Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Helmut Koester on the Provenance of Mark

Helmut Koester is one of the world's leading authorities on early Christian Gospels and gospel-traditions. In his book From Jesus to the Gospels I did observe one acute irony. Concerning the Gospel of Mark, Koester states, "I am, of course, aware of the widespread assumption of scholars that the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome. There is, however, no single piece of evidence. Mark was used by Matthew in Syria and by Luke in Antioch or Ephesus in the last third of the first century. That a gospel written in Rome should have been brought to the East as such an early time seems most unlikely" (p. 29, n. 30). And yet this footnote is attached to the statement above it that "Were it not for the single reference to a passage from Mark in Justin Martyr's Dialogue, we would not have any evidence for the presence of that gospel in Rome in the middle of the second century". My problem is: (1) What is so implausible about the Gospel of Mark reaching Syria/Ephesus when Christians travelled widely and frequently?; (2) Surely the fact that the first external attestation of the Gospel of Mark is in Rome does at least factor in the evidence about its original provenance.


Bob said...

I've always understood the evidence for Rome as the provenance of Mark as mostly indirect (but convincing):

1) The presence of Latin loanwords (e.g. "praetorium" in 15:16) and explanatory comments seems to point to a Latin speaking audience.

2) The connection of Mark with Peter (from Papias via Eusebius) implies that Mark wrote not only before the death of Peter but in the same geographic area as Peter.

This may not be proof-positive that Mark was written in Rome but I think the tentative hypothesis that he did fits the above data best.

G. Kyle Essary said...

It's further ironic that his argument against it is that Matthew was writing in Syria. Sure, from Schweizer, most scholars believe it was written in Palestine or Syria, but the evidence is on par with that of Mark being written in Rome.

Wieland Willker said...

I agree with Bob.
The Gospel of Mark makes not the impression of being written in Palestine.
He is explaining Jewish customs, Palestinian localities and Aramaic words. He refers to the Roman divorce law, uses the Roman Quadrans and has several Latinisms. All this points to an author writing in a Latin environment.

Geoff said...

Dave Black posits that Matthew was first, the Luke used Matthew, and that Mark used both last, in Rome. This is based mostly on external evidence.

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