Book Review: James G. Crossley The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity

Crossley, James G.

The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity,

JSNTS 266; London & New York: T & T Clark International, 2004

Few are the heroes that run into the battlefield to fight against the armies of the supreme reigning Consensus. In the world of Biblical scholarship his lordly rule extends into three geographical terrains: the existence of Q, the Synoptic Problem and the dating of the four Gospels. Luckily even unto to this day there are those brave enough to risk it all in search of truth. Their bravery is to be commended and their songs are to be sung, even though ultimately the findings are not as strong as to get them home sound and well.

In The Date of Mark’s Gospel, James G. Crossley has taken it upon himself to go against the current scholarly consensus of dating the Gospel of Mark to 65-70 A.D. He posits a much earlier compositional date for the work, perhaps as early as the late 30s. While this might be the wet dream of apologists around the globe, Crossley himself does not have an evangelical apologetic agenda. His thesis is that because Mark portrays Jesus as a Torah-observing Jew and the texts themselves reflect an Torah observant community of believers and betrays no knowledge of a controversy in regards to whether Christians are to keep the Torah, there are reasons to believe that this Gospel was written in a time when the validity of the Mosaic commandments had not yet been challenged, a radical shift that Crossley would date to the early or mid 40s. Continue reading

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Deuteronomy 33:1-5: Re-construction, Translation and Exegesis

The following post is a re-duplication of my exegetical assignment for my advanced Hebrew class at the University of Gothenburg. For some odd reason, I am not able to line up the poetic cola by indentation on this blog as I would have liked, so I have altered the text to include a colouring-scheme. Furthermore: grammatical mistakes everywhere (“i has an cars”). People cannot honestly hold me accountable for not reading through my own drivel. It is my privillege not to ever read it again.

An Exegesis of Deuteronomy 33:1-5

The Blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1-29), as it traditionally has been called, is a text riddled with textual critical concerns wrapping its original meaning in a veil of uncertainty. This paper aims at discussing the problems found within the first five verses of the Blessing, attempting to better grasp at message which the author tried to convey.1 Due to the need of reconstructing the initial text, extra focus will be given to text critical concerns which will impact drastically the way the text is read and understood. The text will be analyzed using a grammatical critical method, and I will also discuss form critical aspects. Distinct headings will not be used for each discipline; rather, issues pertaining to these forms of criticisms will addressed as the need arises naturally from working through the passage, forming an organic approach to how these critical tools are applied..

Translation from the Leningradensis Codex

v. 1 And this is the blessing [with] which Moses, the man of God, blessed the sons of Israel before his death. And he said:

v. 2 YHWH came from Sinai,

From Seir he dawned upon them

He shone forth from mount Paran.

From myriads of holy ones he came,

From his right side a fiery decree for them

v. 3 Yes, [he is] one who loves people, all his holy ones are in your hand.

And they [—] at your foot; each one received your words.

v. 4 Moses commanded a torah to us,

[which is] the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob

v. 5 And he became king in Jeshurun,

when he gathered together to himself the heads of the people, the tribes of Israel.

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On John 1:1: “And the word was a god”

The following text is an excerpt from an exegetical paper I did for my Greek class at the University of Gothenburg.

Translation
1. In the beginning was the utterance, and the utterance was with God, and the utterance was a god. 2 This one was in the beginning with God. 3. Through it all things came into being, and without it not even one thing is. 4. That which has been brought into being in it was life, and this life was the light of men; 5. and the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot extinguish it.

6. There came a human, having been sent from God, the name of him was John. 7. This one came as to a testimony, so that he might witness concerning the light, so that all people may believe through it. 8. (He was not the light, but ”so that he might witness concerning the light”.) 9. The true light which shines over all humans, was coming into the world. 10. It was in the world and the world come into being through it, but the world knew it not. 11. It come unto its own things but the its own received it not. 12. But as many as received it, it gave them — the ones believing in his name — the privilege to become children of God. 13. They, not from blood nor from fleshly will nor from man’s will but from God were they birthed.

14. And the utterance became flesh and tented among us, and we beheld his glory, a glory as the unique one from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15. John witnesses concerning him and has cried out saying: This one was the one of whom I said: ”The one coming after me was before me, because he is greater than I.” 16. For from his fullness, we all received both grace upon grace. 17. For Torah was given through Moses; the grace and the truth came into being through Jesus the Messiah. 18. No one has ever seen God. A one-of-a-kind-god, who is in the bosom of the Father, this one has made him known.

Commentary:

1. In the beginning was the utterance, and the utterance was with God, and the utterance was a god John begins his gospel very fittingly with the words εν αρχη ”in the beginning”. It would scarcely possible for a first century hearer who was even remotely familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, not to pick up on the unambiguous intertextual echo from the opening line of Genesis As will be shown, the first chapter of Genesis is crucial for understanding the imagery of the prologue. One could say that it serves as the background music for the entire scene. Hence, in order to fully appreciate what he is wanting to communicate, one must see how he uses the themes of old in light of the new.

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Thoughts on Mark 7:19

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”(Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:14-19; ESV; emphasis mine)

Mark 7:19 is one of the texts which has been used to argue that Mark’s Jesus either directly or indirectly nullified portions of Torah, yet such an interpretation goes beyond what the context itself would allow. When reading Matthew’s re-telling of the Markan account, it becomes all the more apparent that Jesus’ rebuke is to be viewed as a critique towards the halacha concerning the washing of hands. The text suggests nothing more than that Jesus did not think eating with unwashed hands defiled the food or the person eat it. The problem of defilement lies in having an unclean heart. Neither Mark, Matthew nor Luke frames the topic as to be dealing with kashrut or laying down new definitions for what is food and what is not food (same goes for Romans 14). In addition, the placement of the text in Mark after Jesus rebuke of the abuse of certain Pharisaic halachot, also aids us in achieving a contextual understanding.

“Thus he declared all foods clean” as the ESV along with many other translations reads, is saying more than what text allows for. The text simply literally reads: “(he) cleaning all foods”. The verse is far more ambiguous than what some translations make it out to be. There is no emphatic “declaring”. The syntactical relationship between the clauses is not fully evident, nor is it even clear that “he” refers back to Jesus. In fact, the masculine participle is somewhat problematic. For whom is its antecedent and which finite verb does it modify? To make Jesus the antecedent, one needs to connect the participle with the implied subject of λεγει back in the beginning of v. 18. Jesus is not mentioned though. He is merely the implied subject of the verb. This seems odd if the declarative action is rooted in the authority of Jesus himself. A more explicit subject is found wanting. Mostly likely — assuming the masculine participle to be the better reading (see below) — the implied “he” refers to ο ανθρωπος in the previous verse. The person eating with unwashed hands cleans the *kosher* food through the body’s natural functions.

The final colon of Mark 7:19 has a significant variant, which could be taken as evidence of its later inclusion into the Markan textual tradition. In place of the masculine participle, the Byzantine Κ and Γ together with miniscules 33, 700, 2542 and a few other, read in favour of the neuter: καθαριζον. The Western Codex D instead has a finite verb καθαριζει, which can be understood as having either a neuter or masculine subject. It is however a secondary reading, solving the difficulty of not having a finite verb in the clause. καθαριζων is the more difficult reading and the neuter has overall poor external attestation. The variants witness to the fact that the masculine participle made for an awkward read for some ancient scribes as well.

Even though the incident itself is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels, it is only Mark’s version that contains the disputed words: “thus he declared all foods clean”. It is true that Luke 11:39 has a similar statement (και ιδου παντα καθαρα υμιν εστιν/εσται), but nothing shows dependence or even awareness of the Markan gloss. The clause would have strengthened Matthew’s case, so there would have been no ideological reason to omit it. So why is it not in Matthew’s version? Could it be that Mark 7:19d was not present in the copies belonging to Matthew and Luke?

It could well be that all these things indicate that Mark’s point was not easily understood by some, hence why Luke and Matthew ignored it. It would not be the first time that more puzzling Markan statements lack a parallel in the other Synoptic Gospels (cf. Mark 6:48; 14:51). One could argue that they had no reason to include the author’s own clarifying statement on the Jesus logia; but on the other hand, Matthew includes Mark’s gloss in Matt 24:15 (Mark 13:14). If the verse is read as having its antecedent in ανθρωπος rather than in Jesus, it no longer is a gloss but a continuation of Jesus speech. Maybe Matthew excluded this part because it could be misunderstood? Who knows. I cannot mind read people who have been dead for 2000 years. 🙂

I will have to ponder this issue further…

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Review of Jason D. BeDuhn’s The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptual Canon

For me Christmas came late this year. To be exact, it arrived three days ago in the form of a package jammed into my mailbox. In it was a long-awaited overdue Christmas present: Jason David BeDuhn’s The First New Testament. When I first heard that this book had come out, I was excited beyond words. But to my dismay, my financial situation personified in my dear wife implored me kindly to wait. Thankfully, time passed quickly; at last the wait was over. Once in my hands, I devoured the book in two days, and I felt that a review/critique was in order.

Please bear with me for I have never done a book review before. If this blog had any readers whatsoever, there would be far more. As of date, there are not many reviews of this book floating about on “teh interwebz”, so allow me to contribute. This book deserves to be read and interacted with extensively. However, let it be said emphatically: I am not a scholar, nor am I the son of a scholar. I can only presume that my objections are of the kind that a brilliant mind such as professor BeDuhn eats for breakfast. Still, I wish to offer my two cents from my own rather conservative stance on the issue of Marcion and his canon. Firstly, I will to give a brief summary of the book and its content; secondly, I wish to raise a handful of critical points. So then, without further ado…

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BeDuhn, Jason D.

The First New Testament : Marcion’s Scriptual Canon

Polebridge Press: Salem, Oregon, 2013

With his latest book The First New Testament, professor Jason D. BeDuhn has taken upon himself a massive task: to reconstruct the text of Marcion’s Evagelion and Apostolikon for the first time into the English language. These two texts made up what BeDuhn argues for was the earliest New Testament. Evagelion – a gospel text similar but shorter in form and content to our canonical Luke; and the Apostolikon — a collection of ten Pauline letters, similar but shorter than the letters as they are found in today’s modern Bibles. For a long time based largely on the testimonies of early Christian writers, it has been believed that these two works were the result of Marcion’s editing to conform the canonical texts into allignment with his own ideology. Yet, does such an hypothesis hold up under closer inspection? Could it be that the Marcionite versions are closer to what Luke and Paul originally wrote? Or could there be another explanation for their origin, for their similarity and their differences from what is found on the pages of our modern Bibles?

BeDuhn’s is not the first person to delve into the world the arch-heretic Marcion. In this study, he takes upon himself to improve the previous reconstruction attempt by Harnack. Building upon and critically engaging with recent research on Marcion (most notably David Salter Williams, Ulrich Schmid, Sebastian Moll and John J. Clabeaux). It is evident that the author has gone out of his way to make this seemingly tough subject accessible and comprehensible for wide audience. The book itself is not overly thick; just under 400 pages all in all. But do not let this fool you, for the amount of material covered and the information provided is massive in relation to its size. As I will point out below, some sections could to be fleshed out a bit more, and some relevant considerations are barely not touched up at all.

The First New Testament can be divided up into mainly three parts: 1) a 100-page long introduction mainly dealing with the person of Marcion and his New Testament collection; 2) a more in-depth look at the content, form and origin of the Evangelion and the Apostolikon; and 3) a reconstruction of both of these texts into the English language, followed by exhaustive notes.

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On Luke 1:35 and the Begetting of the Son of God

 

Christmas may indeed be over, but my Christmas-reflections linger on still. This year I took the time to reflectfully dwell on the birth narratives as they are presented in Luke and Matthew, and their underlying Christological implications. In this blog post, it is my aim to look at the syntax of Luke 1:35, and to investigate the meaning Luke was trying to convey in the words of Gabriel. Here follows the relevant text in Greek and my own stilted translation:

Εν δε τω μηνι τω εκτω απεσταλη ο αγγελος Γαβριηλ απο θεου εις πολιν της Γαλιλαιας η ονομα Ναζαρεθ προς παρθενον εμνηστευμενην ανδρι ω ονομα Ιωσεφ εξ οικου Δανιδ και το ονομα της παρθενου Μαριαμ. και εισελθων προς αυτην ειπεν Χαιρε, κεχαριτωμενη, ο κυριος μετα σου. η δε επι τω λογω διεταραχθη και διελογιζετο ποταπος ειη ο ασπασμος ουτος. και ειπεν ο αγγελος αυτη

Μη φοβου Μαριαμ, ευρες γαρ χαριν παρα τω θεω. και ιδου συλλημψη εν γαστρι και τεξη υιον και καλεσεις το ονομα αυτου Ιησουν. ουτος εσται μεγας και υιος υψιστου κληθησεται και δωσει αυτω κυριος ο θεος τον θρονον Δανιδ του πατρος αυτου, και βασιλευσει επι οικον Ιακωβ εις τους αιωνας και της βασιλειας αυτου ουκ εσται τελος.

ειπεν δε Μαριαμ προς τον αγγελον, Πως εσται τουτο, επει ανδρα ου γινωσκω; και αποκριθεις ο αγγελος ειπεν αυτη,

Πνευμα αγιον επελευσεται επι σε και δυναμις υψιστου επισκιασει σοι, διο και το γεννωμενον αγιον κληθησεται υιος θεου.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a town of Galilee which name was Nazareth, to a virgin, having been betrothed to a man whose name was Josef from the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary. And having entered in to her (dwelling), he said: “Greetings o graced one; the Lord is with you. She was confused over the word spoken, and she was wondering what this greeting he spoke meant. And the angel said to her: “Fear not, Mary. For you have found favour with God. And behold, you will be pregnant in your womb, and the you will birth a son and you will call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called son of the Most High; and The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and his kingdom will not have an end.”

But Mary said to the angel: “How will this be since I do not know a man?”. And answering the angel said: “The holy spirit will come over you; and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. For this reason also, the thing begotten is holy; he will be called the son of God”. (Luke 1:26-35; my own awkward translation)

 

Although this meaning is relatively clear, the last clause of Gabriel’s response features some tricky syntactical issues. It literally reads: “therefore also the thing being begotten holy it/he will be called son of God”. It is intent to break down the last sentence(s) into sections, wherein we look more closely at the words and their relationship towards one another. After that, I will try to put it all together into a suitable translation. Finally, I want to discuss the meaning of Gabriel’s words, address the meaning of καλεω (to call) and υιος θεου (son of God), and lastly compare our findings with the Gospel of Matthew (who either is Luke’s source, or they both share a common source)

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Receive or Recover? Re-reading Galatians 4:4-6

And when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, being made of woman, being made under Torah, in order to redeem those under the Torah, in order that we may recover (our) sonship. And because you are sons, God sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!”, so that you are a slave no longer but a son. And if a son, then also an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-6; my translation)

 

Having read Galatians 4:4-6 many many times before, I have always been bothered by the “hoti” clause of verse 6, for it has never fit my understanding of the text. In times past, I understood God’s sending of the spirit of his Son, as the cause of Christians receiving their sonship. Yet, this is not what the text says. For the passage does not read: “God sent his sons spirit to make us sons.” No, rather it is the other way around: “because you are sons (δε οτι εστιν υιοι), God sent spirit, to fix the situation of his sons being in slavery (à la the children of Israel under Egypt).”

But how is this possible? Well, when reading verse 5, I noticed that the verb for “receiving” the sonship/adoption, is not an ordinary form of  λαμβανω ; instead we find Paul using a compound form απολαμβανω, which can also mean to receive back or recover.  If we understand the verb to imply that Christians, by means of Christ, recover their once lost sonship, then the verse 6 fits better: On account of you being sons, God then sends is spirit (the second act of the rescue operation), in order to break the bonds of slavery which held you captive.

Thus the sending of the spirit, does not make one a son according to this passage. What the spirit does is to take away the slaveship and by so doing re-inforce the son as an heir.

What are the implications of this reading? That everyone is already a son of God, and it’s just a matter of recovering this sonship? The Calvinist within would have to say no 😉 I think Paul only has in view God’s predestined elect. These can be said to be sons of God even prior to having their sonship realised (just as the Unitarian within me could say Jesus was God’s son prior to him existing since he was predestined before the foundation of the world).

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The Position of the Galatian Judaizers in Light of Galatians 5:3

After having looked through the Didache’s instructions concerning Gentiles’ obligation towards Torah-keeping, and having dreamt up some highly speculative connections between that document and the epistle to the churches of Galatia, why not spend time with this lovely letter of Paul, filled with passion and raw rhetoric.

This letter packs a real punch and constitutes Paul’s sharply written rebutal to the Galatian churches. We have Paul’s answer, but what was the question to which he responded? This is like having stolen the teacher’s answer-key, yet missing the very assignment the teacher had handed out the week before. In order to even attempt to grasp the epistle, we must first understand the situation to which Paul is replying. Sadly, all we have to go on is Paul’s own correspondence, as we are left to trying to put together a large puzzle, to which we have too few pieces.

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Romans 1:2-4 as Echoed from the Past and from the Future

…the good announcement from God, which he promised beforehand through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was made from the seed  of David according to his physical lineage (τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα), who was appointed Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness from the resurrection of the dead, Jesus the Messiah, our Lord

The introductory poem of Romans 1 has always been one of my favourite passages out of all of Scripture. For not only does it tie in God’s faithfulness to his own word in sacred Scripture, but moreover it paints a lovely image of the dual birth of Paul’s Messiah Jesus. First, born from his human father and one from his heavenly Father through his resurrection; one from the womb of man, and one from the womb of the grave. Thus, Christ is indeed of Israel (Romans 9:5) but only in regards to one of his births. In regards to his second birth through the Spirit, he has become as much that of the Gentiles who have now share the same Spirit. A notion worth pondering.

As I was preparing a post on the topic of Resurrection-Christology for another blog of mine, I noticed a few interesting links between Romans 1:3-4 and 2 Samuel 7 that I never noticed before.

And it shall be whenever your days are fulfilled and you sleep with your fathers, and I will raise up (ἀναστήσω) your seed after you, who will be from out of your own body (ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας σου); and I will prepare his kingdom; he will build me a house in my name and I will restore his throne unto everlasting. I, I will be a Father to him, and he will be a Son to me. (2 Samuels/Basileion B, 7:12-14; my translation)

Note that both texts speak of David, and emphasize that the coming ruler will be of Davids own physical seed (literary, out of his own womb in 2 Samuels 7). But also, observe that it is the resurrected Jesus that is enthroned as the Son of God in power, and thus paralleling that God’s promise to David concerning his seed, will come about after God has raised it up. Then will God be a father to Davids seed, and the seed a son to God.

A pre-existent echo of Romans 1:3-4 one might say… depending upon one’s point of view. 😉 Could this be one of the main texts (along with Psalm 2) that Paul had in the back of his mind, when referring to the Gospel promised before hand through the prophets?

From the past, to the time after Romans has been written, turning our focus towards Ignatius of Antioch and his letter to the Smyrnaeans.

I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who in this way made us wise, for I understand you to having been made complete in an immovable faith, just as you having been nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in both flesh and in spirit, and having been established in love by the blood of Christ, having become convinced towards our Lord, who truly being from family of David according to his physical lineage (εκ γενους Δαυιδ κατα σαρκα), Son of God according to will and power, having truly been born out of the virgin, having been baptised by John so that all righteousness be fulfilled by him, truly having been nailed for us in the flesh during the time of Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, from whose fruit we are, from his godly blessed suffering, so that he might raise a sign unto the ages through his resurrection (δια της αναστασεως) unto his holy and faithful ones, whether among Jews, or whether among Gentiles in one body, namely his church. (To the Smyrnaeans 1; my translation)

Ignatius at other places in his corpus betrays his knowledge of (some) Paul’s epistles. Clearly, there are echoes of Romans 1 to be heard, expanded with language from Matthew’s gospels and perhaps even Colossians 1-2.

It is a marvellous thing to see this find traces of Paul’s thinking, and to see how then Paul’s own thoughts are uttered and reshaped once more in new contexts 50 – 60 years later.

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Didache on Gentiles and Torah

 

Οδοι δυο εισι, μια της ζωης και μια του θανατου, διαφορα δε πολλη μεταχυ των δυο οδων. Η μεν ουν οδος της ζωης εστιν αυτη…

“There are two ways, one belonging to life, and one belonging to death; and the difference is great between these two ways. So then, on the one hand, the way which brings forth life is this…”

With those words begin the early Jewish-Christian work called the Didache. Although no consensus has yet been reached in regards to its compositional date(s), the most likely view is that the text — being in the form that we have it today — perhaps dates between 70 – 150 C.E.

After having read through the text recently, I could not help but to reflect over the language of ‘the commandments of the Lord’, and ‘the yoke of the Lord’, as mentioned in the document. Continue reading

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