The Date of Mark’s Gospel – Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity; James G. Crossley from ArchBischof Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

The Date of Mark’s Gospel –

Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity;

James G. Crossley

from ArchBischof Uwe AE.Rosenkranz <<<===== ebook from the Author



>Copyright © 2004 T&T Clark International

A Continuum imprint

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ISBN    0-567-08185-0 (hardback)

0-567-08195-8 (paperback)

In Memory of Paul Francis Crossley (1950–2001)



List of Abbreviations


Chapter 1
The External Evidence

    1.    Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ Prologue

    2.    Clement of Alexandria

    3.    ‘The Second Year of Claudius’

    4.    First-Century Evidence for Peter in Rome in the Forties?

    5.    Papias and Markan Authorship

    6.    M. Hengel on Gospel Authorship

    7.    Conclusions

Chapter 2
Mark 13

    1.    N.T. Wright and the Historicity of Mark 13

    2.    The Abomination of the Desolation

    3.    The Caligula Crisis and Mark 13

    4.    Other Possible Historical Contexts:
From the Mid-Thirties to the Jewish War

    5.    Antichrist, Unfulfilled Prophecies and the Problems with Dating

    6.    Mark 13 and the Jewish War

    7.    The Narrative Frame: Mark 13:1–2

    8.    Conclusions

Chapter 3
The Date of Mark and Modern Gospel Criticism

    1.    Source Criticism

    2.    Paul as a Source for Mark?

    3.    Form Criticism

    4.    The Composition of Mark’s Gospel

    5.    Redaction and Literary Criticisms

    6.    D. Seeley on Mark 11:15–17

    7.    G. Theissen and J. Marcus on Mark 11:15–17

    8.    Mark 11:15–17: From the Historical Jesus to Markan Redaction

    9.    Markan Redaction and Replacement Symbolism

    10.    Markan Redaction, the Jewish War and Nationalist Movements

    11.    Markan Redaction and Persecution

    12.    A New(-ish) Approach to the Date of Mark

    13.    Conclusions

Chapter 4
Jesus’ Torah Observance in the Synoptic Gospels

    1.    Jesus and the Torah according to Mark

    2.    Jesus and the Torah according to Matthew

    3.    Jesus and the Torah according to Luke

    4.    Conclusions

Chapter 5
The Torah and Earliest Christianity

    1.    Stephen and the ‘Hellenists’

    2.    Zeal for the Law

    3.    Paul’s Early Attitude towards the Law

    4.    Peter’s Vision (Acts 10–11:18)

    5.    The Antioch Controversy (Gal. 2:11–14)

    6.    The Jerusalem Conference

    7.    Christianity and Law in the Forties

    8.    Conclusions

Chapter 6
Dating Mark Legally (I): 2 Test Cases (Mk 2:23–28; Mk 10:2–12)

    1.    Sabbath: Dating Mark through Mk 2:23–28 and Parallels

    2.    Divorce and Remarriage:
Dating Mark through Mk 10:2–12 and Parallels

    3.    Conclusions

Chapter 7
Dating Mark Legally (II): Mark 7:1–23

    1.    Handwashing

    2.    Mark 7:4 and Other Traditions

    3.    Qorban

    4.    Mark 7:1–23 and ‘Tradition’

    5.    The Transmission of Impurity

    6.    Tebul Yom

    7.    Gospel Editing

    8.    Conclusions



Index of References

Index of Authors


This work is a slightly revised version of my PhD thesis, supervised by Maurice Casey in the Department of Theology, University of Nottingham. He has often commented on his own supervisor, C.K. Barrett, recalling his extraordinary learning and helpfulness combined with a lack of bureaucracy and interference remaining a model to which to aspire. I can’t think of a better way to describe Maurice.

I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) for funding this research. I am extremely grateful for this.

I would also like to thank other people who have discussed with me the various issues in this study, particularly Andy Angel, Ed Ball, Richard Bell, Richard Crossley, Seth Kunin, Crispin Fletcher-Louis, and Thelma Mitchell. I would also like to thank the members of the learned Old Testament in the New Testament Seminar held annually in Hawarden for their comments on my ideas.

I would also like to thank the Heads of Department of Theology at Nottingham, Alan Ford and Hugh Goddard, for their continual support, and the departmental secretaries Mary Elmer and Janet Longley for countless things.

I would also like to thank the following for their welcome distractions at various stages of the research: Maddy Humberstone, Callum Millard, Aurelio Sanchez, Rob Thorne and Caroline Watt. Caroline Watt in particular stopped this work from being finished earlier. She never wanted to stay in and is interested in doing many other unmentionable things. She also read through the entire manuscript. The Watt family should also be thanked for providing me with clothes. I am also grateful to Henrietta Beane for giving me somewhere to stay in London in order to study at the British Library and to Emma Crossley for giving me somewhere to stay in St Neots in order to study at Cambridge University Library.

I would also like to thank what was formerly called Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (VSEL) for inadvertently showing me just how boring life could be after three tedious years as a shipyard electrician and for making me see that sixth-form college was the only way forward. I will always hate you VSEL.

I would also like to thank Gerald Garbutt who took my father’s funeral and was good friends with him despite his views on religion. Gerald has shown me that it is not impossible for a member of the clergy to be intelligent and decent. He has also discussed several issues surrounding this thesis.

I would also like to thank my family. My mother Pamela Crossley read through the entire thesis. She deserves far, far greater acknowledgement than this for what she has done for others in her life. My brother Richard Crossley, who talked about everything with me from the English Premiership to Continental football to a certain football management computer game to structural anthropology, and whose hatred of work is something to be admired. My grandparents, the late Florence Gardner, the late Roger Gardner, the late Frank Crossley, and Ruth Crossley have all been exceptionally kind and encouraging. My Auntie Suzanne also took a keen interest in my academic work.

Finally, this thesis is dedicated to the most important man in my life, my father Paul Crossley, who died while this research was in progress, in November 2001. He was funny, intelligent, resilient, laid-back, foul-mouthed, and opinionated. He smoked too much, ate unhealthily, and didn’t mind a drink. I admire him more than any other man.


AB    Anchor Bible

ABD    David Noel Freedman (ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992)

‘Abod. Zar.    ‘Abodah Zarah

‘Abot R. Nat.    ‘Abot de Rabbi Nathan

Abr.    De Abrahamo

ABRL    Anchor Bible Reference Library

Add. Esth.    Additions to Esther

Acts    Acts of the Apostles

Acts Pet.    Acts of Peter

Adv. haer.    Adversus haereses

Aland, Synopsis    K. Aland (ed.), Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. Locis parallelis evangeliorum apocryphorum et patrum adhibitis edidit (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1963, 1996)

Ann.    Annales

Ant.    Antiquities of the Jews

Apion    Contra Apionem

Apoc.    Apocalypse

‘Arak.    ‘Arakhin

Aristeas    Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates

As. Mos.    Assumption of Moses

b.    Babylonian Talmud

Bar.    Baruch

bce    Before the Common Era

BDB    Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907)

Ber.    Berakoth

BGAD3    F.W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 3rd edition based on previous editions by W. Bauer, W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich [eds.] 2000)

Bib.    Biblica

Bib. Ant.    Biblical Antiquities

BNTC    Black’s New Testament Commentaries

B. Qam.    Baba Qamma

BTB    Biblical Theology Bulletin

c.    circa

CBQ    Catholic Biblical Quarterly

CD    Damascus Document

ce    Common Era

CGTC    Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary

2 Chron.    2 Chronicles

1 Clem.    1 Clement

Col.    Colossians

Comm. Dan.    Commentary on Daniel

Cong.    De congressu eruditionis gratia

1 Cor.    1 Corinthians

2 Cor.    2 Corinthians

Dan.    Daniel

Deut.    Deuteronomy

Decal.    De decalogo

Dem.    Demai

De Vir. Ill.    De viris illustribus

Eccl.    Ecclesiastes

‘Ed.    ‘Eduyoth

1 En.    1

Eph.    Ephesians

‘Erub.    ‘Erubin

Esth.    Esther

et    English Translation

ETL    Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses

1 Esd.    1 Esdras

Eus.    Eusebius

Exod.    Exodus

ExpTim    Expository Times

Ezek.    Ezekiel

Fug.    De fuga et inventione

Gaium    De legatione ad Gaium

Gal.    Galatians

Git.    Gittin

Gos. Thom.    Gospel of Thomas

Gk    Greek

Hag.    Hagigah

HE    Historia ecclesiastica

Hev    Nahal Hever texts

Hist.    Histories

Hos.    Hosea

HSCP    Harvard Studies in Classical Philology

HTR    Harvard Theological Review

HUCA    Hebrew Union College Annual

Hul.    Hullin

Hyp.    Hypothetica

ICC    International Critical Commentary

Ign.    Ignatius

Iren.    Irenaeus

Isa.    Isaiah

JBL    Journal of Biblical Literature

Jdt.    Judith

Jer.    Jeremiah

JJS    Journal of Jewish Studies

Jn    John

Jos.    De Josepho

Jos. Asen.    Joseph and Aseneth

JPJ    Journal of Progressive Judaism

JRS    Journal of Roman Studies

JSJ    Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period

JSNT    Journal for the Study of the New Testament

JSNTSup    Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series

JSP    Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha

JTS    Journal of Theological Studies

Jub.    Jubilees

Judg.    Judges

Ker.    Keritoth

Ketub.    Ketuboth

1 Kgs    1 Kings

2 Kgs    2 Kings

LCL    Loeb Classical Library

Lev.    Leviticus

Lk    Luke

lxx    Septuagint

m.    Mishnah

Ma ‘as    Ma ‘aseroth

1 Macc.    1 Maccabees

2 Macc.    2 Maccabees

3 Macc.    3 Maccabees

4 Macc.    4 Maccabees

Mak.    Makkoth

Maksh.    Makshirin

Mal.    Malachi

Mart. Isa.    Martyrdom of Isaiah

Meg.    Megillah

Mek. Exod.    Mekhilta Exodus

Menah.    Menahoth

Mic.    Micah

Migr.    De migratione Abrahami

Miqw.    Miqwa’ oth

Mo ‘ed Qat.    Mo ‘ed Qatan

Mos.    De vita Mosis

Mt.    Matthew

mt    Masoretic Text

Mur    Wadi Murabbaat texts

Mur. Canon    Muratorian Canon

Ned.    Nedarim

Neg.    Nega ‘im

Neh.    Nehemiah

Neof.    Neophyti

Neot.    Neotestamentica

NICNT    New International Commentary on the New Testament

NIGTC    The New International Greek Testament Commentary

NovT    Novum Testamentum

NTS    New Testament Studies

Num.    Numbers

Num. Rab.    Numbers Rabba

OCBC    Oxford Church Bible Commentary

Pea    Peah

Pesh.    Peshitta

Pesah.    Pesahim

1 Pet.    1 Peter

2 Pet.    2 Peter

Philemon    Philemon

Prov.    Proverbs

Ps./Pss.    Psalm/Psalms

Ps. J.    Pseudo Jonathan

Pss. Sol.    Psalms of Solomon

1QapGen    Genesis Apocryphon

4QEnGiants    Book of Giants

Qidd.    Qiddushin

4QMMT    Miqsat Ma’ase ha-Torah

1QpHab.    Habakkuk Pesher

4QpNah.    Nahum Pesher

1QS    Community Rule

11QT    Temple Scroll

Rev.    Revelation

RevQ    Revue de Qumrân

Rom.    Romans

RSLR    Revista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa

2 Sam.    2 Samuel

Sanh.    Sanhedrin

Sem.    Semahoth

SFSHJ    South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism

Shabb.    Shabbat

Shebi.    Shebi’it

Sheqal.    Sheqalim

Sib. Or.    Sibylline Oracles

Sir.    Sirach

SJT    Scottish Journal of Theology

SNTSMS    Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series

Sobr.    De sobrietate

Spec. Leg.    De specialibus legibus

Sukk.    Sukkah

Syr. Apoc. Bar.    Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch

t.    Tosephta

Taan    Ta’anith

T. Abr.    Testament of Abraham

Targ.    Targum

T. Benj.    Testament of Benjamin

T. Dan    Testament of Dan

Θ    Theodotion

1 Thess.    1 Thessalonians

2 Tim.    2 Timothy

T. Job    Testament of Job

T. Judah    Testament of Judah

T. Levi    Testament of Levi

Tob.    Tobit

Tohar.    Toharoth

T. Rub.    Testament of Reuben

TS    Theological Studies

TynBul.    Tyndale Bulletin

T. Yom    Tebul Yom

‘Uq.    ‘Uqtsin

VT    Vetus Testamentum

War    Jewish War

WBC    Word Biblical Commentary

Wisd.    Wisdom of Solomon

y.    Palestinian Talmud

Yad.    Yadayim

Zech.    Zechariah

ZNW    Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft


In the early twentieth century Moffatt tabulated the scholarly views on the dates of the synoptic gospels. On Mark’s gospel he shows that the majority of scholars favoured a date sometime between 65 and 75 ce. At the beginning of the twenty-first century this view remains dominant, although the conventional dates for Mark and the synoptic gospels are not accepted uncritically.2 While scholars differ over the precise year, a date between 65 and 75 ce is accepted by a wide variety of scholars of very different ideological persuasions. There have, however, been alternative suggestions, some even as late as the second century, as Moffatt’s list shows, and some before 65, even as early as the forties. The earlier dates have gained more respectability, even if the vast majority of scholars do not accept them, and are advocated largely, but not exclusively, by conservative scholars.

There are two major arguments for the 65–75 ce dates: 1. the external evidence, i.e. the witnesses outside the gospel from the patristic period, in particular Irenaeus of Lyons; 2. the internal evidence, i.e. possible historical allusions in the Markan text, in particular ch. 13. The external evidence suggests that Mark’s gospel was composed after Peter’s death (c. 64/65 ce) whereas the internal evidence of Mark 13 is believed to reflect the events of the Jewish war (66–70 ce). Sometimes the external and internal evidence are combined (e.g. Hengel; Radcliffe; van Iersel), although it is now more common to emphasise the internal evidence (e.g. Kelber, Mack, Theissen, Marcus). The major difference among scholars who believe that the internal evidence of Mark 13 reflects the Jewish war is of course whether it was composed before or after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 ce. Mark 13 is not the only piece of internal evidence used by scholars. The arguments from the internal evidence of Mark 13 have commonly been supplemented by arguments based on the dominant critical approaches to the synoptic gospels and in the case of the post-65 dating form, redaction, and modern literary criticism have been especially utilised. For example, numerous redaction and modern literary critical approaches claim Mark deliberately edited or creatively invented many aspects of his gospel to reflect events surrounding the Jewish—Roman war (e.g. Brandon, Kelber, Mack, Marcus).

There are two general arguments for the pre-65 dates, also based on external and internal evidence. The external evidence relies largely on either what Clement of Alexandria has to say concerning the origins of Mark’s gospel, i.e. that Mark was composed during the reign of Claudius, 41–54 ce (e.g. Robinson, Wenham) and/or a different interpretation of Irenaeus or the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ Prologue which would have Mark written before the death of Peter (e.g. T.W. Manson, Ellis). The internal evidence is also largely based on Mark 13 which is believed to reflect Caligula’s threat to the Temple suggesting a date of c. 40 ce (e.g. Torrey, Zuntz). As with those dating Mark later, such arguments are often supplemented by arguments based on the dominant critical approaches to the synoptic gospels and in the case of those dating Mark before 65 source criticism has been especially used. For example, the widely accepted source critical view that Luke used Mark has been developed to argue that Luke-Acts shows no knowledge of the Jewish war or Paul’s death (c. 64/65) so it must be earlier and Mark must be earlier still (e.g. Harnack, Wenham). Another view based on an alternative approach to the internal evidence, this time based not necessarily on Mark 13 and the Caligula crisis (although not incompatible with this), must also be mentioned. To put it crudely, this approach is based on what Mark does not say. Here it is argued that Mark’s gospel, unlike Matthew and Luke, does not contain the sort of editing to be expected in the light of a widespread gentile mission (e.g. Allen, Casey). Of far less significance is the view that 7Q5, a Greek fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls, is to be identified with Mk 6:52–53 which, if accurate, may also suggest a pre-65 date (e.g. O’Callaghan, Thiede). This should perhaps be mentioned after all the publicity surrounding it.

Any discussion of Mark must, then, take into consideration both the external evidence and the internal evidence. The first chapter of this study will analyse the external evidence for both the early and later dates, with particular emphasis on the accuracy of the different authorities. The second chapter will discuss what is often regarded as the major piece of internal evidence, namely Mark 13, and its relation to first-century events, particularly, but not exclusively, the Caligula crisis and the Jewish—Roman war. However, although the main two approaches to the date of Mark’s gospel are the patristic evidence and Mark 13 they are by no means the only ones. As such arguments have commonly been supplemented by arguments based on the dominant critical approaches to the synoptic gospels, Chapter 3 will discuss the effects of the different critical currents on scholarly datings of Mark. It will become clear that I do not accept a great deal of the scholarly attempts to date Mark’s gospel and so I will attempt to provide a new approach, a modified version of the Allen/Casey line. Chapters 4–7 will attempt to develop a new approach to dating Mark based on observance of biblical laws and the assumptions made by Mark on this issue which Matthew and Luke had to make explicit. The date suggested will be sometime between the mid to late thirties and the mid-forties.

At this point some comments ought to be made in the light of criticisms I have received (not published of course) concerning this thesis, many of which have misrepresented my arguments. This may hopefully clarify some of my arguments for the benefit of the reader. In Chapter 2 I give possible historical backgrounds behind Mark 13. None of these is supposed to be decisive, they are just possible alternatives which are supposed to show that almost any historical context in the first 40 or so years of Christianity could be ‘read into’ Mark 13 without damaging the text, and consequently it is of little use in dating Mark’s gospel. Even though I think Mark can be dated on other grounds, I am still not convinced about determining the precise historical context of Mark’s gospel based on Mark 13. Similarly in Chapter 3, I give several possible historical contexts for Mark’s gospel which could have given rise to themes surrounding the Temple and its destruction. I do not apologise for using statements such as ‘not necessarily’ and ‘could be’ because I am trying to show the problems of reconstructing the historical setting of Mark’s gospel on the basis of the theme of the Temple and its destruction. Nor do I think it is wrong to refer to the attitude of the historical Jesus in certain cases as it shows that this theme, or indeed any other theme, could have arisen exceptionally early thus providing an earliest possible date for Mark’s gospel based on this theme. It is also important to discuss whether or not the passages in chs. 6 and 7 could accurately reflect the actions of the historical Jesus, something which has puzzled some people, because if a given passage does then this would provide the earliest possible date for Mark’s gospel based on that passage alone. This is not a proof, just the earliest possible date.

Nor have I neglected what the gospels’ writers think about various issues, a criticism which I have repeatedly heard but one which is not fair. On the contrary, the thesis is largely concerned with the ‘final form’ of the text. For example: Chapter 2 is almost exclusively concerned with potential historical settings for Mark’s gospel based on Mark 13 as a whole; Chapter 3 does likewise based on recurrent themes in Mk 10:46–15:47; Chapter 4 is almost entirely concerned with how the gospel writers understood Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah. I suspect that my emphasis on the Jewish background to the gospel has led to this misunderstanding, particularly when this surrounds christological issues. For example, some of the strongest criticisms in relation to my so-called neglect of the ‘final form’ of the Markan text have come in relation to my handling of Davidic Christology and the ‘son of man’ sayings. Let me briefly restate my case. I think Mark, in its ‘final form’, is not concerned with Davidic Christology. Perhaps the historical Jesus was, perhaps he was not. That is not my point and I am curious as to why people think it is. As for the ‘son of man’ sayings, I have argued that for Mark it is clearly used as a title in some cases. Yet on the other hand, I think, particularly in the case of Mk 2:28, that Mark simply translated literally from an Aramaic source without any strong implication of a christological title. Again, people may no be convinced by this dual approach but it is unfair to criticise me for not providing a suggestion about what Mark thinks.

I have also received some criticisms about the argument based on Mark assuming what others could not in the matter of law observance, particularly Chapters 6 and 7 as being an argument from silence. This again is not entirely fair. The main reason why Chapter 4 was written was to show that the synoptic gospels never portray Jesus in opposition to biblical law which is one argument that suggests they would not have done so in those other cases discussed in Chapters 6 and 7. In addition to this I attempted to argue that the passages discussed in Chapters 6 and 7 support my argument in their own right. Thus it is when the above arguments are combined that an overall argument of collective weight is provided and consequently it is not an argument from silence. In Chapter 7 some people have not seen the relevance for the date of Mark in trying to reconstruct a source. Of course any reconstruction is hypothetical but it is not irrelevant in this case. The reason why I did this is because, if I am right, it can show how Mark edited the source. In this case I argued that the Markan additions show a deep knowledge of Jewish halakah and it must be understood why he made such additions. I go on to suggest that the repeated emphasis on criticising such ‘traditions’ is key to understanding the argument of the passage that the Markan Jesus is rejecting handwashing before eating and not biblical food laws. Again this is not an argument from silence nor an irrelevancy but one based on the given Markan text and a general Markan tendency.

Chapter 1

The External Evidence

The earliest references to Mark’s gospel in the Patristic period are to the present day regarded as some of the most important pieces of evidence for dating the second gospel. It is fair to say that most scholars impressed by such evidence, particularly that of Irenaeus, use it to date Mark sometime after 64 ce. However some of the evidence from the early church is ambiguous and two or maybe even three early views appear to have existed which has led to a minority of scholars using certain Patristic evidence to date Mark relatively early, in some cases the early forties. This chapter will outline these early church traditions and assess their usefulness for the dating of Mark.

1. Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ Prologue

The earliest extant reference concerning the date of Mark appears to come from Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.1.1 ff.:

Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language (τῇἰδᾳ αὐτῶν διαλέκτῳ), while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their death/departure (μετὰ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἔξοδον) Mark, the disciple and interpreter (ἑρμηνευτὴς) of Peter, handed on (παπαδέδωκεν) his preaching to us in written form … (Aland, Synopsis, 549).

The central chronological issue frequently discussed is the interpretation of ἔξοδος, literally ‘departure’ but it can be used figuratively as ‘death’ (cf. Lk. 9:31; 2 Pet. 1:15) and most commentators read Irenaeus in this latter sense. According to this conventional interpretation of Irenaeus, Mark’s gospel was written in Rome in the mid to late sixties, after the deaths of Peter and Paul, probably during the persecutions under Nero, 64–65 ce. In favour of such an interpretation is the evidence of Peter and Paul dying in Rome being fairly secure (cf. e.g. 1 Clem. 5.1–7; 6.1; Ign., Rom 4:2–3; Iren., Adv. haer. 3.3.2; Eus. HE 2.25; 3.1.3).

There are, however, problems with this traditional understanding. One famous criticism is that it is of course possible to take ἔξοδος in the sense of ‘departure’. Ellis, for example, does precisely this. He notes that the usual word for death in Irenaeus is θάνατος (=mors), occurring some 38 times in Adversus haereses Book 3. Ellis combines this with an argument developed by J. Chapman who claimed that παραδέδωκεν should be translated more conventionally as something like ‘handed down’. This would mean that Irenaeus was talking ‘only of the transmission of Mark’s Gospel after Peter and Paul departed from Rome. He is thinking not of their deaths but rather of their further missionary travels after an initial evangelization of Rome, i.e. after Paul’s release in c. ad 63 and after an earlier visit and departure of Peter’. This would imply that the later Christian tradition of Paul’s release from his imprisonment in Rome (e.g. HE 2.22.2; Jerome, De Vir. Ill. 5; cf. 1 Clem. 5.6) is reliable and that there was a tradition of Peter in Rome before departing from Rome and returning later. Another significant implication of this interpretation would be that Irenaeus tells us very little concerning the precise dating of Mark other than it being written when Peter and Paul were still alive. There are other possible interpretations of Irenaeus. If Chapman’s translation of παραδέδωκεν as ‘handed down’ is not followed but the translation of ἔξοδος as ‘departure’ is accepted we would have c. 63 as the earliest possible date for Mark’s gospel but nothing more precise than that, i.e. after Paul’s supposed release from prison. If Chapman is followed and παραδέδωκεν is taken in the sense of ‘handed down’ but ἔξοδος is translated as ‘death’ then Irenaeus would tell us next to nothing about the date of Mark other than when it was transmitted to the Romans. These arguments would also be supported by a probably independent tradition claiming Mark was written during Peter’s lifetime (see below).

These criticisms cast some doubt on the conventional dating of Mark after c. 64, and deserve to be taken more seriously than much of modern scholarship will allow. However, while the reading of Irenaeus in support of a post-64 date suffers linguistically the alternative readings suffer historically. Ellis’ view that Irenaeus claims Mark’s gospel was transmitted to the Romans after a departure of Peter and Paul from Rome requires Peter to have made a departure from Rome sometime close to the sixties and Paul to have been released from his Roman imprisonment in order to depart from Rome. The evidence to support this is not strong. There are traditions suggesting Peter was in Rome during the reign of Claudius, some suggest as early as the early forties, but it is difficult to know whether these traditions are reliable, as will be argued below. Most significantly for our present purposes, it appears that Irenaeus places the activities of Peter around the same time as Paul, which would be sometime around the sixties and, while there is early evidence of Peter in Rome in the sixties (e.g. 1 Clem. 5.1–6; cf. Mur. Canon [on Acts]), it is weaker in suggesting a departure. It has been conjectured that Peter went on to Rome and departed from there in the fifties after he was apparently active in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12ff.; 3:22–4:1, 9; 9:5; 16:12), but there is no evidence as to where Peter went after supposedly travelling to Corinth. Indeed it is not even certain from 1 Corinthians that Peter ever went to Corinth, only that he had supporters there. The late second-century view of Dionysius, the Bishop of Corinth, that Peter did indeed visit Corinth (HE 2.25.8) is difficult to assess because it may simply by an inference from 1 Corinthians. In the case of Paul it appears that he first arrived in Rome in the sixties (Acts 28:16; cf. Rom. 1:10, 13ff.; 15:22ff.; 28f.) and there is indeed a tradition that Paul fulfilled his ambition to go to Spain after arriving in Rome (e.g. 1 Clem. 5.6f.; Acts Pet. 1, 6; Mur. Canon [on Acts]) but this may be secondary, deduced from Rom. 15:24, 28. Thus, while Irenaeus may have believed that Peter and Paul departed from Rome around the sixties, the historical accuracy of the tradition remains questionable. There are also problems with the idea of understanding παραδέδωκεν as ‘handed down’ in support of Irenaeus believing Mark to have been written earlier than the mid-sixties. In fact it would still carry the implication of being written because it is difficult to imagine that the gospel would not have been widely disseminated if already written, not least in a relatively long-established Roman community, otherwise this would mean the unlikely situation of a (the?) written gospel being withheld from the Roman Christians for some time. Thus even if it were to be accepted that Mark passed on Peter’s preaching in written form surely the implication would be that this was the first time of it being put into writing. Moreover, and this is a criticism of both post and pre-64–65 views, Irenaeus is a little suspect because, as Wenham noted, chronology is not his strong point: Irenaeus claimed that Jesus’ ministry lasted ten years and that Jesus died just before the age of fifty (Adv. haer. 2.22.5, 6). Of course, it is not impossible that he could have had an accurate tradition in the case of Mark’s gospel.

The implication that Mark wrote down the gospel after Peter’s death/departure appears to be understood in the so-called’ ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue which is most probably based on the statement of Irenaeus,

… Mark declared, who is called ‘stump-fingered’ (colobodactylus) because he had short fingers in comparison to the size of the rest of his body. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the death/departure (post excessionem) of Peter himself he wrote down (descripsit) this same gospel in the regions of Italy (Aland, Synopsis 548).

The conventional understanding of this passage is that it bears witness to a tradition in the Patristic period that Mark’s gospel was written after the death of Peter in the mid-sixties. T.W. Manson, however, suggested the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue could bear witness to an early tradition, particularly when combined with the evidence from Clement of Alexandria (see below), that Mark was written after some ‘departure’ of Peter, possibly misinterpreted by Irenaeus. Manson speculated that Mark may have written down the gospel after Peter had departed from an unrecorded trip to Rome (sometime between 55 and 60 ce) after being active in Corinth. Manson has not gained much support for his approach but this does not mean, of course, that his speculative view is necessarily wrong. Even though the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologues probably postdate Irenaeus13 this would not stop this ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue being a witness to a tradition that predates Irenaeus. However, as has been argued already, a visit of Peter to Rome after visiting Corinth lacks evidence so the speculative nature of Manson’s approach means that it can hardly be regarded as definitive in terms of historical accuracy, although the possibility that the prologue believed Mark’s gospel to have been written after some departure of Peter is not impossible.

It can therefore be concluded that Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue are of uncertain historical worth. The criticisms levelled at the post-64 reading are strong, particularly the reading of ἔξοδος as ‘departure’. This reading would bring it in line with the early church tradition that Mark’s gospel was written during Peter’s lifetime. However, although it is quite possible that Irenaeus and even the prologue believed Mark was written during Peter’s lifetime this reading raises problems of historical accuracy because it is not based on strong evidence and is lacking in any secure first-century support. If the post-64 reading could be shown beyond reasonable doubt then it would be on firmer ground as far as complementary historical evidence is concerned but this reading is far from certain.

2. Clement of Alexandria

As noted, the approaches to the external evidence which date Mark during Peter’s lifetime are supported by a tradition associated with Clement of Alexandria so some discussion is required. After telling us that Peter defeated Simon Magus in Rome during the reign of Claudius, Eusebius mentions the following from Clement of Alexandria:

And so a great light of piety shone upon the minds of the hearers of Peter that they were not satisfied with merely a single hearing or with the unwritten teaching of the divine gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter and whose gospel is extant, to leave behind with them in writing a record of the teaching passed on to them orally; and they did not cease until they had prevailed upon the man and so became responsible for the Scripture for reading in the churches. Clement has quoted the story in Book 6 of the Hypotypōseis … (HE 2.15.1f; Aland, Synopsis 555).

In a later passage Eusebius again refers to Clement of Alexandria but this time we have a not-so-enthusiastic response from Peter:

Again in the same books, Clement has placed a tradition of the presbyters from the beginning regarding the order of the gospels, which goes like this. He said that the gospels which contained the genealogies [Matthew and Luke] were written first, but that the gospel according to Mark had this occasion: When Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and by the Spirit proclaimed the gospel, those present, who were numerous, urged Mark, inasmuch as he had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to write down what was said; and after he had done this he

Published: December 20, 2014, 08:14 | Comments Off on The Date of Mark’s Gospel – Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity; James G. Crossley from ArchBischof Uwe AE.Rosenkranz
Category: Law

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