March 20, 2009

John Mark's Memory - 3

On Wednesday, I made the basic suggestion. On Thursday, I posted a spark for one possible reconstruction. These are my tentative thoughts and questions based on it all.

IF the story I just told is anything close to the context of the author's experience, there's no question about whether he'd remember things - only how many things and to what degree. Maybe I need to read more on the study of memory, but I know from real life it varies significantly from person to person. The period of life matters, too. Think about your own teen years for a while, and see what you remember. "First" memories are often much stronger than later ones.

IF the second Gospel was written by the John Mark of Acts, and IF he was that young man in the sheet, then we must reconstruct his life because the author himself is a pertinent issue in this debate. Someone can parse down the imaginative parts of my last post into something more defensible, but I believe I made my point. Logically, some such scenario must be considered. And IF that scenario is more simple and more plausible than others, shouldn't it be the leading theory on authorship? I'm just wondering...

Is that a lot of "IF"s for scholarship to tackle? Maybe. Maybe not. But my initial point is really my only point at the moment - it is in three parts. (1) The study of memory in general does not absolutely tell us about the memory of any particular eyewitness or writer. (2) Considering any particular authorship should require reconstruction of that author's life. And finally, (3) the relative difficulty of actually doing all this does not diminish its necessity.

After all, "A text without a context..."

Or am I missing something? Seriously - what do you think?

2 comments:

Peter Kirk said...

Then surely there is at least the possibility that Mark wrote down some kind of account of that last week at the time. Young people often do that today. He was presumably an educated young man, and not poor: his (widowed?) mother had a sizeable house and a maid, Acts 12:12-13. Perhaps he kept a journal - and used it later as the basis for his gospel, or that part of it.

Indeed perhaps Mark wrote the whole gospel as a young man - it has something of the quality of an excited youth's account of events. Is there in fact any good reason to argue that Mark was not written, at least as a first draft, in the year or so after Jesus' death and resurrection? As he had a Latin name as well as a Jewish one (and the maid had a Greek name) it is quite likely that he was educated in Greek, hence the language of the gospel. Perhaps he drew on Matthew's notes as well as Peter's memories for the earlier years of Jesus' ministry.

Bill said...

Peter, I absolutely love your imagination. We always need more of that, not less. The more paint we mix together the more we have to choose from when deciding which colors fit best on the canvas.

That said - some quick research should give you plenty of reasons not to think Mark wrote his whole Gospel so early. I can't think of a reason to conclude he couldn't have journaled a bit of the passion week, but I can't think of any reasons [either textual or situational] to conclude he did, necessarily. Can you?

It's ironic that scholarship requires a simple-as-possible solution when the truth is likely to be far more complicated, as I recall some great scholar said or wrote recently. Personally, I'm going to stick with Markan priority, and Matthew's notes seem necessary (see Tuesday's post).

So far, I don't see a need for a 'proto-Mark' document, but I love how you're working out ideas on the young man himself.

Got any more good thoughts?

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