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.