Arguments in favour of a Syrian provenance such as Aramaicisms or Semitic influences, the agrarian social world or the close impact of events in Judaea equally apply to a Galilean one. But the case against locating Mark in Palestine itself is based on his “ignorance” of its geography (e.g., 7:31 intinerary from region of Tyre to 22 miles north to Sidon, then southeast through middle of the Decapolis, then northwest to Sea of Galilee; 11:1 has order of Jericho to Jerusalem, Bethpage, & Bethany; 5:1-20 Gerasa is over 30 miles from the Sea of Galilee [textual variants Gadarenes, Gergasenes]) and customs (e.g. is David requesting the Bread from the [wrong] high priest Abiathar relevant to the Sabbath dispute in ch.2?; does Mark assume all Jews practice handwashing in 7:3 and dismiss the dietary laws in 7:19b?; issues with the timing of Passover in 14:13?) as argued extensively in K. Niederwimmer, “Johannes Markus und die Frage nach dem Verfasser des zweiten Evangeliums,” ZNW58 (1967): 172-88 and P. Parker, “The Posteriority of Mark,” 67-142 in New Synoptic Studies (ed. W.R. Farmer. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983). I need a whole series of posts to do justice to Mark’s views of Torah, but for now it will sufice to point out an increasing scholarship defending Mark’s deep familiarity with the scriptures, groups and customs of Israel (cf. M. Hengel, Studies in the Gospel of Mark [Fortress: Philadelphia, 1985]; J. Marcus, The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993) and his commentaries; R. Booth, Jesus and the Laws of Purity: History and Legal History in Mark 7 [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1986]; M. Casey, Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel [SNTS 102; Cambridge University Press, 1998; Jesus of Nazareth [London & New York: T&T Clark, 2010]; J. Crossley, ”Halakah and Mark 7.4: ‘…and beds,’” JSNT 25 ; The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insights from the Law in Earliest Christianity [London: T & T Clark, 2004]; “Mark 7:1-23: Revisiting the Question of all Foods Clean” pp 8-20, Arseny Ermakov, “The Salvific Significance of the Torah in Mark 10:17-22 and 12:28-34″ pp in Torah in the New Testament [ed. Peter Oaks & Michael Tait; London & New York: T&T Clark, 2009], etc). Again, in the interests of space a later post may look at historical or theological explanations for the geography, but we may be importing anachronistic modern standards of cartographic exactness onto ancient conceptions of space (cf. book review at Sheffield blog). I will let the reader decide the merits of the objections, but for differing reasons why a minority of scholars support a Galilean provenance:
- According to the studies of Loymeyer and Lightfoot, Galilee symbolizes the locus of divine revelation as the crowds are widely receptive to Jesus’ teaching, healing and exorcisms (in contrast to the Pharisees, Herodians). Jerusalem is the centre of hostility and rejection of Jesus as his single fateful journey to the capital will ultimately lead to the cross.
- Kelber sees the dichotomy of Galilee and Jerusalem as representing two rival Christian centres. Mark polemicizes against the Jerusalem church and its hierarchical leadership (e.g., Jesus’ brothers, Peter, the Twelve) that held a false eschatology (false prophets teaching parousia in Jerusalem in ch. 13), did not comprehend the nature of Jesus’ messiahship as suffering Son of Man and tried to remain exclusively Jewish. This polemical reading (cf. Tyson, Crossan, Weeden) is a popular explanation for Mark’s portrait of the disciples and interprets the silence at 16:8 to mean the Twelve were never restored to the movement in Galilee (16:7). The invitation is still open for survivors of the War from Jerusalem.
- In 16:8, the angel instructs the women to tell Peter and the disciples to go to Galilee where they “will see” (opsesthe, future of horaō) Jesus (16:8; cf. 14:28). In a pioneering study on “redaction criticism” (i.e. scholars try to identify the evangelist’s own editorial hand and distinct contribution to his traditional material), Marxsen sees in 16:8 and 14:28 as redactional and not a reference to a resurrection appearance but to the future parousia (coming) of Jesus. These passages are a summons to Mark’s present community to gather in Galilee (cf. the tradition of the flight of Christians to Pella) to await the imminent return of Jesus (Mark the Evangelist, 83-92).
- Roskam turns the widespread argument about geography on its head by arguing that Mark is thoroughly familiar with Galilee but ignorant about everywhere else (the mistakes in 11:1 about the way to Jerusalem and other vague references in Jerusalem; the mistake about the area of the Decapolis in 5;1-20) (Purpose, 95-100). She argues that the geography in Mark 1-4 between Capernaum and the Galilean Sea is perfectly accurate. Her take on the intinerary: Nazareth (6:1), still in Galilee (6:14), in Galilee but now on coast of lake (6:30), on west coast of lake somewhere in vicinity of Tiberius (6:35-44; in 6:32 Jesus withdrew by boat to diserted place but doesn’t cross the lake), heads by ship to Bethsaida ( 6:45, correctly placed on other side, i.e. north-east coast of lake), ends up in Gennesaret probably north-west coast of Sea of Gaalilee half-way between Tiberias and Bethsaida (6:53), leaves Gennesaret for Tyre (7:23, 7:24-30), from Tyre by way of Sidon to the Decapolis (7:31-8:9; she argues it is not unlikely for Jesus to travel from a coastal area [Tyre] to middle of Decapolis via Galilean Sea and only awkward route is Sidon as much further north so evangelist may not quite know where Sidon was situated in relation to Tyre and the Sea of Galilee), and then Mark 8-9 is geographically sound (pp. 104-110).
- Cohen argues that the Gerasene demoniac story reflects an insider Israelite perspective. He argues that was a mixed population in the Decapolis with a significant Jewish presence since the time most of them were conquered by Alexander Yannai (103-76 BCE), though the “significant indigenous Jewish population that was marginalized by a colonial Greco-Gentile population with the support of Roman imperial power” (“Gerasene Demoniac,” 153-56). Instead, Jesus intends to rid the world of foreign Gentile imperialism as symbolized by the demonic legion and restore the land to Jewish sovereignty, though Gentiles are permitted to live in Eretz Israel (“Gerasene Demoniac,” 159). The rest of the article critiques the widespread view that the section in Mark where this story is found hints towards the Gentile mission.
- Well-known liberation theologian Ched Myers argues that Mark advocates for a just redistributive system for disenfranchised and often landless Galilean peasants and non-violent resistence against the Roman imperial order and and Temple elites. The date (pre-70 CE) and location is very important to him as he sees efforts to place Mark in Rome after the destruction of the Temple as a (docetic) attempt to suppress the economic and political message in favour of the theological (Binding the Strong Man, 41). He sees a basic continuity in Jesus’ vision and Mark, writing, “Events had also changed the general political atmospere; what was sporadic, predominantly rural resistance to Roman colonialism in Palestine at the time of Jesus had coalesced into a major, Jerusalem-centered insurrection at the time Mark wrote. Nevertheless, the basic social structures and dynamics that characterized this era did not alter significantly” (Binding the Strong Man, 42). Alternatively, Hendrika Roskam locates Mark after the Temple destruction (Purpose, 81-94) and sees the reference to “governors and kings” in 13:9 as reflecting the post-70 CE political situation of Galilee as the Eastern part was ruled by a king (Agrippa II) and the western part directly by the Roman legate (pp 112-113). Since Jewish leadership took action against bandits/insurgents/charismatic prophets to avoid Roman reprisals, she also sees the evangelist as depoliticizing the message of any earthly kingdom as it was dangerous as followers of a crucified messianic figure.
If I have missed any crucial arguments put forward for Galilee, pleas let me know in the comments (or your thoughts about the quality of these quite varied arguments, or the arguments for Rome and Syria in the past two posts). Here is a bibliography of some of the scholarship that sees Mark in Galilee:
- Cohen, Daniel. “The Geransene Demoniac: A Jewish Approach to Liberation before 70 CE.” Pages 152-173 in Judaism, Jewish Identities and the Gospel Tradition: Essays in Honour of Maurice Casey. Edited by James G. Crossley; London and Oakville: Equinox, 2010.
Kelber, W.H. The Kingdom of Mark: A New Place and a New Time. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974.
- Lightfoot, R.H. Locality and Doctrine in the Gospels. New York: Harper, 1938.
- Lohmeyer, E. Galiläa und Jerusalem. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1936.
- Marxsen, Willi. Mark the Evangelist: Studies on the Redaction History of the Gospel. Nashville andNew York: Abingdon Press, 1969.
- Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988.
- Roskam, H. N. The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark in Its Historical and Social Context. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
Vander Broek, L.D. The Markan “Sitz im Leben”: A critical investigation into the possibility of a Palestinian setting for the Gospel. PhD-dissertation, Graduate School of Drew University, New Jersey, 1983.