Blog Battles on the Date of Mark

A few years ago there was a good discussion on the blogs about the dating of the New Testament books in general, and Mark in particular.  Here are some posts worth checking out from Mark Goodacre (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here), April DeConick (here), James Crossley (here, here, here) and Michael Barber (here, here, here, here, here, here).  Let me know what you think?

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13 Responses to Blog Battles on the Date of Mark

  1. To what it is worth, I am certain gMark, without Mk 16:9-20, was written in the winter of 70-71. I am 90% certain the gospel was written in Corinth.
    Bernard D Muller

  2. I am interested to know what authors have made a case for a late date for GMk, “late” meaning “after 75CE”. In fact often I see 80 given as the TPQ for GMk, but I have no idea where this date comes from, other than that 80 is often given as the TAQ for GMt and GMk is, it is supposed, a source for GMt, hence 80 is the latest date for GMk.

    Can anyone provide any suggested authors or works that investigate this question?

    I think we can at least let go of the debate about which sayings are authentic, and just notice that even if every saying is authentic, that is no guarantee of a date before 70. For why should we assume that a prophecy was written down before the date it was fulfilled?

    Speaking for myself, I think GMk was clearly written down after its author and audience had had several years to reflect about the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem. Nor do I have (or see) any need to establish an early date for GMk–or for any of the other gospels, for that matter. Asking “How early could it have been?” is only half the question–the other half is “How late could it have been?” I think not enough attention has been given to that half of the question.

    • I think gMark gives up plenty of evidence that the destruction of Jerusalem (13:1-2) and the massacre of its inhabitants (12:9a) were known by “Mark” Christian community. He even explained, through the parable of the tenants (12:1-12) Jerusalem demise: God wanted to avenge his Son (killed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem & the chief priests).
      Also very obvious is his prediction that very soon afterwards the kingdom of God will come (13:26-27). I do not think, in view of the urgency (13:20,24), we could be talking about years but rather months. This is suggested by the reference to the fig tree (13:28) and the parable about keeping watch (for Christ return) in 13:33-37. No, according to what I see, I cannot think about years, but rather months. I cannot even imagine the gospel being written more than 6 months later, but composed in a moment of crisis right after Jerusalem obliteration.
      BTW, I do not think that the gospel writing was triggered by Jerusalem destruction directly, but about what happened next in the Markan city:
      Mk13:20-23 “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.
      For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible.
      So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”
      among Jews and Christians which followed”
      Obviously, “Mark” did not want the members of his community to desert it and flock to these so-called prophets and Christs (chosen ones for retaliation!). The solution: Christ predicted the momentous event (13:19), that was part all along of a God’s plan (avenging the Son), keep yourself where you are (do not join these false prophets and Christs), so you can be the elects of the Kingdom coming now very soon.

  3. Mike K. says:

    Thanks Bernard and Mike for your comments. Mike, I would have to check the commentaries to see if anyone suggested a date around 80, but it looks to me that the whole imminent expectation within a generation rules out dating too long after 70 (on my eschatology post I did not that there have been daters during the Bar Kochba revolt, but that seems too extreme for me). Bernard, haven’t heard Corinth as an option before – do you think this because of Paul’s emphasis on power in weakness and Christ crucified in the letter to the Corinthians? Your reading that these passages are ex eventu has a lot of scholarly support, though the objection for us pre-70 daters is always that the temple was not destroyed exactly how Mark predicted it and that the abomination of desolation may be a yet future oracle expecting an antichrist figure to set up an idolatrous image in the Temple (no longer an option once the temple was destroyed by the Romans)

    • I do agree that the expectation needs to be explained. I’m not convinced, however, that an explanation would be all that difficult–apocalyptic predictions are extended into the future all the time. I could easily imagine a kind of oral “apocalypse prediction” tradition that did indeed originate immediately after 70CE or so, but that was not codified in written form until some years or even decades later.

      I certainly agree the Bar Kochba revolt is far, far too late.

  4. Thanks Mike K. for your reply.
    About Corinth: We know, through Paul’s letter, a lot about the Christians of Corinth in the 50′s. These were very challenging, inquisitive, unstable, volatile, wanted reassurance about resurrections and the substance of the resurrected body, how soon the Kingdom will come, etc (and also apt to be big sinners!). At times they were not always faithful to Paul, abandoning him, sometimes almost as a whole, sometimes in part. They were listening to other apostles and some became followers of Apollos of Alexandria, others of Peter/Cephas. Some were doubting Paul’s gospel (that is what he was saying) due to his lack of credentials.
    It happens Mark’s gospel seems to be addressed to that kind of Christian community. Of course, that’s very suggestive and there is nothing in the gospel which points to Corinth in particular.
    Mark’s gospel is full of embellishment and fiction but also of very realistic anecdotal and somewhat trivial bits (such as Jesus getting Peter’s mother-in-law out of bed). Unfortunatly, most of the times, those bits are laced with extraordinary items. One example is the miraculous feedings. The disciples only remember picking rest of a meal after the locals had assembled outside to eat. But they and the crowd do not notice any miracle, no multiplication of food, which is only implied through the preambles. Scholars called that the Messianic secret. Instead, I see “Mark” integrating heard eyewitness accounts in his gospel (to instill elements of credibility), but putting them on steroid, because he felt that his flock wanted to be sure that Jesus gave proof he was divine and Son of God.
    Because Peter had followers in Corinth, it is most likely he went there. Besides Antioch, that’s the only place where Peter went outside of Palestine with some certainty. Other visits, including to Rome, appear legendary for me.
    So Corinth would explain the blend we find in it: A bit of Paul, a bit of Peter, bits coming from other apostles (non-eyewitness as for Paul), some Judeazers (the Syro-Phoenicians woman, the drowned pigs of the Gentiles), a lot which divinized Jesus (the humble and meek Jesus of Paul and Peter was unacceptable anymore), reassurance about resurrection and the resurrected body, etc.. All of that allegedly witnessed by Jesus disciples and or from Jesus’ mouth (at the times when the gospels of apostles “in the Spirit” might have been doubted).
    A note about authorship, which I never wrote down yet. In gMark, we notice days partionned according to Roman customs. More revealing is how Jesus would have split the crowds for the miraculous feedings (which, according to the narration, is totally unnecessary). That apparently was practiced by Romans in the military and among workers for large public projects. We know someone who not only was a Christian in Corinth, and literate, and well verse in large public work: Erastus.
    Furthermore Erastus, because of his position, was used to employ Latin words (which we find a lot in the gospel). Furthermore, there were many people who would know Latin in Corinth, still a Roman colony with a large number of inhabitants who had come from Latin italy (Center and South).
    Erastus might have been one of the followers in Christ (1Cor1:12) which I interpret as the ones blending/harmonizing what they heard from visitors about Jesus Christ.
    Bernard D. Muller

  5. To Mike K.,
    About Jerusalem,
    I do not think we should expect from “Mark” a detailed and accurate description on how Jerusalem was destroyed. That was not his job or even necessary. Furthermore early news from Palestine about Jerusalem destruction were transmitted orally and probably were rather fuzzy. No pictures, no videos, not even certified reporters existed yet!
    It looks Jerusalem was mostly destroyed by fire. Usually fire of the building wood would be sufficient to burn or desintegrate limestone, as long as those stones were small. However large stones for large buildings, such as for the temple or palaces were likely to resist fire and whole walls probably kept standing. But Josephus told “Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple” (Wars, VII, I). In the same chapter, Josephus said the Romans destroyed the city walls and even dug up their foundation (except for a small portion left to protect the Roman garrison). He concluded “there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited”. That would implying the surviving walls were demolished stone by stone. Yes, the sustaining wall of the temple mount were not destroyed, but they hardly qualify as a building.
    In Daniel, the abomination that causes desolation seems to refer to pagan sacrifices on the temple mount. In gMark, it seems to refer to Roman armies (with their sacrilegious emblems) coming to Jerusalem in 70. Again not very accurate correspondance, but “Mark” probably used the expression in order to avoid mentioning the Romans (or be too precised!). I do not even think he wanted to attract attention to ‘Daniel’ even if he picked up the words from the OT book. Of course “Mark” was very much pro-Roman.
    Bernard D. Muller

  6. Ron Price says:

    Crossley’s response to the two reviews is quite illuminating. While it is true that Painter was not scathing, he did make the serious accusation of circular reasoning (using a conclusion concerning the early date of Mark to establish the case for an early date of Mark).

    I find it curious that Crossley’s main interest was to push for a more Law-observant Jesus. I have no doubt that the historical Jesus was Law-observant, but I would support this contention by explaining the gulf between the Markan Jesus and the historical Jesus.

    Crossley’s apparently unintentional support for Conservative Evangelicals via a very conservative date for Mark is regrettable. Perhaps he will consider producing his own “Honest to God” to redress the balance, like his early-dating predecessor J.A.T.Robinson. ;-)

  7. Mike K. says:

    Mike (the Cave), that is a fair point about reinterpreting and updating prophecies. This looks to me to be clearer, though, in Luke-Acts with the addition of “the time of the Gentiles” in the eschatological discourse (Lk 21:24) or correcting the view that the kingdom would come at once (Lk 19:11; Acts 1:6-8).

    Thanks Bernard for sharing your views. Where I would be hesitant is that it is not clear if Peter actually went to Corinth for there to have developed a Cephas-party, Mark may have a source for the miracle traditions that makes Jesus out to be a Jewish Moses/Elijah type (cf. Actemeier on the miracle chains in Mark and John), Mark lacks alot of specialized Pauline vocabulary/themes and there are some big differences in their traditions about the last supper (Paul alone has “new” covenent or “do this in remembrance of me” making it a regular cultic meal versus Mark’s single Passover meal) or the resurrection (Paul lists appearances, Mark has the women at the empty tomb and ends before appearances in Galilee) and the Latinisms may reflect Roman political and economic colonization across the Empire. For more on provenance, see You may be right about the abomination as the Roman armies, as that is explicitly Luke’s interpretation (Lk 21:20), but it may be that Mark expects a future Nero redivivus who will desecrate the temple like Antiochus of old.

    Ron, I think a scholarly judgement should be measured solely on the basis of its own merits (what are the arguments, evidence, methodology, etc used to support it – in Crossley’s case a detailed comparison between Jewish law and the controversy stories in Mark) and it is irrelevant whether it is perceived as being more or less congenial to a conservative theological viewpoint (or any other viewpoint). In his other works such as “Why Christianity Happened” or “How Did Christianity Begin: a Believer and a non-Believer Examine the Evidence” (with Michael Bird), he makes it clear that he is not interested in theological but only in sociohistorical explanations of Christian origins.

  8. Mike K. wrote: “it is not clear if Peter actually went to Corinth for there to have developed a Cephas-party”
    BM: I think the only way Peter would have followers in Corinth, is that he went there himself. I do not see any other way. Apollos got also followers in Corinth, and according to “Acts”, he went there. Why would it be different for Peter? I think the odd of Peter not visiting Corinth is very small.

    Mike K. wrote: “Mark may have a source for the miracle traditions that makes Jesus out to be a Jewish Moses/Elijah type (cf. Actemeier on the miracle chains in Mark and John)”
    BM: This is rather unevidenced. And I do not see any attempt in gMark to make Jesus look like Moses (contrary to gMatthew). As for Elijah, it is clear “Mark” would prefer John the Baptist to be seen as the new Elijah rather than Jesus. For the “miracle chains in Mark and GJohn”, I have an explanation for that: “John” knew about gMark.

    Mike K. wrote: “Mark lacks a lot of specialized Pauline vocabulary/themes and there are some big differences in their traditions about the last supper (Paul alone has “new” covenent or “do this in remembrance of me” making it a regular cultic meal versus Mark’s single Passover meal) or the resurrection (Paul lists appearances, Mark has the women at the empty tomb and ends before appearances in Galilee)”
    BM: Maybe it was not the intention of “Mark” to look Pauline. Mark certainly did not adopt all the Pauline concepts. Even so, I noticed quite a bit of borrowing/extrapolation/historialization/demonstration in gMark relative to the Pauline epistles (mostly the 2 Corinthians & Romans). As for the Last Supper, I think that “Mark” historialized (and make some modifications about) what he read in 1 Corinthians. The modifications would be about not looking as copying Paul. Finally, for your reference to 1 Cor 15:3:11, I have many reasons to take that as an interpolation (around 100-110).

    Mike K. wrote: “the Latinisms may reflect Roman political and economic colonization across the Empire.”
    BM: I agree. But gMark has a larger density of Latinism than any other gospels. Those have a tendency to eliminate the Latinism in gMark and not to add up any other ones.

    Mike K. wrote: “but it may be that Mark expects a future Nero redivivus who will desecrate the temple like Antiochus of old.”
    BM: Antiochus IV did not have the temple demolished stone by stone.

    Mike K., I do not know if you are aware I have an extensive website on the historical Jesus, which addresses many issues, including most I discussed on your blog. You cannot miss it on it is at #3 position for “historical Jesus” (#5 on Google UK). BTW, I got many enthusiastic feedback emails.

    • Mike K. says:

      To quickly reply. It seems to me the problem in Corinth may have been mainly with Apollos, but Paul seems hounded by other Jewish Jesus followers who insist on Gentile Judaizing and may claim to represent the Jerusalem Pillars so that could be why some claim to follow Cephas. That seems to me to agree with the division of labour of Cephas to the circumcised and Paul to the non in Gal 2 (Paul continued to minister to Jews so this agreement perhaps was geographical and the Pillars mostly remained in Palestine except for the incident in Antioch).

      I grant the Moses parallels are clearer in Matthew, but the sea and feeding miracles evokes the exodus and wilderness feedings. Elijah/Elisha did feedings or raise the dead too and were popular prophets in northern kingdom of Israel rather than Judah. There is also the Transfiguration with allusions to Mount Sinai, the divine splendour and shining like Moses on the mountain and Moses/Elijah accompanying Jesus. But you are right that the Baptist = Elijah in Mark.

      You are right that Antiochus did not tear the temple down stone by stone, but I wonder if the prophecy in 13:14 may just refer to the temple’s idolatrous desecration. Granted, the discourse is framed by 13:1-2 of the Temple’s destruction, so Mark may have thought all the events in 13:1-23 would ultimately lead to its destruction by human agents (Romans) or perhaps God or the Son of Man himself was to destroy the temple.

      I read my friend James McGrath’s blog so I may have seen your website (and I saw you argue for interpolation in 1 Cor 15), but will check again some time so thanks for mentioning it.

  9. The problem in Corinth was likely more with Apollos than with Peter, I agree, but still Paul did not like some Corinthians became followers of Peter.
    Then you seem to refer to a passage of Galatians (2:7-8). From my website:
    “Paul called “Stone” as “Cephas” (1 Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5,15:5, Gal 1:18,2:9,11,14). But there are two exceptions: “Peter” appears twice in Gal 2:7-8. For many reasons (& not only because of ‘Peter’), Gal 2:7-8 (except for “On the contrary”) is very likely a later interpolation. See for details.”
    In other words, this harmonious division of labor between Paul & Peter is likely the result of a pious insertion. Furthermore, there were Jews in Corinth, so, even if Peter was only dealing with Jews, Corinth would still be a logical destination.
    Corinthians becoming followers of Peter personally, through some middle men, does not make any sense to me.

  10. Eilkredit ohne Schufa…

    [...]Blog Battles on the Date of Mark « Euangelion Kata Markon[...]…

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