gMark is intended to be history writing

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Stefan Kristensen
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:46 am

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:28 am
Greetings, @Stefan Kristensen

I don't think it's that simple to reverse engineer the never stated intention of Mark, beyond the self-evident, to attract and hold an audience for his work. Had he not succeeded in that, we wouldn't be discussing his work, and Luke would have copied from somebody else.
To my knowledge there is no evidence that the prophetic predictions of Scripture were generally considered as anything other than predictions of actual, real events to come.
Often, the purpose of speaking about the future is to influence behavior in the present and future. Whether or not the prophecy "comes true" is secondary, as is whether its fulfillment is plain, ironic or not at all.

For example, God insists that Jonah proclaim a calamity to come, which doesn't come after all. Why? Because the divine purpose was achieved by the prophecy itself: behavior changed in the present. Jonah is put out about it, too.

Forecasts are predictions of actual, real events to come. Prophecy isn't necessarily forecasting, although it can take that form, but needn't achieve any forecasting objectives to succeed.
It makes no sense at all to write a 'fictional' or symbolic story of somebody who fulfils prophecy. Prophecy is history.
Harry Potter fulfills prophecy. Sells pretty well, so it must make some sense to somebody. Come to think of it, Mark sells well, too.
Apparantly the 'narrator' has heard of Scripture! But then why is it only here in the beginning that he expresses it?
Of course I agree that the narrator is a character within the work, and not necessarily the voice of the author.

There's quite a bit of Jewish Bible quoting and allusion throughout Mark. It seems the the main character is a full-time Jewish preacher, as are several of his antagonists - and among the amateur ranks, even drunken Herod manages a bit of Esther.
Hi Paul!

I wrote that "generally" prophecies were regarded as real, future events to come, and I wrote "the prophetic predictions of Scripture" and so not just any ol' "speaking about the future". You bring up Jonah, which might be an exception, because I can't think of any work that treats the prophecies of God in Scripture as 'maybe-events'. And Harry Potter is not fulfilling prophecies of Scripture (I haven't read the books, but I go out on a limb here).

Regarding the wonderful story of Jonah I don't think I agree that it was necessarily the purpose of God to make Nineveh convert and/or humiliate the poor prophet. I think it is a story about the dread of being a prophet and about God's anger being reversed by remorse and repentance. Which is also the way it was understood by the gospel writers, I believe (Matt 12:41/Luke 11:32).

Yes, there are extremely many quotes and allusions to Scriptures throughout gMark. But none whatsoever from the narrator. Only 1:2-3.

nightshadetwine
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by nightshadetwine » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:25 am

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nightshadetwine
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by nightshadetwine » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:27 am

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nightshadetwine
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by nightshadetwine » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:28 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:20 am
But do you think he meant his intended audience to understand it as history? Or just allogory? Or both at the same time (which is really what I’m arguing)?
That's a good question that I'm not completely sure about. I think it's possible that for most people the story was meant to be taken as historical but maybe certain people would know it's allegorical. I think there were people who were "in the know" that had their own "language" that was used to convey religious/metaphysical concepts. This language being allegory, symbolism, and metaphor. Also, I don't think history and myth/religion were completely separate to a lot of people back then, so in a way the stories were "historical" and allegorical/mythological.

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GakuseiDon
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by GakuseiDon » Tue Oct 09, 2018 1:56 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:21 am
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:37 am
There is also some quote by some ancient historian, which is relevant, but I can't remember where it's from. If I remember correctly, this historian writes openly something to the effect that he personally constructs the speeches in his history work in order to convey the historical person's intentions and personality etc. I think I came across this in connection with research of Acts, with all its speeches, which were intended, then, to be understood in this way, i.e. historical in the manner of conveying the 'sense' of the historical person and event, not the actual precise event and speech.
GakuseiDon wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:40 am
Yes, I've come across that as well, though I don't remember from where off-hand.
Is it this?

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 1.22.1-4 (translation modified slightly from Richard Crawley): 1 With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said. 2 And, with reference to the narrative of events, far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible. 3 My conclusions have cost me some labor from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eyewitnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other. 4 The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but, if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things it must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as an everlasting possession.

That's the one! Thanks Ben. :notworthy:
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:19 pm

It is worth keeping in mind, too, that even obvious fiction was frequently structured around prophecies and their fulfillment, and would also include historical persons as part of the fictional narrative. It was all part of the realism and drama.

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:41 pm

The use of prophecy was a stock tool for driving the plot of both fiction and history.

Herodotus, the "father of history", narrated many instances of prophetic utterances of the Delphic oracle and it has been argued that Herodotus's Histories was as theological in function as the Hebrew Bible's history books -- meant to teach the power of Apollo and need to submit to his will.

Homer's epics are driven by prophetic announcements, too -- and Homer was considered to be a "historian" in ancient times.

Then there are the clearly fictional novellas (or "historical novels") whose plots are primarily driven by prophecies. E.g. Xenophon of Ephesus and his Ephesian Tale. After a few paragraphs setting the scene the author begins the story proper with a prophecy that no-one can understand but is only made clear after it is fulfilled. Sound familiar? Perhaps the author was inspired by the Gospel of Mark to write a similar fiction?
The temple of Apollo in Colophon is not far away; it is ten miles’ sail from Ephesus. There the messengers from both parties asked the god for a true oracle. They had come with the same question, and the god gave the same oracle in verse to both. It went like this.
Why do you long to learn the end of a malady, and its beginning?
One disease has both in its grasp, and from that the remedy must be accomplished.
But for them I see terrible sufferings and toils that are endless;
Both will flee over the sea pursued by madness;
They will suffer chains at the hands of men who mingle with the waters;
And a tomb shall be the burial chamber for both, and fire the destroyer; And beside the waters of the river Nile, to Holy Isis The savior you will afterwards offer rich gifts;
But still after their sufferings a better fate is in store.2
When this oracle was brought to Ephesus, their fathers were at once at a loss and had no idea at all what the danger was, and they could not understand the god’s utterance. They did not know what he meant by their illness, the flight, the chains, the tomb, the river, or the help from the goddess. . . . .
Achilles Tatius wrote Leucippe and Clitophon, another fiction, with a similar motif, though the opening prophecy came in the form of a dream. But other more direct prophecies pop up in the course of the narrative and again the hearers are as bewildered as Mark's disciples about they mean.
. . . . the Byzantines received an oracle that said
Both island and city, people named for a plant,
Isthmus and channel, joined to the mainland,
Hephaistos embraces grey-eyed Athena,
Send there an offering to Herakles.
They were all puzzling over the meaning of the prophecy when . . . .
What follows is an attempt to decipher the "parable" by finding what each detail represented in code. At the end of the story the hero bewails that fact that it seems the god prophesied only something negative, loss and failure ... but he is to be proven wrong. It's a similar motif as we find in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus prophecies his death. Peter protests, but he is over-ruled and eventually learns that it's all good.

Other "novellas" follow the same pattern. Another is The Ethiopian Story by Heliodorus.

There is a "historical novel", a fictional narrative, about Alexander the Great (said to be by a "pseudo-Callisthenes") that is also prophecy driven.

One might even say that the motif of a prophecy-driven plot is a characteristic of fiction, or even fictionalized history.

When historians wanted to be taken most seriously they cited their sources or told readers why and how they judged some source more reliable than another. They were not even beyond making up fictional sources -- e.g. Herodotus. Or beyond rewriting scenes from plays and presenting them as an eyewitness narrative -- e.g. Thucydides. Hence Seneca's cynicism towards historians as quoted in my earlier comment.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:49 pm

We can't read the author of gMark's mind, but we can see how at least two, and I think three, persons read it. Notice how the authors of Matthew and Luke (and John, too!!) felt free to change and rewrite it.

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MrMacSon
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:59 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:19 pm
It was all part of the realism and drama.
More, 'it was all part of the drama and perceived or narrative-portrayed realism (or all three).'

neilgodfrey
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Re: gMark is intended to be history writing

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Oct 09, 2018 6:09 pm

I meant "realism". That covers everything from the appearance of real to the really real.

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