If the external evidence puts Mark in the first century, does the internal evidence enable us to pinpoint that date more precisely? Many would say yes and place it on either side of 70 CE. Below I provide a range of scholarly efforts on arriving at a date from clues in the gospel itself (see full Bibliography). But the main points of the debate are as follows: 1) is the focus on the downfall of the Temple (13:1-2; cf. 11:12-14, 20-25; 14:57-59, 15:29) vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the fact) or a genuine prediction, 2) does Mark 13 reflect the Jewish War or just vague apocalyptic imagery (wars, earthquakes, famines, cryptic abomination of desolation), 3) how long does it take for the tradition to develop (as required by form criticism, for translation from Aramaic to Greek, for theological developments, etc), 4) is the end expected within a generation of Jesus’ first hearers and how many original witnesses are still alive (see my post on 13:30 or the debate of Crossley, 53-4 [contra Hengel, 8] and Winn, 53-54 on 9:9), and 5) what of the recent efforts to overturn the consensus and date Mark back to the early 40s CE?
Martin Hengel (Studies in Mark) was one of the best traditionalist biblical scholars who defended the basic reliability of the patristic view on Mark. Hengel notes that the terminus ad quem for Mark must be its use by Matthew/Luke and the reference to “this generation” and some original witnesses who had not yet ”tasted death” (7-10) The terminus a quo is established on several grounds: the time it takes to translate traditions from Aramaic to Greek, the waning of initial eschatological enthusiasm to desire to write a Jesus’ biography, the sayings tradition or passion narative appear to be more worked over, a worldwide mission is presupposed (13:10, 14:9) and the ritual laws have been relaxed for a Gentile audience (Sabbath, food, universalism), the martyrdoms of the sons of Zebedee has taken place (10:39) and Mark 13 distantly reflects news of the War (12-14). But the advice in 13:14 to flee would not make sense once Titus set up a circumvallatio around the city and the abomination of desolation could not be Titus who immediately left the temple and city (18-20); he dates it before 70 in the year of 3 emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius) which provoked fears of Roman Christians of crisis all around and of a future Nero redivivus (22-28).
Ched Myers (Binding the Strong Man, 41) argues that Mark must be prior to 70 but during the revolt in order to understand its political/economic ideology and critique of the current temple state and political order and its advocation of revolutionary non-violence, while he lambasts those who date Mark after 70 as influenced by a “docetic” tendency to remove the political critique and see Mark in light of a “theological” rift with the cult and with “Judaism.” Richard Horsley (Hearing the Whole Story) has his differences but largely agrees that Mark is a story of a village-based Israelite renewal movement against the Roman-designated Jerusalem elites (48-50), obscured by its reduction to “Scripture” and “theology” (27-28), and that the advice of 13:14 and the warnings of false messiahs/prophets would be pointless if the results of the War were already known (131). They differ on provenance, with Horsley settling on Syria and Myers leaning towards Galilee.
John Kloppenborg (“Evocatio Deorum“) grants that 13:14 may be part of an older apocalyptic tractate reflecting apprehension over Caligula’s plans to put his statue in the temple before his assassination in Jan 24, 41 CE (cf Theissen, Context, ch 3) or some other apocalyptic scenario (2 Thess 2:14) (422-26), but 13:1-2 frames chapter 13 around the Temple destruction, a central theme from chapters 11 to 15 (427-28). While oracles of the destruction of the Temple are in the Tanakh (e.g., Deuteronomic history, prophets) and later (e.g., 1 En. 98:20-30; Jos., J.W. .300-309; Lam Rab 1:31), they are uncommon and 13:2 is quite specific (430-31, 434). He finds evidence of the Roman ritual of evocatio deorum, to invoke alien gods to flee cities/Temples devoted to destruction (described on 434-41), in Mark’s narrative recasting of a Q saying (Matt 23:38/Lk 13:35) and account of the cosmic darkness and tearing of the curtain (15:36-38) (448-49). Similar omens occur in Josephus or Tacitus and Josephus’ apologetic is that Providence was now on Rome’s side (442-44). The effectiveness of this ritual could was narrated in historiography in retrospect after a successful siege (434, 444).
Joel Marcus (Sitz Im Leben), in contrast to Hengel’s claim that Mark had no actual familiarity with what transpired during the Jewish War but heard the news from afar (i.e. Rome), argues Mark was written from one of the Transjodan Hellenistic cities attacked at the beginning of the War (461-62). Mark protests that the temple had become the house of revolutionary bandits (lēstēs) (cf. Josephus J.W. 4.3.7-8; 5.1.2; for Zealots used for revolutionaries in general see J.W. 2.17.9; 4.9.10) had taken over the temple under Elezar son of Simon. This explains the abomination as Eleazar’s occupation of the temple in 67-68 CE, Mark’s openess to Gentiles and protest in the Court of Gentiles in the Temple (the Zealots wanted to cleanse it of foreign influence), the persecutions as the Zealots held mock trials, and Mark’s triumphal entry as the anti-type of the messianic entry of Simon bar Giora in April-May 69 (448-59). Mark is writing in hindsight and sees the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE as punishment for closing the door on Gentiles and turning the place into the seat of revolutionary violence (461-62)
Hendrika Roskam (The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark) argues 4 passages point to a post-70 date: 12:9 reflects that the tenants (religious leaders) will be destroyed and the vineyard (Israel) handed over to others (the Romans), 13:2 reflects the fall of the temple (mistakes are irrelevant as Josephus made mistakes), 13:14 is not just the Temple’s profanation but its destruction with the Roman general or army standing in the courtyard (note the nun [now] in 13:19) and 15:38 is an omen of the temple’s destruction (81-94). She situates Mark in post-war Galilee (cf. a Galilean provenance) and argues that 13:9 accurately depicts the post-70 political situation where the eastern part was ruled by a king and the western part by a Roman legate (112-13). Mark’s depoliticizing of the kingdom or the title Christ (note the contrast with Myers, Horsley or Winn below) was to not be seen as a subversive movement and avoid being dealt with by Jewish authorities acting to prevent Roman reprisals.
Brian Incigneri (to the Romans; cf. Head’s article) dates Mark in late 71 during Vespasian’s imperial triumph. He defends a post-70 date in that Matt/Luke are after 70 but no more accurate on the Roman siege than Mark (Lk 21:24 just reflects 2 Kgs 25:1), that Jesus’ predictions are mostly fulfilled, that the Romans had no policy of destroying temples (cf. Kloppenborg, 434), that 13:2 is generally accurate while Josephus exaggerates the fire (cf. J.W. 22.214.171.124-253, no fire in Synoptic parallels), that the desolator is Titus (J.W. 6.382 show many were able to escape) and that Mark has temple replacement imagery (throw the [temple] mount into the sea as the community offers forgiveness [11:22-25], rebuild temple in 3 days) (117-55). His close reading of Mark, or what critics charge as excessive mirror-reading or allegorization, finds many allusions to Vespasian (cf. 156-252). The crucifixion scene is modelled on his imperial triumph (purple robe, crown, whole guard, capital [Golgotha meaning "head"], time of day, etc), the healing of a blind man with spittle (7:32-38; 8:22-26) echoes Vespasian (Tacitus, Hist. 4.81), 14:47 reflects a supporter of Vitellius who cuts off the ear of the Tribune guarding him (Hist. 3.84), Herod/Herodias are like Titus/Queen Bernice, James/John are like Vespasian’s ambitious sons, the Gerasene demoniac echoes the 10th Legion whose symbol was a boar (Myers, 191 also sees Vespasian’s sending of Lucius Annius to Gerasa with a calvary & foot soldiers [JW. 4.9.1]), the dividing of Satan’s kingdom reflects prior civil war in Rome, the controversy on taxes becomes acute with Jews forced to pay for the Temple of Jupiter in Rome, 15:38 reflects the parading of the outer curtain of the Temple in Rome, etc. Adam Winn (Purpose) is similar (though he has differences as, for example, he sees the great tribulation and the desolator as still future for Mark- cf. 69-75). To arrive at a post 70 date, he applies several criteria to decide if Mark wrote pre-factum or post-factum (Specificity, Reasonableness, Similarity, Motivation, Risk-Reward) (58-67), yet only in his last two criteria does he decide for post-factum as Christian literature is largely silent on the Temple’s destruction pre-Mark (i.e. Paul) and Mark would not risk so much by linking Jesus’ prophetic powers to the Temple given a chance the prediction could be falsified (61-67). He agrees on allusions to Vespasian and argues Mark countered imperial propaganda of a messianic prophecy of Vespasian (Josephus, J.W. 6.312-13; Tacitus, Hist. 5.13.1-2; Seutonius, Vesp. 4.5) (157-67)
Burton Mack (Myth of Innocence) argues that Mark was written in the 7os in southern Syria, close enough to feel the vibrations from the Jewish War but without direct involvement (315). It is the product of a failed synagogue reform movement (cf. the pronouncement stories) which turned bitter and became an apocalyptic sect threatening judgement on its opponents; Mark is the charter document and new myth of origins (combining its traditions with Paul’s proclamation of the Christ) for a community stressing its independent of the synagogue. Mack also judges the concept of an anti-temple Messiah to be a contradiction in terms that could only be formulated after the temple’s destruction (282). William Arnal (“Reflection on Exile and Identity”) also sees Mark as written in the early to mid 70s in some region affected by the Jewish War (60), though he does question the confidence of how much we can know about a discrete “Markan” community in a particular location since this is creatively obscured by the author (59). Instead, Arnal views Mark as a commentary on the experience of exile, social dislocation and ethnic identity in light of the fall out of the Jewish War (60, 65).
James Crossley (Date of Mark`s Gospel) challenges the consensus of dating Mark shortly before or after 70 CE and dates Mark much earlier. He is not alone - in the last two posts we saw early daters for good or bad reasons (e.g., re-reading patristic evidence – J. Chapman, E.E. Ellis) and M. Casey backs it up that one would expect greater editorial revision of the Aramaic sources if Mark was written later (Aramaic Sources) and that Mk 13 reflects the Caligula crisis (Jesus of Nazareth, 69-71). Crossley spends much time deconstructing the confidence of scholarly dating: he severs the connection of Mk 13 to the War as their may be all kinds of referents (Herod Antipas conflict with Aretas of Nabatea, Caligula crisis, persecutions in 1 Thess 2:14 or throughout Acts, a relatively early outreach to non-Jews, etc) (ch 2) and arguments for a long period of development based on form criticism orMarkan redaction reflecting the fall/replacement of the temple or alleged influence from Paul, etc (ch. 3). His argument for re-dating to the 40s is that Mark presupposes an entirely Law observant movement that has not felt the impact of Paul’s law-free Gentile mission or debates of the Jerusalem Council (Matt/Luke-Acts have a law-observant Jesus but respond to these developments [e.g., Matt 5:17; Acts 11-12]). Thus, his last two chapters argue that none of Jesus’ legal verdicts on Sabbath, divorce or purity violate biblical law; he re-reads 7:1-23 as a coherent whole dealing with hand-washing (7:2-5) and that Jesus rejects the oral tradition (as he does with Corban) that unwashed hands render food unclean, hence cleansing all foods (that is, foods already permitted by Torah).
Some of the arguments above I find more convincing than others, but I want to first ask what you think of the various reasons scholars have given for their dating of Mark and when you would date it?