Thursday, April 22, 2010

Peter/Mark of Papias versus Peter/Glaucias of Basilides

The testimony of Papias that the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark out of Peter’s anecdotes is recorded by Eusebius (HE 3.39.15):

And the elder used to say this: ‘Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterwards, as I said, followed Peter, who adapted his teachings as needed but had no intention of giving an ordered account of the Lord’s sayings. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his one concern not to omit anything that he heard or take any false statement in them’ (trans. M. Holmes).

Some argue (e.g., Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8, 23) that the appeal to Mark as the interpreter of Peter is a deliberate rejoinder to the claim by some Gnostic figures that Basilides was taught by Glaucias the interpreter of Peter (Clement, Strom. 7.106). However, I would point out: (a) Imitation is a great means of admiration, but hardly an effective form of refutation. (b) The Peter-Glaucias tradition itself may have been influenced by the Peter-Mark tradition rather than vice-versa. As Birger A. Pearson (‘Basilides the Gnostic’, in A Companion to Second-Centry Christian ‘Heretics’, eds. A. Marjanen and P. Luomanen Leiden: Brill, 2005, 4) writes: ‘The Peter-Glaukias tradition (whoever Glaukias was) can possibly be seen as a Basilidian counter to the Peter-Mark tradition current in Alexandrian ecclesiastical circles’. (c) The aetiological stories of the genetic relationship between ‘heretics’ recorded by the Heresiologists are chiefly polemical rather than historical (though this should be assessed case by case). (d) Irenaeus connects Basilides with a different Gnostic genealogy that is traced through Simon Magus and Menander (Adv. Haer. 1.24.3-7), while the Basilidians themselves laid claim to the teachings of the apostle Matthias (Clement, Strom. 7.108; Hippolytus, Haer. 7.20.1). So I doubt that the Peter-Mark tradition was derived (or contrived) as a response to the Peter-Glaucias tradition found in Basilidian circles.

1 comment:

Phil G said...

I think the idea that Mark was Peter's interpreter is very important, in particular with regard to author of Peter's letters. Petrine authorship of those letters has been questioned because the Greek was too good for a person like Peter. If Peter used an interpreter as he traveled around; what languages was the interpreter translating from and to? Probably from Aramaic to Greek. Peter probably did not speak Greek. In all likelihood if he wrote letters, he wrote them in Aramaic and had someone translate them into Greek.
That explains the quality of the Greek.