

In light of my forthcoming book and SBL presentation on the traditions about the Apostle Matthew as a tax collector and an evangelist, I want to mention a recent post on SBL’s website Bible Odyssey by Katelyn Schnoor and John Van Maaren on “Matthew (Disciple).” It notes that either “[t]he writer of the Gospel of Matthew might have been claiming that Matthew and Levi were the same historical person, or the author might have conflated two different persons (whether intentionally or by mistake).” I side with the latter view and offer my reasons for why this was intentionally done. It also has a helpful discussion of the names Levi and Matthew and an overview of the portrayal of tax collectors in Matthew’s Gospel.

The “Gospel of the Ebionites” Bibliography for E-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha

There is an extremely helpful resource online entitled e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, which “is a comprehensive bibliography of Christian Apocrypha research assembled and maintained by members of the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL).” I have compiled the bibliography for a text that scholars entitle the “Gospel of the Ebionites,” a text that is only cited by a fourth-century bishop and heresiologist named Epiphanius. I follow the majority of scholars in distinguishing this text from the “Gospel of the Hebrews,” though that is the text that Epiphanius assumed that he had in his possession. I will continually revise this resource over time, but please contact me by my work email listed on the page if you notice any of the following: resources that I should include, spelling errors (especially in non-English languages), formatting errors, or missing page numbers. I hope this will be a useful entry for scholars and students who are researching this Gospel.

My Chapter on Jesus Walking on Water in a Forthcoming Volume

A few years ago, I attended a conference at the Sydney College of Divinity. The edited volume that has come out of the conference is entitled The Future of Gospels and Acts Research (ed. Peter G. Bolt; CGAR Series 3; Sydney: SCD Press, 2021). Here are the contents of the book:

  1. Peter G. Bolt, Introduction: The Future is Now
  1. James R. Harrison, Social Stratification and Poverty Studies
    in First-Century Roman Palestine: An Evaluation of
    Recent Research on the Economic Context of the First Disciples
  2. Mary J. Marshall, Essenic Influence on Jesus, His Brothers,
    and the Early Church
  3. Emily Fero-Kovassy, ‘Doing the Will of the Father in Heaven’
    in Matthew 7:21: Polemics and Law Observance
  4. Timothy P. Bradford, Born Eunuch: Recovering an
    Ancient Metaphor
  5. Michael J. Kok, Jesus’ Imperial Authority over the Sea
    in Mark 6:45–52
  6. Chris Spark, ‘With a Noble and Good Heart’.
    ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ (LUKE 8:15) in Graeco-Roman
    Cultural-Communicative Context
  7. Peter G. Bolt, Breathing in Enoch to Breathe out Jesus.
    An Aspect of Luke’s Apocalypticism
  8. Stephen Rockwell, Nathanael as a Remnant Figure in the
    Gospel of John: A Fresh Look at an Enigmatic Character
  9. John A. Davies, Many Abidings (John 14:2)
  10. Christopher Seglenieks, Τhe Μeaning of πιστεύω in the
    Gospel of John
  11. Andrew Stewart, What Did Paul’s Companions Hear?
    How the Syntax of ἀκούω Aids the Interpretation of
    Acts 9:7 and 22:9.

My chapter is on the account about Jesus walking on water in Mark’s Gospel. I will provide my abstract and a few sentences from my introduction to give you an idea about my thesis:

“The pericope about Jesus walking on the water in Mark 6:45–52 has been central to the debates over the Christology of Mark’s Gospel and whether it describes Jesus as fully divine or as an idealised human agent. Nevertheless, in line with some recent scholarship that reads Mark’s language of divine sonship in light of the Davidic messianic expectations within Second Temple Judaism on the one hand and the Roman imperial cult on the other, this essay will argue that the evangelist has been influenced by an older imperial ideology and that a Davidic Christology is the hermeneutical key to interpreting Mark 6:45–52. Specifically, the Markan Jesus was empowered to conquer and rule over the forces of chaos symbolised by the sea as the representative of the God of Israel and the royal heir of King David.” (p. 125)

“Building on the research of J. R. Daniel Kirk, Stephen L. Young, and Debra Scroggins Ballentine, I will argue that Mark 6:45–52 reproduced an older imperial ideology which portrayed a sovereign ruler subduing the forces of chaos that were symbolised by the tumultuous sea. In this way, Jesus exercised the regal authority that had been delegated to him by Israel’s national deity.” (p. 127)

Upcoming Classes this 2022 Semester

This semester I will be teaching my introductory unit Jesus and the Gospels and an advanced exegetical unit on the Synoptic Gospels, with a focus on the Gospel of Matthew. I will also be teaching a few different New Testament Greek units online. In terms of assignments, my introductory unit has two essays. The first one is in three parts and asks the student to describe a cultural issue (e.g., the beliefs and practices of the Pharisees), how it sheds light on a passage in a particular Gospel (e.g., the custom of handwashing in Mark 7), and how the passage advances themes throughout the Gospel. The second assignment is on the meaning of Jesus’s teaching about the kingdom of God. I also have two essays for the Synoptic Gospels unit. The first one asks students to note the similarities and the differences between the account of Levi/Matthew at the toll booth in the triple tradition, so the assignment is designed to get them to engage the Synoptic Problem, and to examine how “tax collectors and sinners” were perceived in that historical and cultural context. The second assignment is an exegetical paper on a passage in the Sermon on the Mount.