Taking Mark's Polemic Seriously
sblack at axionet.com
Tue Jul 24 10:59:07 EDT 2001
Thank you Ted for another well done post!
Reading it and the various responses to it, kind of made me think of
one of my theological heroes - Rudolf Bultmann.
Many focused with Bultmann on one dramatic detail, namely
demythologization, and often missed most of what he was really about.
Ted, I believe, has a critical contribution to the understanding of
the book of Mark, but it has got lost in unanswerable questions of
The important point, in my thinking, is that the historicity doesn't
really change the *real* point that I believe is made. The polemic at
(or very close to) the heart of the second gospel is the real issue
that I see here. If Mark created the whole story, that would
increase the intensity of his intent, as it were, BUT if he used
items he found in tradition, he still fashioned them into a powerful
polemic against the twelve.
However, I do have a few questions.
>[Ted wrote] Mark's choice of IOUDAS as the name of Jesus' betrayer
>designed, in my view, to symbolize the southern kingdom of Judah (IOUDAS)
>and its successor the province of Judaea in Mark's day.
I still don't find this identification persuasive. To quote what I
posted (on the Kata Markan list) back in March
'The suggestion that Judas represents Judaea is forced, and ignores
elements within the text itself!
Before looking outside the text, we should look at the clues given
WITHIN the text. The above semantic parallel (IOADAS=IOUSAIA) is
considerably weakened by the reference to Judas the brother of Jesus
(Mark 6:3). Did he also represent Judaea? Would Mark use this name
symbolically here, but not there?
It seems that Judas was a common 1st Cent CE name.
The clue to what the narrative meaning of the character of the
betrayer is found, I believe, in his absolute connection with the
twelve. Every time he's mentioned, he's either listed with the twelve
(Mark 3:19), or with the statement that he was "one of the twelve"
(Mark 14:10. 14:43). Clearly he represents something to do with the
disciples, not Judaea.
We are not being fair to the story world of Mark to ignore theses
obvious cues in favor of more subtle possibilities, ones not derived
the text itself.'
In short, I believe my understanding actually strengthens your main
premise, and that is that Mark has a "vendetta" against the twelve.
Consistently connecting the betrayer with the twelve presents a
powerful indictment against them. By seeing Judas represent Judaea
seems redundant as the Priests, Pharisees and other Jewish religious
leaders are presented badly enough without any help from the Judas
2. I have a question (and suggestion) regarding what Mark's "beef"
was. In "Traditions in Conflict" you believe the problem was relating
to Christology. Do you still hold that view?
The problem I see with that I that if it is "heresy" that Mark
resists, it is very hard to identify what the heresy is, and thus can
(and has) been argued that he ultimately doesn't do a very good job
of resisting it!.
Every doctrinal indication pointing in one direction seems to have
counter-indications pointing in opposite directions.
Perhaps it was not doctrinal but political. Perhaps Marks saw the
emerging power structures forming within the early church and used
the figures of Peter, Judas, and the twelve in his story as a
rhetorical device to undermine centralized church authority. Jesus is
presented as the only worthy leader. (In modern terms, perhaps Mark
is a bit of a [naïve] religious anarchist)
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