Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reconstructing Mark's Original Vision for the 'Gospel of Jesus' Through Uncovering Signs of His Conscious Imitation of the 'Book of Joshua'

I rarely have any respect for New Testament or Patristic scholars because they quite simply haven't any real grasp of the so-called 'Old Testament.'   It's just down right embarrassing at times.  One need only read Clement of Alexandria's consistent reinforcement of the idea of an underlying 'harmony' between Old and New Testament is essential for the unraveling the mystery of the gospel to know these people rarely have a clue of what they are talking about.

The reason why no one else has managed to solve this riddle of course is that Christian scholars only use the Pentateuch, the Book of Joshua and the rest of the Jewish scriptures to adorn the inherited presuppositions of their ancestors. What we are doing here is quite different. We are arguing that even though we no longer possess Mark's original narrative his gospel writing effort shows signs of being governed by what was already established in the core documents of the Jewish literary tradition.

To this end we have demonstrated that the earliest Church Fathers identified innumerable parallels between old and new which can be used to reconstruct the original purpose of the narrative. For instance, the account of Jesus's appointment of 'the twelve' was established in the shadow of Moses's well known drafting of twelve meraglim to walk go ahead of the conquest and report on the situation in the Holy Land. We noted that the early Church Fathers paid close attention to the fact that one of those 'spies' was named Oshea and after demonstrating his faithfulness had his named changed to 'Jesus.' They passed on a tradition that this was a foreshadowing of what would happen in the gospel - i.e. that one of the disciples would be rewarded by the Lord for his loyalty and receive the power associated with his holy name.

I have argued that this has to be an allusion to the now famous story from the so-called 'secret gospel of Mark' mentioned in the hitherto unknown letter of Clement of Alexandria discovered in a Palestinian monastery in 1958. The basis to my understanding is that the reconstructed narrative in chapter 10 of this gospel shows clear signs of imitating the Book of Joshua's account of the conquest of the Eretz Israel. What we are suggesting then is that the gospel narrative originally written by Mark was basically a sandwiching of the Pentateuch's account of Moses appointing a college of twelve and seventy leaders in Israel and then the first few chapters of the Book of Joshua as soon as the gospel narrative enters into the new year (i.e. Nisan).

I will explain why Mark developed his narrative in this manner in a subsequent post but for the moment I would like to demonstrate to the reader why my theory helps explain some of the most perplexing details associated with the gospel. For instance, I have always wondered why the gospel assigns a date of the fifteen year of the reign of Tiberius to the story essentially of the fulfillment of the destruction of the Jewish temple.

Indeed, let's be honest with one another at least for a moment. Almost every reasonable interpretation of the composition of the gospel assumes that it was written after the destruction of the temple. The Jews in the narrative are made to laugh about Jesus's failure to destroy the holiest building in Judaism in such a way that could have only been viewed as highly ironic statements by the first people to hear the text (because they new that this expectation was indeed ultimately fulfilled). Why then set the story in 29 CE?

The answer goes back to the most fundamental belief in Judaism - namely that the sins of 'the twelve' appointed by Moses led to a forty year wandering in the wilderness. If this formula is assumed to have been taken over by Mark the evangelist, Jesus now enters into Jerusalem at the beginning of 30 CE (i.e. after a year of wandering) and apparently fails to accomplish what Joshua achieved - viz. the destruction of an offensive walled city that is the prelude to the reestablishment of divine favor. Yet if the portrait of the sins of Peter and the rest of 'the twelve' appointed by Jesus were a deliberate allusions to the original account in Numbers, it would have been readily recognized that the Christian movement was forced to 'wander in the wilderness' forty years - i.e. to the year 70 CE - before fulfilling the promises declared by God.

Indeed the connection between the sins of the twelve and the destruction of the temple is already established in rabbinic lore (Mishnah Taanit 4:6), in the annual fast day of Tisha B'Av. It is universally acknowledged that when the Israelites accepted the false report, they wept over the false belief that God was setting them up for defeat. The night that the people cried was the ninth of Av, which became a day of weeping and misfortune for all time. This was the day the Jewish temple was ultimate destroyed in 70 CE.

More to follow ...

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