Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why I Am So Interested to Read Markus Vinzent's New Book

Vinzent has touched upon something that is very important to every scholar who takes 'Secret Mark' seriously - namely the resurrection. I have always found it very difficult to believe that Jesus raises his beloved youth and then a few chapters later the gospel of Mark ends with an empty tomb. I know things are not as simplistic as this. One may even argue that the Gospel of John has both the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus. Yet there is something very different about 'Secret Mark.' Lazarus is an incidental figure in the gospel. 'The disciple who Jesus loved' is necessarily a central character to the narrative.

I can never get beyond the understanding of a longer gospel of Mark in Irenaeus which ends with Jesus crucified and Christ impassable. Given that Irenaeus knew of a Markan tradition where Jesus wasn't the Christ, who else but the 'disciple who Jesus loved' to fill his shoes.

The difficulty which literally stays in my head for weeks at a time is how is a 'double death' and a 'double resurrection' possible? Very few books have two main characters undergo a death in the same story line - let alone a death and resurrection. I struggle how one miraculous event wouldn't have 'crowded out' or cast a shadow over the significance of the other.

The reason I can't wait to read Vinzent's book is that he has noticed something very significant about the writings of the Church Fathers on this very topic. As he notes in a post I picked up floating somewhere in the blogosphere:

Where there is no reception of Paul, we do not find Christ’s Resurrection, look at canonical and non-canonical literature of the first two centuries. That should also explain the question of Acts. Hence dating – always a matter of discussion – is of little concern to me. The bigger question is who read what, and what was regarded as theologically important. The cross was, the paschal sacrifice was, but the Resurrection? Just ask again, who amongst Jews and Greeks did believe in a bodily afterlife?

Vinzent's observation is quite eye opening. Why isn't there much theological interest in the resurrection in early Patristic writers? As my readers already now I always read books and papers in an 'asymmetrical' manner. I am wondering whether the evidence would actually support the idea that the reason why the resurrection of Jesus isn't mentioned until the third century is because the actual narrative hadn't been invented yet.

Vinzent of course notes that the Pauline letters make reference to the resurrection. Yet if we weren't told in advance which narrative this was - i.e. Secret Mark's resurrection of the disciple Jesus loved (i.e. Christ) or Jesus's resurrection after his crucifixion - I wonder which narrative better suits the various themes that the apostle connects with resurrection (i.e. death, baptism etc.). My hunch has always been that Paul is actually developing his theology from the initiation of the youth of Secret Mark. Yet one make a good case that I lack some objectivity.

What really intrigues me is whether there is any real evidence to suggest that the Marcionite gospel had any mention of Jesus actually 'resurrecting' from the dead. Yes the tomb might have been empty. Yes there may have been some sort of 'appearance' of 'Christ' (whoever that was) subsequent to the empty tomb. But was given that the scriptural justification for baptism did not appear at the beginning of the text (i.e. there was no mention of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus) where is the evidence that the Marcionite text placed the resurrection at the end of the narrative?

In other words, could both the scriptural basis for the baptism, death and resurrection of 'Christ' have been rooted in the longer addition to Mark which was at the same time - the gospel of the Marcionites (= Aram. 'those of Mark) ...

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.