In the last post, I argued that a date for Mark in the first century as the most plausible option can be reasonably established just from a consideration of the external evidence. Before I go on to look at the internal evidence in the Gospel of Mark itself, I want to consider two other external arguments for an earlier dating of Mark that are misguided in my opinion. The first argument by José O’Callaghan, ‘New Testament Papyri in Qumran Cave 7? JBLSup 91.2 (1972): 1-14 and Carsten Peter Thiede The Earliest Gospel Manuscript?: the Qumran Papyrus 7Q5 and its Significance for New Testament Studies. Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1992; The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity (New York: Palgrave, 2000) (cf. his argument summarized here, critical review of latter book here) is that a fragment of Mark has been found at Qumran and so Mark should be dated before 50 CE. However, after the strong debunking of this claim below from conservative or liberal quarters alike (see links below), virtually nothing remains of this alleged parallel except for the very common Greek particle kai. This is familiar to first year undergraduates who have taken an introductory course on the NT, but as the internet is prone to conspiracies it cannot be said strongly enough that there are no references to Jesus or early “Christianity” whatsoever in the Dead Sea Scrolls (note scholarly bloggers with expertise in the scrolls like Jim Davila or Robert Cargill).
The second argument is based on the earlier dating of the book of Acts before 62 CE and, by implication, Mark must be dated even earlier. The early dating of Luke-Acts has some strong supporters (J.A.T. Robinson, Colin Hemer, Craig Blomberg, some commentaries on Luke or Acts), but Luke 19:33-34 and 21:24 seem to me to reflect the Jewish War and destruction of the Temple. It can be protested that Luke’s imagery could be derived from scripture and from commonplaces of war, but that Luke alters the “abomination of desolation” standing in the temple (Mk 13:14; Matt 24:15) suggests to me that the author is reinterpreting a more ambiguous oracle about some antichrist figure defiling the temple in light of the events of 70 CE. I am part of the panel at San Francisco SBL where we will discuss the possibility of an early second century dating based on the arguments of Richard Pervo et al (his case is that Acts is familiar with a corpus of Pauline letters, Josephus’ Antiquities, and shares terminology/themes with the apostolic fathers and other 2nd cent texts, my contribution will be to look at a possible relationship with Papias and the depiction of John Mark in light of our various traditions of a Mark in Paul’s letters, 1 Peter and Papias), but even on the more conventional dating places Luke-Acts in the late first century (80-100 CE). Thus, while I do not think these two arguments are strong for dating Mark earlier than conventional (late 60s – early 70s), in the next post I will turn to the internal evidence to see whether the consensus dating is secure or if Mark can be dated much earlier.
For articles responding to the claim about the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Robert H. Gundry, “No NU in Line 2 of 7Q5: A Final Disidentification of 7Q5 With Mark 6:52-53“. JBL 118 (1999): 698–707.
Hans Förster, “7Q5 = Mark 6:52-53 A Challenge for Textual Criticism?“ JGRChJ 2 (2001–2005) 27-35.
Gordon Fee, “Some Dissenting Notes on 7Q5=Mark 6:52-53.” JBL 92:1 (1973) 109-112.
Graham Stanton, “A Gospel Among the Scrolls?” BAR online
Daniel Wallace, “7Q5: The Earliest NT Papyrus?” at the blog http://bible.org/article/7q5-earliest-nt-papyrus