Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Ancient Testimony to Mark's Gospel"

"Ancient Testimony to Mark's Gospel" Wenham, pp. 136-145

p. 136 "Eusebius quote Papias, who in turn quotes John the Presbyter. . . who says that Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. . . Eusebius contrasts the orderly arrangement of Matthew with the less structured oral teaching of Peter."

p. 136 "Irenaeus tells how Mark the disciple of Peter handed on Peter's teaching after the latter's 'exodus' - probably his death. . . Clement of Alexandria says that Mark wrote at the request of leading Christians in Rome and that Peter later gave his approval. Origen says that Mark wrote on the instruction of Peter."

It seems there is a strong tradition that Mark's Gospel is heavily influenced, even dependent on the teaching and preaching of Peter. The book and traditions about the book show all the signs of coming from Rome.

Eusebius quotes from Papias. Though it is impossible to tell where Papias ends and Euesebius begins in the quote, (p. 137) "The main thrust of the whole statement appears to be a contrasting of the recollections of Mark derived from the preaching and teaching of Peter with the more orderly arrangement of the gospel of Matthew." The first sentence of the quotation of Papias makes four points.

p. 137 "1.) Mark became Peter's ἑρμηνεθτής." This is an interpreter, not necessarily a translator. Mark's role may well have been to expound on what Peter said, to explain it for others.

p. 138 "2.) He wrote 'accurately'."

p. 138 "3.) He wrote fully."

p. 138 "4.) He wrote 'not in order'." Mark has a greater emphasis on the Lord's activity than Matthew. He has a tendency to be less orderly in his chronology. This is a sign that Mark may well have pulled from Peter's preaching and teaching rather than from any sort of historical notes, as Matthew may have done.

Irenaeus discusses both Mark's gospel, identifying him as a disciple of Peter and as the person who has handed over apostolic teaching, probably shortly after the death of Peter. p. 139 "The passage contrasts the traditions of the heretics with the public declarations of the apostles, first preached, then committed to writing and now preserved in the church. Irenaeus does not say that after the death of Peter and Paul, Mark wrote his gospel, but that he has handed on the preaching of Peter to us in writing. Any suggestion of discontinuity between the time of preaching and the time of writing would weaken his argument, and no such notion should be read into it.

Some manuscripts of the New Testament have prologues to Mark known as the "anti-Marcionite" prologues. Mark's says, among other things, (p. 140) post excessionem ipsius Petri descripsit idem hoc in partibus Italiae evangelium . . . descripsit suggests what is absent from, or at best ambiguous in, Irenaeus - that Mark wrote down his gospel after Peter's death.

Clement of Alexandria also is quoted by Eusebius. p. 141 "Clement has inserted a tradition of the primitive elders . . . those present, who were many, exhorted Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to make a record of what was said; and that he did this, and distributed the Gospel among those that asked him. And that when the matter came to Peter's knowledge he neither strongly forbade it nor urged it forward."

Eusebius also quotes a passage from Origen, saying, (p. 142) "And second, that according to Mark, who did as Peter instructed him, whom also he acknowledged as a son in the catholic epistle."

p. 142 "All these testimonies point to a solid core of tradition, which makes Mark the author of the gospel, which makes him a fellow-worker with Peter, and which makes his book a faithful record of what that apostle taught in Rome. The tradition is not entirely clear as to whether he wrote before or after the apostle's death."

The next step to adequate dating of Mark's Gospel is, therefore, to identify when Peter was teaching in Rome and when Peter died.

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