Theodore J. Weeden. Mark—-Traditions in Conflict. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.
I decided to read this book when I saw that it was mentioned in a book that Richard Bauckham edited, The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences.
The author who mentioned Weeden’s book disagreed with its thesis, but I
thought that Weeden’s book might be interesting. I am interested in
the diversity within the Bible and new ways of looking at issues.
Essentially, Weeden argues that Mark was responding to people who
were like the super-apostles in II Corinthians. These people focused on
signs and wonders: they performed them themselves, and they also
highlighted that Jesus performed them as a divine man. They believed
that they were connected in some manner with the apostles, perhaps as
heirs to the apostles’ miracle-working ministry. They maintained that
spiritual knowledge was hidden from the masses and was reserved for a
spiritual elite. They also held that Jesus himself was in their
presence, and that they were so united with Jesus that they themselves
could be identified with him, on some level.
According to Weeden, Mark drew from these people’s traditions about
Jesus in writing his own Gospel, but he did so as a way to refute them.
Rather than focusing on signs and wonders, Mark emphasized the
importance of suffering discipleship, which would speak to his
historical context, a time when believers in Jesus were suffering. Mark
depicted Jesus backing away from either performing miracles or
highlighting them. Because Mark’s opponents stressed the apostles, Mark
presented the disciples as people who simply did not understand Jesus’
mission. In the Gospel of Mark, they stumble over Jesus’ miracles, and
Peter gets rebuked by Jesus because Peter simply does not grasp that
Jesus will suffer and die. There are also no post-resurrection
appearances by Jesus to the disciples in the Gospel of Mark: they miss
the boat. Whereas Mark’s opponents believed in a secret spiritual
knowledge, and this view is evident in Jesus’ telling of parables in the
Gospel of Mark to obscure knowledge for anyone other than Jesus’
disciples, Mark contended that Jesus was public about his Messianic
identity as Son of Man, and Mark also maintained that Jesus was
inclusive, even towards those who were doing great works in his name yet
were not part of his circle of disciples. While Mark’s opponents said
that the risen Christ was in their midst and identified themselves with
Christ, on some level, Mark in Mark 13 attempted to refute these
claims. The people who come in Christ’s name, claim to be Christ, and
perform signs and wonders are Mark’s opponents, Weeden argues. Mark
rejects the idea that Jesus is with the Christian community, for Mark is
clear that the Spirit is with the Christians, and the Spirit is not
Jesus. Mark in Mark 13 warns the disciples against following those who
believe that Jesus is here or there, and Weeden thinks that Mark here is
arguing against his opponents’ view that Christ is in their midst. For
Mark, according to Weeden, Jesus will be with Christians after the
parousia, not before then. Until that time, the bridegroom will be away
from the Christians.
A question that I had in reading this book was whether Mark 16:7
undermined Weeden’s thesis. There, a young man at the empty tomb
instructs the women to tell the disciples, and Peter, that Jesus is
going before them into Galilee. Does that not undermine the idea that
Jesus was spurning the disciples by not giving them any
post-resurrection appearances? No, according to Weeden. Weeden agrees
with scholars who argue that Mark 16:7 concerns the parousia, not
post-resurrection appearances. Weeden notes that the terminology used
is the terminology that is usually employed in reference to the
Do I agree with Weeden’s thesis? There may be something to it. I
myself have thought that the Messianic secret in the Gospel of Mark
contrasts with Jesus’ public proclamation of his mission in the
self-same Gospel. I have also been open to the possibility that the
people who come in Christ’s name in Mark 13 and deceive many are
Christians rather than the Messianic pretenders Josephus talks about,
since they do come in Christ’s name.
But I still have questions. First of all, while Weeden is clear that
Mark believed in an imminent parousia, did Mark envision the parousia
occurring during the lifetime of Peter? The young man in Mark 16:7,
after all, instructs the women to tell Peter that Jesus goes before them
into Galilee. If so, how would that make sense to Mark’s community,
which may have lived after Peter’s death (though I cannot be too
dogmatic about this, for Peter may have lived a long time)? Was Peter
supposed to pass on the tradition that Jesus’s parousia would be in
Galilee? Second, why would Mark depict Jesus’ disciples as clueless
about Jesus’ ability to perform miracles, when Weeden’s argument is that
Mark’s opponents emphasized Jesus’ miracles? Was the point here that
Jesus’ disciples were clueless, even on what people believed them to be
experts on? Third, why would Mark emphasize the importance of suffering
discipleship? Why did Mark believe that suffering was important? Did
he think that suffering served some positive end?
I have two items for my blog post today about I Chronicles 3:
1. V 3 states that David had Ithream “by Eglah his wife” (KJV).
This stood out to me because the chapter mentions other women by whom
David had children, yet Eglah is the only woman who is called his wife.
Rashi, drawing from the Midrash, says that Eglah is David’s wife
Michal. “Eglah” is the Hebrew word for “heifer.” Why would Michal be
called a heifer, according to Rashi and his source? One explanation is
that Michal made a sound like a heifer when she gave birth to Ithream,
but another is that “Eglah” was a term of endearment. Samson in Judges
14:18, after all, called the woman he was marrying his heifer.
According to Rashi and his source, Michal had a special place in David’s
heart, so David called her his “Eglah,” and the text specifies that she
was his wife.
2. V 24 mentions Anani, who was descended from the Davidic King
Jeconiah of Judah. He appears to be the last descendant of David who is
mentioned in the genealogy. According to Roddy Braun in his Word Bible
Commentary about I Chronicles, there was an Aramaic letter dated to 407
B.C.E. that mentions an Anani, and Braun believes it is plausible that
this is the same Anani as the one mentioned in I Chronicles 3:24. That
may give us an indication as to the date of I Chronicles.
Interestingly, however, the Targum and other Jewish interpreters
affirm that Anani is the coming Messiah. “Anan” is a word for “cloud,”
and Daniel 7:13 affirms that the Son of Man will come in the clouds of
heaven. Apparently, there were Jewish interpreters who regarded the
Danielic Son of Man as the Messiah, for they said that Anani was the
coming Messiah, and that his very name related to what Daniel 7:13 said
about the Son of Man. I draw my information here from the Orthodox
Jewish Artscroll commentary.
How could Anani be the coming Messiah, when he was a figure in the
past? The Artscroll mentions that there were seven generations between
Jeconiah and Anani, but it also mentions the view that the “seven” in v
24 relates to the seven eyes of God that roam throughout the earth in
Zechariah 4:10, a passage that the Artscroll is taking as Messianic.
The seven in I Chronicles 3:24 appears to be the number of sons of
Elioenai. Could the Jewish interpreters who regarded Anani as the
Messiah be interpreting the “sons” of Elioenai loosely: that, yes, some
of them could be sons, but that Anani is actually a descendant, the
Messiah, who will come in the future?