Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Since the rise of redaction criticism in the early 1950's, the attempt to reconstruct the theological visions which motivated the decisive redactors of the Synoptic Gospels has commanded a good deal of scholarly attention and effort. After a quarter-century of work, however, the Gospel of Mark remains an enigma; no particular trend in the interpretation of this book been able to win the agreement of a substantial majority of commentators. This dissertation has been undertaken with the intention of making a fresh star towards the establishment of a solid understanding of the message of Second Gospel.
With respect to method we join with a small, but growing, group of scholars who object to the dominant practice of redaction criticism, which is to make source analysis the first step in interpretation. Instead, we hold to the view that the theology of the redactor is most likely to be accessible not through the isolation of those words and phrases which appear to have originated from redactional activity, but through the study of the entire Gospel as the final product by means of which the evangelist intended his message to be heard. We have taken this abstention from considerations of the history of the Synoptic tradition a step further by declining to allow the widely-held view of Mark's priority to serve as a methodological presupposition.
Many recent efforts in Markan-studies have argued that the redaction took shape in Syria or Palestine in a community with strong Jewish Christian characteristics. We find that this growing trend is of doubtful value, and ought to be reversed. The Second Gospel was produced by and for Gentile Christians; consequently, judgments of plausibility must be founded upon the recognition that out nearest access to the Markan environment is to be found not through Palestinian Jewish sources, but through the early literature of the mission to the Gentiles: the Pauline correspondence.
Building our analysis upon the foregoing considerations, we come to the comparatively novel conclusion that the issue which most engaged Mark's attention was the opposition which he saw to exist between the divine and the human. This we have termed "the God/man polarity"; we find that it pervades the Gospel, almost to the exclusion of the motif of a cosmic conflict between God and Satan. The God/man polarity is held to be overcome in and through Jesus the God-man, as is revealed in 15:39.
This interpretation arises in part from a new understanding of the Markan use of the titles "Son of Man" and "Son of God", for Mark, means a human being; paradoxically, he has Jesus take up the title at precisely those junctures where he claims more-than-human significance, and thus links the title to the theme of blasphemy. This theme represents Jesus' claim to an authority which transcends the divine/human distinction. "Son of God" clarifies the paradox by ascribing to the man Jesus intrinsic divinity.
Despite its resemblance to traditional Christian teaching, this interpretation of Mark has few precedents in current critical scholarship. Commonly, Mark's portrayal of Jesus has been set into a context of "low", typically Jewish-Christian Christology or into a positive or negative relationship to the alleged Hellenistic type known as the "Divine Man". The major contribution of this thesis is, then, to establish as critically viable the view that Mark originated as a product of the mainstream of Western Christianity and that a God-man Christology, which is well attested both before and after Mark, exercised a decisive influence over the final redaction of this Gospel.
Davis, Philip George, ""Truly This Man was the Son of God": The Christological Focus of The Markan Redaction" (1979). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3189.