The Date of Mark’s Gospel – Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity; James G. Crossley from ArchBischof Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

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ISBN    0-567-08185-0 (hardback)

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In Memory of Paul Francis Crossley (1950–2001)



List of Abbreviations


Chapter 1
The External Evidence

    1.    Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ Prologue

    2.    Clement of Alexandria

    3.    ‘The Second Year of Claudius’

    4.    First-Century Evidence for Peter in Rome in the Forties?

    5.    Papias and Markan Authorship

    6.    M. Hengel on Gospel Authorship

    7.    Conclusions

Chapter 2
Mark 13

    1.    N.T. Wright and the Historicity of Mark 13

    2.    The Abomination of the Desolation

    3.    The Caligula Crisis and Mark 13

    4.    Other Possible Historical Contexts:
From the Mid-Thirties to the Jewish War

    5.    Antichrist, Unfulfilled Prophecies and the Problems with Dating

    6.    Mark 13 and the Jewish War

    7.    The Narrative Frame: Mark 13:1–2

    8.    Conclusions

Chapter 3
The Date of Mark and Modern Gospel Criticism

    1.    Source Criticism

    2.    Paul as a Source for Mark?

    3.    Form Criticism

    4.    The Composition of Mark’s Gospel

    5.    Redaction and Literary Criticisms

    6.    D. Seeley on Mark 11:15–17

    7.    G. Theissen and J. Marcus on Mark 11:15–17

    8.    Mark 11:15–17: From the Historical Jesus to Markan Redaction

    9.    Markan Redaction and Replacement Symbolism

    10.    Markan Redaction, the Jewish War and Nationalist Movements

    11.    Markan Redaction and Persecution

    12.    A New(-ish) Approach to the Date of Mark

    13.    Conclusions

Chapter 4
Jesus’ Torah Observance in the Synoptic Gospels

    1.    Jesus and the Torah according to Mark

    2.    Jesus and the Torah according to Matthew

    3.    Jesus and the Torah according to Luke

    4.    Conclusions

Chapter 5
The Torah and Earliest Christianity

    1.    Stephen and the ‘Hellenists’

    2.    Zeal for the Law

    3.    Paul’s Early Attitude towards the Law

    4.    Peter’s Vision (Acts 10–11:18)

    5.    The Antioch Controversy (Gal. 2:11–14)

    6.    The Jerusalem Conference

    7.    Christianity and Law in the Forties

    8.    Conclusions

Chapter 6
Dating Mark Legally (I): 2 Test Cases (Mk 2:23–28; Mk 10:2–12)

    1.    Sabbath: Dating Mark through Mk 2:23–28 and Parallels

    2.    Divorce and Remarriage:
Dating Mark through Mk 10:2–12 and Parallels

    3.    Conclusions

Chapter 7
Dating Mark Legally (II): Mark 7:1–23

    1.    Handwashing

    2.    Mark 7:4 and Other Traditions

    3.    Qorban

    4.    Mark 7:1–23 and ‘Tradition’

    5.    The Transmission of Impurity

    6.    Tebul Yom

    7.    Gospel Editing

    8.    Conclusions



Index of References

Index of Authors


This work is a slightly revised version of my PhD thesis, supervised by Maurice Casey in the Department of Theology, University of Nottingham. He has often commented on his own supervisor, C.K. Barrett, recalling his extraordinary learning and helpfulness combined with a lack of bureaucracy and interference remaining a model to which to aspire. I can’t think of a better way to describe Maurice.

I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) for funding this research. I am extremely grateful for this.

I would also like to thank other people who have discussed with me the various issues in this study, particularly Andy Angel, Ed Ball, Richard Bell, Richard Crossley, Seth Kunin, Crispin Fletcher-Louis, and Thelma Mitchell. I would also like to thank the members of the learned Old Testament in the New Testament Seminar held annually in Hawarden for their comments on my ideas.

I would also like to thank the Heads of Department of Theology at Nottingham, Alan Ford and Hugh Goddard, for their continual support, and the departmental secretaries Mary Elmer and Janet Longley for countless things.

I would also like to thank the following for their welcome distractions at various stages of the research: Maddy Humberstone, Callum Millard, Aurelio Sanchez, Rob Thorne and Caroline Watt. Caroline Watt in particular stopped this work from being finished earlier. She never wanted to stay in and is interested in doing many other unmentionable things. She also read through the entire manuscript. The Watt family should also be thanked for providing me with clothes. I am also grateful to Henrietta Beane for giving me somewhere to stay in London in order to study at the British Library and to Emma Crossley for giving me somewhere to stay in St Neots in order to study at Cambridge University Library.

I would also like to thank what was formerly called Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (VSEL) for inadvertently showing me just how boring life could be after three tedious years as a shipyard electrician and for making me see that sixth-form college was the only way forward. I will always hate you VSEL.

I would also like to thank Gerald Garbutt who took my father’s funeral and was good friends with him despite his views on religion. Gerald has shown me that it is not impossible for a member of the clergy to be intelligent and decent. He has also discussed several issues surrounding this thesis.

I would also like to thank my family. My mother Pamela Crossley read through the entire thesis. She deserves far, far greater acknowledgement than this for what she has done for others in her life. My brother Richard Crossley, who talked about everything with me from the English Premiership to Continental football to a certain football management computer game to structural anthropology, and whose hatred of work is something to be admired. My grandparents, the late Florence Gardner, the late Roger Gardner, the late Frank Crossley, and Ruth Crossley have all been exceptionally kind and encouraging. My Auntie Suzanne also took a keen interest in my academic work.

Finally, this thesis is dedicated to the most important man in my life, my father Paul Crossley, who died while this research was in progress, in November 2001. He was funny, intelligent, resilient, laid-back, foul-mouthed, and opinionated. He smoked too much, ate unhealthily, and didn’t mind a drink. I admire him more than any other man.


AB    Anchor Bible

ABD    David Noel Freedman (ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992)

‘Abod. Zar.    ‘Abodah Zarah

‘Abot R. Nat.    ‘Abot de Rabbi Nathan

Abr.    De Abrahamo

ABRL    Anchor Bible Reference Library

Add. Esth.    Additions to Esther

Acts    Acts of the Apostles

Acts Pet.    Acts of Peter

Adv. haer.    Adversus haereses

Aland, Synopsis    K. Aland (ed.), Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. Locis parallelis evangeliorum apocryphorum et patrum adhibitis edidit (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1963, 1996)

Ann.    Annales

Ant.    Antiquities of the Jews

Apion    Contra Apionem

Apoc.    Apocalypse

‘Arak.    ‘Arakhin

Aristeas    Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates

As. Mos.    Assumption of Moses

b.    Babylonian Talmud

Bar.    Baruch

bce    Before the Common Era

BDB    Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907)

Ber.    Berakoth

BGAD3    F.W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 3rd edition based on previous editions by W. Bauer, W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich [eds.] 2000)

Bib.    Biblica

Bib. Ant.    Biblical Antiquities

BNTC    Black’s New Testament Commentaries

B. Qam.    Baba Qamma

BTB    Biblical Theology Bulletin

c.    circa

CBQ    Catholic Biblical Quarterly

CD    Damascus Document

ce    Common Era

CGTC    Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary

2 Chron.    2 Chronicles

1 Clem.    1 Clement

Col.    Colossians

Comm. Dan.    Commentary on Daniel

Cong.    De congressu eruditionis gratia

1 Cor.    1 Corinthians

2 Cor.    2 Corinthians

Dan.    Daniel

Deut.    Deuteronomy

Decal.    De decalogo

Dem.    Demai

De Vir. Ill.    De viris illustribus

Eccl.    Ecclesiastes

‘Ed.    ‘Eduyoth

1 En.    1

Eph.    Ephesians

‘Erub.    ‘Erubin

Esth.    Esther

et    English Translation

ETL    Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses

1 Esd.    1 Esdras

Eus.    Eusebius

Exod.    Exodus

ExpTim    Expository Times

Ezek.    Ezekiel

Fug.    De fuga et inventione

Gaium    De legatione ad Gaium

Gal.    Galatians

Git.    Gittin

Gos. Thom.    Gospel of Thomas

Gk    Greek

Hag.    Hagigah

HE    Historia ecclesiastica

Hev    Nahal Hever texts

Hist.    Histories

Hos.    Hosea

HSCP    Harvard Studies in Classical Philology

HTR    Harvard Theological Review

HUCA    Hebrew Union College Annual

Hul.    Hullin

Hyp.    Hypothetica

ICC    International Critical Commentary

Ign.    Ignatius

Iren.    Irenaeus

Isa.    Isaiah

JBL    Journal of Biblical Literature

Jdt.    Judith

Jer.    Jeremiah

JJS    Journal of Jewish Studies

Jn    John

Jos.    De Josepho

Jos. Asen.    Joseph and Aseneth

JPJ    Journal of Progressive Judaism

JRS    Journal of Roman Studies

JSJ    Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period

JSNT    Journal for the Study of the New Testament

JSNTSup    Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series

JSP    Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha

JTS    Journal of Theological Studies

Jub.    Jubilees

Judg.    Judges

Ker.    Keritoth

Ketub.    Ketuboth

1 Kgs    1 Kings

2 Kgs    2 Kings

LCL    Loeb Classical Library

Lev.    Leviticus

Lk    Luke

lxx    Septuagint

m.    Mishnah

Ma ‘as    Ma ‘aseroth

1 Macc.    1 Maccabees

2 Macc.    2 Maccabees

3 Macc.    3 Maccabees

4 Macc.    4 Maccabees

Mak.    Makkoth

Maksh.    Makshirin

Mal.    Malachi

Mart. Isa.    Martyrdom of Isaiah

Meg.    Megillah

Mek. Exod.    Mekhilta Exodus

Menah.    Menahoth

Mic.    Micah

Migr.    De migratione Abrahami

Miqw.    Miqwa’ oth

Mo ‘ed Qat.    Mo ‘ed Qatan

Mos.    De vita Mosis

Mt.    Matthew

mt    Masoretic Text

Mur    Wadi Murabbaat texts

Mur. Canon    Muratorian Canon

Ned.    Nedarim

Neg.    Nega ‘im

Neh.    Nehemiah

Neof.    Neophyti

Neot.    Neotestamentica

NICNT    New International Commentary on the New Testament

NIGTC    The New International Greek Testament Commentary

NovT    Novum Testamentum

NTS    New Testament Studies

Num.    Numbers

Num. Rab.    Numbers Rabba

OCBC    Oxford Church Bible Commentary

Pea    Peah

Pesh.    Peshitta

Pesah.    Pesahim

1 Pet.    1 Peter

2 Pet.    2 Peter

Philemon    Philemon

Prov.    Proverbs

Ps./Pss.    Psalm/Psalms

Ps. J.    Pseudo Jonathan

Pss. Sol.    Psalms of Solomon

1QapGen    Genesis Apocryphon

4QEnGiants    Book of Giants

Qidd.    Qiddushin

4QMMT    Miqsat Ma’ase ha-Torah

1QpHab.    Habakkuk Pesher

4QpNah.    Nahum Pesher

1QS    Community Rule

11QT    Temple Scroll

Rev.    Revelation

RevQ    Revue de Qumrân

Rom.    Romans

RSLR    Revista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa

2 Sam.    2 Samuel

Sanh.    Sanhedrin

Sem.    Semahoth

SFSHJ    South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism

Shabb.    Shabbat

Shebi.    Shebi’it

Sheqal.    Sheqalim

Sib. Or.    Sibylline Oracles

Sir.    Sirach

SJT    Scottish Journal of Theology

SNTSMS    Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series

Sobr.    De sobrietate

Spec. Leg.    De specialibus legibus

Sukk.    Sukkah

Syr. Apoc. Bar.    Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch

t.    Tosephta

Taan    Ta’anith

T. Abr.    Testament of Abraham

Targ.    Targum

T. Benj.    Testament of Benjamin

T. Dan    Testament of Dan

Θ    Theodotion

1 Thess.    1 Thessalonians

2 Tim.    2 Timothy

T. Job    Testament of Job

T. Judah    Testament of Judah

T. Levi    Testament of Levi

Tob.    Tobit

Tohar.    Toharoth

T. Rub.    Testament of Reuben

TS    Theological Studies

TynBul.    Tyndale Bulletin

T. Yom    Tebul Yom

‘Uq.    ‘Uqtsin

VT    Vetus Testamentum

War    Jewish War

WBC    Word Biblical Commentary

Wisd.    Wisdom of Solomon

y.    Palestinian Talmud

Yad.    Yadayim

Zech.    Zechariah

ZNW    Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft


In the early twentieth century Moffatt tabulated the scholarly views on the dates of the synoptic gospels. On Mark’s gospel he shows that the majority of scholars favoured a date sometime between 65 and 75 ce. At the beginning of the twenty-first century this view remains dominant, although the conventional dates for Mark and the synoptic gospels are not accepted uncritically.2 While scholars differ over the precise year, a date between 65 and 75 ce is accepted by a wide variety of scholars of very different ideological persuasions. There have, however, been alternative suggestions, some even as late as the second century, as Moffatt’s list shows, and some before 65, even as early as the forties. The earlier dates have gained more respectability, even if the vast majority of scholars do not accept them, and are advocated largely, but not exclusively, by conservative scholars.

There are two major arguments for the 65–75 ce dates: 1. the external evidence, i.e. the witnesses outside the gospel from the patristic period, in particular Irenaeus of Lyons; 2. the internal evidence, i.e. possible historical allusions in the Markan text, in particular ch. 13. The external evidence suggests that Mark’s gospel was composed after Peter’s death (c. 64/65 ce) whereas the internal evidence of Mark 13 is believed to reflect the events of the Jewish war (66–70 ce). Sometimes the external and internal evidence are combined (e.g. Hengel; Radcliffe; van Iersel), although it is now more common to emphasise the internal evidence (e.g. Kelber, Mack, Theissen, Marcus). The major difference among scholars who believe that the internal evidence of Mark 13 reflects the Jewish war is of course whether it was composed before or after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 ce. Mark 13 is not the only piece of internal evidence used by scholars. The arguments from the internal evidence of Mark 13 have commonly been supplemented by arguments based on the dominant critical approaches to the synoptic gospels and in the case of the post-65 dating form, redaction, and modern literary criticism have been especially utilised. For example, numerous redaction and modern literary critical approaches claim Mark deliberately edited or creatively invented many aspects of his gospel to reflect events surrounding the Jewish—Roman war (e.g. Brandon, Kelber, Mack, Marcus).

There are two general arguments for the pre-65 dates, also based on external and internal evidence. The external evidence relies largely on either what Clement of Alexandria has to say concerning the origins of Mark’s gospel, i.e. that Mark was composed during the reign of Claudius, 41–54 ce (e.g. Robinson, Wenham) and/or a different interpretation of Irenaeus or the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ Prologue which would have Mark written before the death of Peter (e.g. T.W. Manson, Ellis). The internal evidence is also largely based on Mark 13 which is believed to reflect Caligula’s threat to the Temple suggesting a date of c. 40 ce (e.g. Torrey, Zuntz). As with those dating Mark later, such arguments are often supplemented by arguments based on the dominant critical approaches to the synoptic gospels and in the case of those dating Mark before 65 source criticism has been especially used. For example, the widely accepted source critical view that Luke used Mark has been developed to argue that Luke-Acts shows no knowledge of the Jewish war or Paul’s death (c. 64/65) so it must be earlier and Mark must be earlier still (e.g. Harnack, Wenham). Another view based on an alternative approach to the internal evidence, this time based not necessarily on Mark 13 and the Caligula crisis (although not incompatible with this), must also be mentioned. To put it crudely, this approach is based on what Mark does not say. Here it is argued that Mark’s gospel, unlike Matthew and Luke, does not contain the sort of editing to be expected in the light of a widespread gentile mission (e.g. Allen, Casey). Of far less significance is the view that 7Q5, a Greek fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls, is to be identified with Mk 6:52–53 which, if accurate, may also suggest a pre-65 date (e.g. O’Callaghan, Thiede). This should perhaps be mentioned after all the publicity surrounding it.

Any discussion of Mark must, then, take into consideration both the external evidence and the internal evidence. The first chapter of this study will analyse the external evidence for both the early and later dates, with particular emphasis on the accuracy of the different authorities. The second chapter will discuss what is often regarded as the major piece of internal evidence, namely Mark 13, and its relation to first-century events, particularly, but not exclusively, the Caligula crisis and the Jewish—Roman war. However, although the main two approaches to the date of Mark’s gospel are the patristic evidence and Mark 13 they are by no means the only ones. As such arguments have commonly been supplemented by arguments based on the dominant critical approaches to the synoptic gospels, Chapter 3 will discuss the effects of the different critical currents on scholarly datings of Mark. It will become clear that I do not accept a great deal of the scholarly attempts to date Mark’s gospel and so I will attempt to provide a new approach, a modified version of the Allen/Casey line. Chapters 4–7 will attempt to develop a new approach to dating Mark based on observance of biblical laws and the assumptions made by Mark on this issue which Matthew and Luke had to make explicit. The date suggested will be sometime between the mid to late thirties and the mid-forties.

At this point some comments ought to be made in the light of criticisms I have received (not published of course) concerning this thesis, many of which have misrepresented my arguments. This may hopefully clarify some of my arguments for the benefit of the reader. In Chapter 2 I give possible historical backgrounds behind Mark 13. None of these is supposed to be decisive, they are just possible alternatives which are supposed to show that almost any historical context in the first 40 or so years of Christianity could be ‘read into’ Mark 13 without damaging the text, and consequently it is of little use in dating Mark’s gospel. Even though I think Mark can be dated on other grounds, I am still not convinced about determining the precise historical context of Mark’s gospel based on Mark 13. Similarly in Chapter 3, I give several possible historical contexts for Mark’s gospel which could have given rise to themes surrounding the Temple and its destruction. I do not apologise for using statements such as ‘not necessarily’ and ‘could be’ because I am trying to show the problems of reconstructing the historical setting of Mark’s gospel on the basis of the theme of the Temple and its destruction. Nor do I think it is wrong to refer to the attitude of the historical Jesus in certain cases as it shows that this theme, or indeed any other theme, could have arisen exceptionally early thus providing an earliest possible date for Mark’s gospel based on this theme. It is also important to discuss whether or not the passages in chs. 6 and 7 could accurately reflect the actions of the historical Jesus, something which has puzzled some people, because if a given passage does then this would provide the earliest possible date for Mark’s gospel based on that passage alone. This is not a proof, just the earliest possible date.

Nor have I neglected what the gospels’ writers think about various issues, a criticism which I have repeatedly heard but one which is not fair. On the contrary, the thesis is largely concerned with the ‘final form’ of the text. For example: Chapter 2 is almost exclusively concerned with potential historical settings for Mark’s gospel based on Mark 13 as a whole; Chapter 3 does likewise based on recurrent themes in Mk 10:46–15:47; Chapter 4 is almost entirely concerned with how the gospel writers understood Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah. I suspect that my emphasis on the Jewish background to the gospel has led to this misunderstanding, particularly when this surrounds christological issues. For example, some of the strongest criticisms in relation to my so-called neglect of the ‘final form’ of the Markan text have come in relation to my handling of Davidic Christology and the ‘son of man’ sayings. Let me briefly restate my case. I think Mark, in its ‘final form’, is not concerned with Davidic Christology. Perhaps the historical Jesus was, perhaps he was not. That is not my point and I am curious as to why people think it is. As for the ‘son of man’ sayings, I have argued that for Mark it is clearly used as a title in some cases. Yet on the other hand, I think, particularly in the case of Mk 2:28, that Mark simply translated literally from an Aramaic source without any strong implication of a christological title. Again, people may no be convinced by this dual approach but it is unfair to criticise me for not providing a suggestion about what Mark thinks.

I have also received some criticisms about the argument based on Mark assuming what others could not in the matter of law observance, particularly Chapters 6 and 7 as being an argument from silence. This again is not entirely fair. The main reason why Chapter 4 was written was to show that the synoptic gospels never portray Jesus in opposition to biblical law which is one argument that suggests they would not have done so in those other cases discussed in Chapters 6 and 7. In addition to this I attempted to argue that the passages discussed in Chapters 6 and 7 support my argument in their own right. Thus it is when the above arguments are combined that an overall argument of collective weight is provided and consequently it is not an argument from silence. In Chapter 7 some people have not seen the relevance for the date of Mark in trying to reconstruct a source. Of course any reconstruction is hypothetical but it is not irrelevant in this case. The reason why I did this is because, if I am right, it can show how Mark edited the source. In this case I argued that the Markan additions show a deep knowledge of Jewish halakah and it must be understood why he made such additions. I go on to suggest that the repeated emphasis on criticising such ‘traditions’ is key to understanding the argument of the passage that the Markan Jesus is rejecting handwashing before eating and not biblical food laws. Again this is not an argument from silence nor an irrelevancy but one based on the given Markan text and a general Markan tendency.

Chapter 1

The External Evidence

The earliest references to Mark’s gospel in the Patristic period are to the present day regarded as some of the most important pieces of evidence for dating the second gospel. It is fair to say that most scholars impressed by such evidence, particularly that of Irenaeus, use it to date Mark sometime after 64 ce. However some of the evidence from the early church is ambiguous and two or maybe even three early views appear to have existed which has led to a minority of scholars using certain Patristic evidence to date Mark relatively early, in some cases the early forties. This chapter will outline these early church traditions and assess their usefulness for the dating of Mark.

1. Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ Prologue

The earliest extant reference concerning the date of Mark appears to come from Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.1.1 ff.:

Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language (τῇἰδᾳ αὐτῶν διαλέκτῳ), while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their death/departure (μετὰ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἔξοδον) Mark, the disciple and interpreter (ἑρμηνευτὴς) of Peter, handed on (παπαδέδωκεν) his preaching to us in written form … (Aland, Synopsis, 549).

The central chronological issue frequently discussed is the interpretation of ἔξοδος, literally ‘departure’ but it can be used figuratively as ‘death’ (cf. Lk. 9:31; 2 Pet. 1:15) and most commentators read Irenaeus in this latter sense. According to this conventional interpretation of Irenaeus, Mark’s gospel was written in Rome in the mid to late sixties, after the deaths of Peter and Paul, probably during the persecutions under Nero, 64–65 ce. In favour of such an interpretation is the evidence of Peter and Paul dying in Rome being fairly secure (cf. e.g. 1 Clem. 5.1–7; 6.1; Ign., Rom 4:2–3; Iren., Adv. haer. 3.3.2; Eus. HE 2.25; 3.1.3).

There are, however, problems with this traditional understanding. One famous criticism is that it is of course possible to take ἔξοδος in the sense of ‘departure’. Ellis, for example, does precisely this. He notes that the usual word for death in Irenaeus is θάνατος (=mors), occurring some 38 times in Adversus haereses Book 3. Ellis combines this with an argument developed by J. Chapman who claimed that παραδέδωκεν should be translated more conventionally as something like ‘handed down’. This would mean that Irenaeus was talking ‘only of the transmission of Mark’s Gospel after Peter and Paul departed from Rome. He is thinking not of their deaths but rather of their further missionary travels after an initial evangelization of Rome, i.e. after Paul’s release in c. ad 63 and after an earlier visit and departure of Peter’. This would imply that the later Christian tradition of Paul’s release from his imprisonment in Rome (e.g. HE 2.22.2; Jerome, De Vir. Ill. 5; cf. 1 Clem. 5.6) is reliable and that there was a tradition of Peter in Rome before departing from Rome and returning later. Another significant implication of this interpretation would be that Irenaeus tells us very little concerning the precise dating of Mark other than it being written when Peter and Paul were still alive. There are other possible interpretations of Irenaeus. If Chapman’s translation of παραδέδωκεν as ‘handed down’ is not followed but the translation of ἔξοδος as ‘departure’ is accepted we would have c. 63 as the earliest possible date for Mark’s gospel but nothing more precise than that, i.e. after Paul’s supposed release from prison. If Chapman is followed and παραδέδωκεν is taken in the sense of ‘handed down’ but ἔξοδος is translated as ‘death’ then Irenaeus would tell us next to nothing about the date of Mark other than when it was transmitted to the Romans. These arguments would also be supported by a probably independent tradition claiming Mark was written during Peter’s lifetime (see below).

These criticisms cast some doubt on the conventional dating of Mark after c. 64, and deserve to be taken more seriously than much of modern scholarship will allow. However, while the reading of Irenaeus in support of a post-64 date suffers linguistically the alternative readings suffer historically. Ellis’ view that Irenaeus claims Mark’s gospel was transmitted to the Romans after a departure of Peter and Paul from Rome requires Peter to have made a departure from Rome sometime close to the sixties and Paul to have been released from his Roman imprisonment in order to depart from Rome. The evidence to support this is not strong. There are traditions suggesting Peter was in Rome during the reign of Claudius, some suggest as early as the early forties, but it is difficult to know whether these traditions are reliable, as will be argued below. Most significantly for our present purposes, it appears that Irenaeus places the activities of Peter around the same time as Paul, which would be sometime around the sixties and, while there is early evidence of Peter in Rome in the sixties (e.g. 1 Clem. 5.1–6; cf. Mur. Canon [on Acts]), it is weaker in suggesting a departure. It has been conjectured that Peter went on to Rome and departed from there in the fifties after he was apparently active in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12ff.; 3:22–4:1, 9; 9:5; 16:12), but there is no evidence as to where Peter went after supposedly travelling to Corinth. Indeed it is not even certain from 1 Corinthians that Peter ever went to Corinth, only that he had supporters there. The late second-century view of Dionysius, the Bishop of Corinth, that Peter did indeed visit Corinth (HE 2.25.8) is difficult to assess because it may simply by an inference from 1 Corinthians. In the case of Paul it appears that he first arrived in Rome in the sixties (Acts 28:16; cf. Rom. 1:10, 13ff.; 15:22ff.; 28f.) and there is indeed a tradition that Paul fulfilled his ambition to go to Spain after arriving in Rome (e.g. 1 Clem. 5.6f.; Acts Pet. 1, 6; Mur. Canon [on Acts]) but this may be secondary, deduced from Rom. 15:24, 28. Thus, while Irenaeus may have believed that Peter and Paul departed from Rome around the sixties, the historical accuracy of the tradition remains questionable. There are also problems with the idea of understanding παραδέδωκεν as ‘handed down’ in support of Irenaeus believing Mark to have been written earlier than the mid-sixties. In fact it would still carry the implication of being written because it is difficult to imagine that the gospel would not have been widely disseminated if already written, not least in a relatively long-established Roman community, otherwise this would mean the unlikely situation of a (the?) written gospel being withheld from the Roman Christians for some time. Thus even if it were to be accepted that Mark passed on Peter’s preaching in written form surely the implication would be that this was the first time of it being put into writing. Moreover, and this is a criticism of both post and pre-64–65 views, Irenaeus is a little suspect because, as Wenham noted, chronology is not his strong point: Irenaeus claimed that Jesus’ ministry lasted ten years and that Jesus died just before the age of fifty (Adv. haer. 2.22.5, 6). Of course, it is not impossible that he could have had an accurate tradition in the case of Mark’s gospel.

The implication that Mark wrote down the gospel after Peter’s death/departure appears to be understood in the so-called’ ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue which is most probably based on the statement of Irenaeus,

… Mark declared, who is called ‘stump-fingered’ (colobodactylus) because he had short fingers in comparison to the size of the rest of his body. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the death/departure (post excessionem) of Peter himself he wrote down (descripsit) this same gospel in the regions of Italy (Aland, Synopsis 548).

The conventional understanding of this passage is that it bears witness to a tradition in the Patristic period that Mark’s gospel was written after the death of Peter in the mid-sixties. T.W. Manson, however, suggested the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue could bear witness to an early tradition, particularly when combined with the evidence from Clement of Alexandria (see below), that Mark was written after some ‘departure’ of Peter, possibly misinterpreted by Irenaeus. Manson speculated that Mark may have written down the gospel after Peter had departed from an unrecorded trip to Rome (sometime between 55 and 60 ce) after being active in Corinth. Manson has not gained much support for his approach but this does not mean, of course, that his speculative view is necessarily wrong. Even though the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologues probably postdate Irenaeus13 this would not stop this ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue being a witness to a tradition that predates Irenaeus. However, as has been argued already, a visit of Peter to Rome after visiting Corinth lacks evidence so the speculative nature of Manson’s approach means that it can hardly be regarded as definitive in terms of historical accuracy, although the possibility that the prologue believed Mark’s gospel to have been written after some departure of Peter is not impossible.

It can therefore be concluded that Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue are of uncertain historical worth. The criticisms levelled at the post-64 reading are strong, particularly the reading of ἔξοδος as ‘departure’. This reading would bring it in line with the early church tradition that Mark’s gospel was written during Peter’s lifetime. However, although it is quite possible that Irenaeus and even the prologue believed Mark was written during Peter’s lifetime this reading raises problems of historical accuracy because it is not based on strong evidence and is lacking in any secure first-century support. If the post-64 reading could be shown beyond reasonable doubt then it would be on firmer ground as far as complementary historical evidence is concerned but this reading is far from certain.

2. Clement of Alexandria

As noted, the approaches to the external evidence which date Mark during Peter’s lifetime are supported by a tradition associated with Clement of Alexandria so some discussion is required. After telling us that Peter defeated Simon Magus in Rome during the reign of Claudius, Eusebius mentions the following from Clement of Alexandria:

And so a great light of piety shone upon the minds of the hearers of Peter that they were not satisfied with merely a single hearing or with the unwritten teaching of the divine gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter and whose gospel is extant, to leave behind with them in writing a record of the teaching passed on to them orally; and they did not cease until they had prevailed upon the man and so became responsible for the Scripture for reading in the churches. Clement has quoted the story in Book 6 of the Hypotypōseis … (HE 2.15.1f; Aland, Synopsis 555).

In a later passage Eusebius again refers to Clement of Alexandria but this time we have a not-so-enthusiastic response from Peter:

Again in the same books, Clement has placed a tradition of the presbyters from the beginning regarding the order of the gospels, which goes like this. He said that the gospels which contained the genealogies [Matthew and Luke] were written first, but that the gospel according to Mark had this occasion: When Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and by the Spirit proclaimed the gospel, those present, who were numerous, urged Mark, inasmuch as he had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to write down what was said; and after he had done this he gave it out to those who requested it. When Peter discovered this, he neither energetically prevented it nor urged it on (HE 6.14.5–7; Aland, Synopsis 555).

Clement gives further indication of Mark being written during the lifetime of Peter in a reference preserved in Latin:

Mark the follower of Peter, while Peter was preaching the gospel publicly at Rome in the presence of certain of Caesar’s knights and was putting forward many testimonies concerning Christ, being requested by them that they might be able to commit to memory the things which were being spoken by Peter the Gospel which is called According to Mark … (Adumbrationes ad 1 Peter 5:13; Aland, Synopsis 555).

The highly controversial Mar Saba letter of Clement to Theodore, discovered and published by Morton Smith, also indicates that the gospel of Mark we know was written by Mark in Rome during Peter’s stay before he went to Egypt to compose Secret Mark. One of the reasons for the controversial nature of this document concerns whether or not it is genuine, and debate is hampered not least because Smith only provided access to the photographs and never his discovery. For our purposes all that need be noted is that, if genuine, this hitherto unknown letter of Clement is another witness to a well-attested view found elsewhere in Clement, namely he believed that Mark was written during Peter’s lifetime. If false we would not be losing much as far as Clement’s views on the date of Mark are concerned.

There may be other witnesses to the tradition that Mark was written during Peter’s lifetime. Eusebius gives us a tradition from Origen’s Commentaries on the Gospel according to Matthew in a discussion of the four gospels which may imply that Mark’s gospel was written during Peter’s lifetime, although it is still possible that Origen believed it to have been written after Peter’s death (HE 6.25.5; Aland, Synopsis 556): ‘And second, that according to Mark, who did as Peter instructed him, whom he also acknowledged as a son in the catholic epistle (1 Pet. 5:13)’. Also worth noting is a tradition that suggests Mark died in the eighth year of Nero, c. 62, in Alexandria when he was succeeded by Annianus. This is explicit in Jerome (De Vir. Ill. 8) but Eusebius only mentions that Mark was succeeded by Annianus (HE 2.24).

3. ‘The Second Year of Claudius’

A date for Mark during the lifetime of Peter may seem quite vague but there is another tradition which, when combined in particular with other traditions of Mark writing in the context of Peter’s battle with Simon Magus, makes it possible to date Mark in the early to mid forties. Jerome tells us that Peter came to Rome in 42, i.e. ‘the second year of Claudius’:

Simon Peter … prince of the Apostles, after an episcopacy of the Antiochean Church, and after preaching to the dispersion of those of the circumcision, who had believed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, in the second year of Claudius journeys to Rome to combat Simon Magus, and there for 25 years he occupied the sacerdotal chair, until the last year of Nero, that is the fourteenth (De Vir. Ill. I).

The Latin version of Eusebius’ Chronicle also mentions the second year of Claudius as the time of Peter’s arrival in Rome. This tradition may well have been assumed by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History given that he had a tradition of Mark’s gospel being written in the light of Peter overcoming Simon Magus in Rome during the reign of Claudius (HE 2.14; cf. Justin, Apology 1.26, 56; Iren., Adv. haer. 1.23, 1–4). It looks, then, as if Jerome has a tradition possibly assumed in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, namely that Mark was written in the early forties. This may also be linked with other traditions, such as one which claims Jesus commanded the apostles to remain in Jerusalem for twelve years (e.g. HE 5.18.14; Acts Pet. 2.5; Clement, Stromateis 6.5.43; cf. Acts 12). There are also some very late witnesses to a very early date for Mark which may also be part of this general tradition. For example, the eleventh-century Prologue to Theophylact’s Commentary on the Gospels tells us that Mark was written ten years after the ascension τὸ κατὰ Μάρκον εὐαγγέλιον μετὰ δέκα ἔτη τῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀναλήψεως συνεγράφη ἐν Ῥώμῃ.

4. First-Century Evidence for Peter in Rome in the Forties?

The major problem with the view of Clement and others that Mark was written in the light of Peter’s activities in Rome and during his lifetime is that such a detailed tradition is lacking in first-century evidence: why is there no mention of Peter’s activities in Rome in the first century? The minority of scholars who date Mark sometime during Peter’s lifetime based on the external evidence are aware that the traditions are from the second century and onwards and so there have been attempts to show the validity of Peter’s early activities in Rome from the New Testament. We have already seen attempts to put Peter in Rome in the fifties after a trip to Corinth but this is problematical. There have been other attempts. For example, based on the tradition of Peter being in Rome in the early years of Claudius, it has been argued that Mark may have been written sometime between 42 and 46, given that Peter reappears in Jerusalem in the mid to late forties (Acts 15; Gal. 2; cf. Acts 12:17). While this clearly assumes the validity of the later traditions and merely complements the New Testament evidence there have been attempts to show that the New Testament is more explicit in its knowledge that Peter was in Rome in the forties. For example, Edmundson, Robinson and Wenham all believed that the extremely vague Acts 12:17, Peter’s departure ‘to another place’, and Paul’s unwillingness to build on another man’s foundations in Rom. 15:20 may well indicate that Peter was in Rome in the early forties. It hardly needs stating that these are not strong enough pieces of evidence to confirm the later tradition that Peter was in Rome in the early to mid forties, although it is not, of course, impossible. Moreover it is not inconceivable that the later traditions concerning Peter in Rome were in some way based on enigmatic references such as Acts 12:17 and Rom. 15:20 and Peter’s known activities in Syria and Palestine in Acts 15 and Galatians. There is, in other words, no firm evidence that Peter’s activities in Rome during the early years of Claudius, or indeed at anytime during Claudius’ reign, was a first-century tradition, and it is, like the tradition associated with Irenaeus and the ‘Anti-Marcionite’ prologue, of uncertain historical worth.

5. Papias and Markan Authorship

We have now seen two general approaches to dating Mark based on external evidence, one after Peter’s death and one before. Both are questionable in terms of historical accuracy but so far it has also been conceded that they are not impossible. One aspect that has not been discussed so far which must now be considered, is an aspect common to both traditions, namely the links with Peter and the reference to Markan authorship. If either of these views is inaccurate all the external evidence for the date of Mark collapses because it all revolves around the figures of Peter and Mark.

We may start with the famous Papias quote as recorded by Eusebius, the first verifiable reference to Mark as gospel writer and interpreter of Peter:

And the Elder used to say this, ‘Mark became Peter’s interpreter (ἑρμηνευτὴς) and wrote accurately all that he remembered (ὅσα ἐμνημόνευσεν ἀκριβῶς ἔγραψεν), not, indeed, in order (οὐ μέντοι τάξει), of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him, but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down certain matters as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he heard and to make no false statements in them (τοῦ μηδὲν ὧν ἤκουσεν παραλιπεῖν ἤ ψεύσασθαί τι ἐν αὐτοῖς) (HE 3.39.15ff.; Aland, Synopsis 547).

Based on the evidence from Eusebius, Papias’ writing should now be dated to the first decade of the second century (cf. HE 3.34–39), rather than using the later Philip of Side (early fifth century) to date it some time in Hadrian’s reign (117–138 ce). As Papias is using a handed down tradition from the Elder (presumably John the Elder), then the connections between Peter, Mark and the second gospel were most probably established by the end of the first century (cf. 1 Pet. 5:13). However, this does not necessarily confirm the accuracy of the tradition. An extremely significant point to come out of this passage is that Papias and the Elder appear to bear witness to a defence of our gospel. As F.C. Grant put it, ‘It is clear that the words of Papias—and certainly those of the “presbyter”—are meant to defend the Gospel of Mark against the double charge of inaccuracy and lack of order. Perhaps the inaccuracy was an inference from the lack of order: at least its accuracy is affirmed, though its lack of order is conceded.’ It is for these reasons that suspicion arises concerning the use of Peter in this tradition. If Peter was used in a secondary way by Papias and John the Elder to defend the gospel or the gospel writer’s methods then the foundations of the later traditions concerning the date of Mark—the early tradition in the forties or during Peter’s lifetime and that after Peter’s death—start looking decidedly shaky. For example, the widely used argument from Irenaeus dating Mark’s gospel after Peter’s death may not be of much use concerning dating given that it puts some weight on Mark as Peter’s interpreter. Or again the tradition of Peter in Rome in the forties allowing Mark to write the gospel would be further undermined by a secondary use of Peter in the Papias tradition. It should be clear that the figure of Peter being behind the gospel in some way would give it all the authority required to defend it and for this reason it is possible that the use of Peter here is secondary. It should be stated that this does not necessarily mean that Peter had no input into the tradition but rather he was not necessarily the authority behind the final form of the book when he was in Rome. Indeed it is not impossible that a known link with Peter was developed in the early Patristic period to defend the problems certain people found with the Markan gospel. Of course Papias and the Elder could still be correct in saying that Peter was a major authority behind the gospel and used this to defend the gospel against criticism but due to the lack of earlier complementary evidence the doubts remain.21

There are also doubts as to whether the New Testament Mark wrote the second gospel as Peter’s ‘interpreter’, assuming for the moment that the New Testament references are to the same person. Some scholars have thought differently of course. It is often argued that Mark was not an important figure like Peter or Paul or one of the Twelve which would mean we are dealing with the genuine author of the second gospel in the New Testament figure of Mark (or perhaps even an unknown Mark). The famous comments of Streeter may be taken as representative of this sort of view: ‘the burden of proof is on those who would assert the traditional authorship of Matthew and John and on those who would deny it in the case of Mark and Luke’.23 However, even if it is assumed that the New Testament references to Mark all refer to the same person, the traditional authorship is not so clear cut as those like Streeter would have us believe, because it is not entirely clear that the New Testament Mark was such a minor figure, or would have necessarily been perceived as a minor figure by later Christians. It is perhaps significant that in the New Testament the name ‘Mark’ is associated with Peter (Acts 12:12; 1 Pet. 5:13) and Paul (Acts 12:25; 13:5; 13:13; 15:37ff.; Philem. 24; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11), and a certain Mark appears to have been Barnabas’ cousin (Col. 4:10). These references may all refer to the same person or it could have been more than one Mark but taken together there is a figure with at least some authority. This is an important point given that there were some problems with the gospel indicated in the Papias tradition. Thus it can be argued that the problematic issues surrounding the gospel noted by Papias and the Elder, i.e. its lack of ‘order’ (οὐ μέντοι τάξει) and perhaps its general accuracy (‘For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he heard and to make no false statements in them’), could hardly be attributed to a figure as great as Peter yet someone such as Mark could of course be ‘flawed’, something which is confirmed by Acts (13:13; 15:36–39). At the same time the second gospel needs to be defended so a ‘flawed’ figure with some authority is required and Mark fits the bill perfectly. The figure of Mark could then have been added by the end of the first century, along with Peter’s authority, to give the second gospel credibility. As Torrey claimed with some justification, ‘The discovery of the reporter [Mark] was as inevitable as that of his authority. Here was a hypothesis which seemed to solve the problem perfectly, and was opposed by no known fact.’ If this is in any way accurate—and it is certainly not impossible—then this too would cast serious doubts on the historical accuracy of the external dating of the gospel: once the authorship of Mark is lost the whole tradition collapses.

It is therefore possible that the name of Mark could have been the original pseudonymous title of the gospel, something which should be regarded as one possibility once we get over the view that Mark was too ‘insignificant’ to have a gospel pseudonymously attributed to him. This too would be fatal for any arguments for the date of Mark based on the external evidence but it cannot be demonstrated with great certainty and a person called Mark might genuinely have written the gospel. Indeed Gundry believes that the Elder in the Papias tradition is none other than the apostle John and so ‘the tradition that Mark wrote the gospel which bears his name looks as early and authoritative as one could wish’ and argues that the author can only be the real flesh and blood figure of the New Testament Mark. However, even if Gundry were correct in identifying the Elder with the apostle John it would hardly rule out the possibility of pseudonymous authorship: John may simply be emphasising the authority of the gospel. It should always be remembered that pseudonymous authorship was common in Judaism and Christianity along with the various justifications so there is no a priori reason for Mark’s gospel to be an exception.27 Of course it may well have been the case that a/the New Testament figure of Mark wrote the second gospel, or perhaps even a now unknown Mark wrote the gospel, later identified with the New Testament references to Mark(s), but even this would still not be strong enough to date Mark using the external evidence with any certainty given the suspicious connections with Peter in the Papias tradition.

6. M. Hengel on Gospel Authorship

As has often been suggested, the second gospel could have initially been anonymous, like many of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Again this would be fatal for dating Mark through the external evidence. However, while anonymous authorship is a real possibility, it is not conclusive. An important argument in favour of the ancient attribution of gospel authorship when the gospels were first written has been made by Hengel.29 Hengel criticises the view that the gospels were initially anonymous because works in Judaism, in contrast to the Graeco-Roman world, were usually anonymous or pseudonymous. He notes that ‘intellectual property’ was discovered—albeit later—in Judaism, Ben Sirah being the earliest (c. 180 bce), and that the rabbis acknowledged authoritative teachers as transmitters of tradition. Hengel also notes this for Christianity. The apparently earliest Christian writings—the letters of Paul—bear the name of the real author and this is true for numerous Christian writers that followed. ‘As a rule people no longer published (or had multiple copies made) anonymously’, works such as Hebrews being exceptions that prove the rule. Pseudonymous writings were usually linked to authorities such as Peter, James, John, Paul, or one of the Twelve so ‘We may not therefore assume a priori that in every case we have secondary, pseudepigraphical attribution of authorship.’

Hengel argues that titles were a practical necessity when there was a concern to distinguish between different works and authors, for example in selling books, in academic discussion and in libraries, particularly in the Hellenistic period. By the Christian era most books had already been given a title by their authors or by pupils, friends or patrons, exception arising if a book was not to be public. People were suspicious of anonymous works lacking titles. Thus, particularly as Christian works were to be read out at worship (cf. e.g. 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13; Justin, Apology I.67.3), it was necessary to supply an appropriate short title to indicate its content or the name of an author or both. The gospels themselves could, then, be distinguished from other writings by the term εὐαγγέλιον but to distinguish one from another κατά + name had to be added. This would also be necessary for arranging the gospels in community libraries and book chests. If the gospels were anonymous or lacked titles there would have been a pressing need to distinguish them and a variety of titles would have arisen, something we hear nothing about concerning the canonical gospels. The authorship and titles of the gospels are therefore very early, certainly be the last third of the first century when Hengel believes they were written. ‘At the latest when communities had two different copies of the Gospels, titles had to be used to distinguish them, in order to avoid confusion. Where the author was well known to the community a verbal reference would have been enough, but as soon as his work was copied, sent to other communities and put in an archive there, a title was absolutely necessary to distinguish it from other works.’

Hengel’s arguments are strong in many ways and it is difficult to deny that the view of conventional Markan authorship was present by the late first century. This however does not fully rule out the possibility of Mark’s gospel being originally anonymous. If the gospels had to be distinguished in community libraries, or when read out in public worship, this would only be necessary when there was more than one. The conventional view, accepted by Hengel and supported by the results of this study (see especially Chapters 3, 6–7), is that Mark was the first gospel. If Mark was the first gospel this does not require the name of the author when it was in existence as a lone gospel. It is true that Judaism knew of the concept of individual ‘intellectual property’ but it is also true that anonymous authorship was still practised, for example among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is true that the rabbis placed some importance on named authorities but it is also true that there are numerous anonymous sayings in rabbinical literature. This study will put forward a view that Mark is a lot more Jewish than is conventionally thought and in this context it is not impossible that Mark’s gospel was initially anonymous. Hengel’s strongest argument is that the tradition concerning authorship was unchallenged and here he may well be correct. On the other hand there are a couple of doubts. If Markan authorship was invented later then it is still possible that everyone was satisfied with this. It may have been the case that when the next gospel came along then it was necessary to distinguish it from Mark and thus this was the time when Markan authorship was raised, perhaps be a leading authority. Another possibility is that when Mark’s gospel was criticised for having a lack of ‘order’ the response that it was from John Mark the interpreter of Peter could have found widespread acceptance. It is not impossible that as Mark was a relatively neglected gospel in the Patristic period this would account for a lack of interest in various people claiming different authorship. This is all, of course, speculation and it is quite possible that Hengel is right but the point is the possibility of anonymous authorship for Mark’s gospel cannot be fully ruled out.

Similarly Hengel’s argument that Mark is not likely to be pseudonymous is not fully convincing. It is true that the early Christians did attribute pseudonymous works to famous people but Mark is not as lowly as is so often suggested. It was noted above that attributing the gospel to the figure of John Mark, known as an associate of Peter and Paul, would not be out of place given that the gospel was acknowledged as one lacking in ‘order’. Again it should be stressed that it does not necessarily follow Mark is pseudonymous but it remains a possibility.

A related issue discussed by Hengel actually provides reason to be hesitant about the traditional authorship of the second gospel, namely the concepts of single and multiple authors. Casey has argued that multiple authors, often with pseudonymous attribution, were not uncommon in Judaism, whereas single authorship was more common in the Hellenised Greek world, and tensions between these two concepts may underlie the debates over the authorship of John’s gospel. It is difficult to know how this can be applied to Mark’s gospel. Was it originally pseudonymous which led to gentiles in the early church expecting a single author and so the name of Mark was added later? Did Jewish influence mean an assumption of multiple authorship and pseudonymous attribution to someone in the early church? Or was Mark actually written by a single author, by implication a/the New Testament Mark or an otherwise unknown Mark? It is not easy to choose between such options. Even if Hengel is correct in the very early attribution of conventional authorship it does not, of course, rule out the possibility of an originally pseudonymous authorship or even anonymous authorship in the case of Mark’s gospel. Given the evidence (or lack of it) this question may be left open.

7. Conclusions

It is therefore extremely difficult to know whether traditional authorship of the second gospel should be accepted. If it was pseudonymous or anonymous then the early church traditions about the date of Mark cannot be used. However, even if a Mark did write the gospel the church traditions still cannot be used with a great deal of certainty because of the dubious nature of the link with Peter (although this is not to say that Peter had no input), dubious because the earliest occurrence in the sense of the writing of the gospel has to defend Mark against certain accepted criticisms, i.e. a supposed lack of order. Thus if our earliest occurrence was invented then it is not difficult to imagine a subsequent tradition growing. This is a very important point to note when attempting to date Mark’s gospel because if Peter was not closely associated with it then the traditions of Mark’s gospel being written when Peter first went to Rome or during his lifetime or after his martyrdom are insecure. It is possible that the links with Peter are genuine but even if this is the case traditions of dubious historical worth (so far as the date of the second gospel is concerned) still have to be used. Indeed the person who appears to be the oldest witness to the date of Mark, Irenaeus, is a little suspect in his chronology. It has to be concluded therefore that the early church traditions cannot be used with any confidence to date Mark. There are multiple possibilities concerning the interpretation of the different sources and choosing which is most plausible is almost impossible, not least due to the lack of complementary first-century evidence. This means that the internal evidence becomes greatly important for dating Mark’s gospel and it is for such reasons that a near total reliance on the external evidence by Wenham, Robinson, et al. cannot be regarded as convincing. It is, then, to the internal evidence that we will now turn and in particular that which is most commonly used, namely Mark 13.

Chapter 2

Mark 13

It is widely accepted that the central piece of internal evidence for dating Mark’s gospel is Mark 13. Most commonly it is used to date the gospel around the time of the Jewish-Roman war, 66–70 ce, although there is some dispute as to whether it reflects a post-70 or pre-70 date, before or after the fall of the Temple. An important, but often neglected, challenge to the general consensus has been to interpret Mark 13 in the light of the Caligula crisis, implying a date of c. 40 ce for Mark’s gospel. This chapter will assess these claims but first some discussion of the historicity will be given because if Mark 13 more or less accurately reflects an episode in the life of the historical Jesus and shows little sign of secondary editing then this chapter would tell us very little concerning the date of the gospel.

1. N.T. Wright and the Historicity of Mark 13

One of the most important recent defences of the historical accuracy of Mark 13 is that of N.T. Wright. Wright makes some general comments in favour of this passage accurately recalling Jesus’ teaching,

The setting—Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking across to the Temple Mount the other side of Gethsemane and the Kidron valley—is utterly credible. The timing—during the last week, Jesus having acted out a parable of the Temple’s destruction—is likewise perfect. The content—the making explicit of the warnings of imminent destruction and the promises of vindication—makes excellent sense. The language—apocalyptic metaphor and symbol, to evoke the full resonances of Old Testament prophecy and to invest the coming events with their full theological significance—is both characteristic of Jesus and utterly appropriate to the situation.

Because Jesus thought in apocalyptic and eschatological terms this passage need no be regarded as secondary and therefore it need no be read in light of the events of 70 ce. For Wright the passage cannot reflect the fall of Jerusalem not only because it does not precisely fit these events but also because Mark 13 and parallels are full of scriptural allusions, particularly from prophetic literature. Thus, he argues, there is no need to resort to theories of it being ‘written up’ in the light of such later events.

Wright does of course present more detailed arguments, perhaps most notably those concerning the parousia and the ‘son of man’. For Wright the coming of the ‘son of man’ does not refer to the parousia ‘in the modern scholarly, and popular, sense of a human figure travelling downwards towards the earth on actual clouds’. He argues that the ‘delay in the parousia’ is a modern scholarly construction. Wright claims that the early church expected certain events to happen within a generation, ‘and happen they did, though there must have been moments between ad 30 and 70 when some wondered if they would, and in consequence took up the Jewish language of delay. Jerusalem fell; the good news of Jesus, and the kingdom of Israel’s god was announced in Rome, as well as in Jerusalem and Athens. But there is no sign of dismay, in any of the literature that has come down to us from the period after 70, at the fact that Jesus himself had still not returned.’ Wright backs this up with evidence from the Fathers which it is argued shows no indication of a problem with unfulfilled prophecies. Although it is usually argued that certain New Testament texts do show problems with the non-reappearance of Jesus, Wright explains the evidence differently. He claims that the key texts, 1 Thessalonians 1 and 5, indicate the ‘Lord’s return’ could happen at any given time but ‘there is no suggestion that the Lord’s return itself must happen within a generation’.

Wright’s interpretation of the coming of ‘the son of man’ in Mk 13:26 is developed in Jesus and the Victory of God. He notes that ἔρχομαι can be translated as both ‘coming’ or ‘going’ and rejects the downwards cloudborne movement for the son of man, since the son of man figure of Dan. 7, on which Mk 13:26 is based, comes to the Ancient of Days from earth to heaven, vindicated after suffering. Wright’s suggestion is that the ‘coming of the son of man’ is ‘good first-century metaphorical language for two things: the defeat of the enemies of the true people of god, and the vindication of the true people themselves’. The form this takes in Mark 13 and parallels will be the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus staked his prophetic reputation on the fall of Jerusalem within a generation and if the Temple was destroyed, the sacrifices stopped and his followers escaped then Jesus would be vindicated ‘not only as prophet, but as Israel’s representative, as (in some sense) the “son of man” ‘. If we do not follow Wright’s picture ‘much of the material falls apart, and has to be assigned variously all over a purely hypothetical (that is to say, imaginary) early church’.10

Although Wright has provided important and convincing arguments in favour of the historicity of many of the passages in the synoptic tradition, there are good reasons to reject his arguments in favour of the historicity of Mark 13. Some of Wright’s arguments are not demanded by the evidence. Just because the setting is utterly credible, the timing perfect, and the content consistent with Jesus’ teaching does not mean that Mark could not have ‘written up’ such material in the light of later events as Wright appears to deny. It does not mean that he did but Wright’s reasoning cannot be used as an argument for historicity alone. It is not inconceivable that Mark agreed with the ideas of the historical Jesus and developed them himself in order to write a passage such as Mark 13. Other arguments that Wright gives are like this. Just because Jesus thought in eschatological and apocalyptic terms does not mean that Mark would not have done likewise, as Wright would no doubt agree. Just because much of the material is scriptural does not necessarily mean that it goes back to the historical Jesus any more than it should be ascribed to the early church for the same reason. It is highly likely that the early church would have turned to scripture to speak of, say, the fall of Jerusalem or any major threat from Rome. Just because some of the details do not match the fall of Jerusalem does not necessarily mean that Mark 13, nor indeed Matthew 24 and Luke 21, do not reflect events of 66–70 (or the Caligula crisis c. 40 ce). It could be argued with some plausibility that this is a passage originating before 70 which was reworked in light of the fall of Jerusalem thus accounting for discrepancies between the text and historical events. Given the apocalyptic language, though, we should no be too surprised if there is no precise correspondence. Moreover, caution needs to be exercised when evaluating the historicity of Jospehus’ accounts of the fall of Jerusalem as Jospehus no doubt has many secondary elements. This does not necessarily mean that Wright is incorrect but rather some of his arguments do not necessarily confirm that there are passages more or less directly going back to the historical Jesus.

Wright is a little unfair in dismissing the possibility of much of the material in Mark 13 being the result of the early church, as if this early church is some scholarly invention. In fact there are compelling reasons to believe that much of Mark 13 is secondary and therefore from the early church. One of the problems with Wright’s analysis is that he discussed passages on an individual level. This is problematical because it is when Mark 13 is analysed collectively that the argument for it being secondary gains strength. For example, it is almost certain that the historical Jesus spoke in eschatological language, prophesying that something major was going to happen soon, typically using the language of the ‘kingdom of God’. However, as Mark 13 is eschatological and (for Mark) long we might reasonably expect a mention of the kingdom of God. There is none. Alone this may not be a strong enough point for Mark 13 being secondary so other sections of Mark 13 need to be discussed.

It is not, of course, impossible that Jesus predicted that his followers would suffer. However, persecutions of the church are well documented in Acts and elsewhere and provide suspiciously good parallels with Mk 13:9ff. The church from its earliest days had problems with synagogues and Jewish gatherings (cf. Acts 6:8–8:3; 13:45–14:7; 18:19, 26; 19:9–8; Jn 9:22; 12:42–43; 16:2; 2 Cor. 11:23ff.) and were brought before governors (cf. Acts 18:12–16; 23:23; 25:6; 2 Cor. 11:32–33) and ‘kings’ (cf. Acts 12:1–3; 25:23; 2 Cor. 11:32–33). It should be noted as an aside that this does not mean that Mk 13:9ff. was written entirely after the events. For example, the possibility that Mk 13:9ff. contains genuine prophecies of the earliest Christians cannot be ruled out. This will be discussed below but for now the important point is that, while a genuine prophecy of Jesus cannot be ruled out, the view that it is from the early church is not without foundation and in fact carries some weight.

It is quite possible that Jesus believed that gentiles would enjoy the eschatological blessings largely saved for a/the Jewish community but it is far from certain that Jesus envisaged a full-blown mission to the gentiles as implied in Mk 13:10. In fact the mission to the nations mentioned in Mk 13:10 is most likely to be secondary, possibly due to Markan redaction (cf. 14:9; 15:39), although given the importance of the gentile mission in first-century Christianity a pre-Markan tradition can hardly be ruled out. There is no compelling evidence suggesting the historical Jesus had any particular interest in a gentile mission and meetings with gentiles are exceptional (cf. Mk 7:24–30). In fact Matthew records that the Twelve were to go to the lost sheep of Israel and avoid gentiles and Samaritans (Mt. 10:5–6), a sentiment implied elsewhere in the synoptic tradition (e.g. Mk 2:15–17; 7:27; Mt. 6:7, 32; 10:23; 18:17; Lk. 15). This is quite unlike early Christianity which was concerned with the gentile mission from a very early period (cf. Acts 6:5; 8:26–40; 9:15; Gal. 1:16) and it is not entirely supportive of Matthew’s theology (cf. Mt. 2:1; 4:15–16; 5:14; 8:5–13; 10:17–18; 12:18–21; 21:33–41; 24:14; 28:19). There is no evidence that any of the first Christians were hostile to the inclusion of gentiles; the major problem was whether gentiles should fully observe the Torah. Matthew 10:5–6 therefore most probably reflects the attitude of the historical Jesus which in turn suggests that something like Mk 13:10 would probably not have been uttered by the historical Jesus.

Again, it is possible that Jesus could have predicted a Roman abomination that desolates standing where it ought not to be (Mk 13:14) in line with the Danelic prophecies. Note the following comments from Wright concerning Mk 13:14–16 which if correct would have serious implications for the date of Mark based on Mark 13:

Mark’s parenthetical addition may well have crept into the tradition at the time of the crisis over Gaius’ statue, but the passage as a whole is comprehensible as being spoken at more or less any time between 167 bc and ad 135 (or at least 70).

Of course Wright is correct on one level: it would not be too unusual for a Jew in the period he has mentioned to make comments such as those found in Mk 13:14–16. Even the parenthetical addition did not have to be added during the Caligula crisis (Wright does not push this point): theoretically it could have been added when gentiles started to become interested in Christianity, in the early thirties perhaps. However, there are clues that the historical Jesus did not make predictions such as those described in Mk 13:14–16, and in particular v. 14. While the historical Jesus most probably predicted the fall of Jerusalem, ‘There is’, as Taylor correctly notes, ‘no indication in these texts that Jesus predicted a desolating sacrilege to precede the destruction of the Temple.’ If the historical Jesus did make such a prediction more would surely be said about it in the synoptic tradition and so there is good reason to doubt the argument for the historicity of Mk 13:14.

The more explicitly christological themes of Mark 13 look largely secondary. Jesus’ reference to himself as ‘the Son’ (Mk 13:32) reflects the developing Christology of the early church. It is used by Jesus of himself only in this passage in Mark (other less explicit possibilities being 12:6 and 14:62), which, when particularly combined with the other arguments, should make us a little suspicious as to whether it is actually from the historical Jesus. This is supported by the fact that Jesus uses the term ‘Son’ of himself only once in Q (Mt. 11:27/Lk. 10:22). In contrast Jesus uses it of himself 23 times in John where it clearly has some reference to Jesus’ divinity (cf. 5:18–26; 10:30–39). Worth noting too is Matthew’s editing of Mark where Matthew heightens the christological use of the term ‘Son’ (Mk 6:52/Mt. 14:33; Mk 8:29/Mt. 16:16; Mk 15:30/Mt. 27:40; Mk 15:32/Mt. 27:43). The title of ‘Son’ is obviously a developing Christian tradition, and so this is clearly not an imaginary early church and it is in fact quite probable Mk 13:32 is a part of this largely secondary development. The argument sometimes given that the ignorance attributed to Jesus in Mk 13:32 means that this is not a secondary tradition is not convincing because the earliest traditions about predictions of the imminent kingdom of God do not show any signs of precise dates: it can only be said that it will be very soon (cf. Mk 9:1).

Collectively these sorts of arguments point to Mark 13 being largely secondary. Now Wright’s view of Mk 13:26, the parousia and the ascending son of man as the supposed language of prophetic vindication, so crucial to his argument, ought to be analysed. His interpretation is unconvincing and the more traditional understanding of Jesus’ second coming on literal clouds remains the best interpretation of Mark 13. There is evidence that people really did think that clouds were a mode of transport for significant figures such as Moses,

And, while he [Moses] bade farewell to Eleazar and Joshua and was yet communing with them, a cloud (νέφους) of a sudden descended upon him and he disappeared into a ravine … (Ant. 4.326; cf. T. Abr. 10.1; Rev. 11:12; b. Yoma 4a).

As clouds could be used in such a way in Judaism it would not be unusual for Christians to describe the return of Jesus on clouds. Note also the implication of a movement from heaven to earth,

… as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud (νεφέλη) took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘… This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven will come (ἐλεύσεται) the same way as you saw him go (πορεύομενον) into heaven’ (Acts 1:9–11).

There is also a Pauline passage which does not refer to the son of man but does refer to Jesus’ return with some significant echoes of Mk 13:26 and Dan. 7:13 and the tradition of travelling with the clouds,

For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend (καταβήσεται) from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds (νεφέλαις) together with them to meet the Lord in the air … (1 Thess. 4:16–17).

It is worth noting that there is a strong parallel to this passage in Matthew where the term ‘son of man’ is used, suggesting that the language of the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven would certainly imply the return of Jesus to any early Christian,

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ (τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενεν ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Mt. 24:30–31; cf. Mt. 16:27f.).

All this is consistent with a view recorded in Genesis Rabbah 13.11, namely that the downwards movement of the son of man figure from heaven is assumed, ‘R. Johanan said: Clouds come from above, as it is written, And, behold, with the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7:13).’ Casey says concerning R. Johanan’s opinion, ‘that the clouds come from above can be illustrated by Dan. 7:13 only if the original direction of the movement of the man-like figure, from heaven downwards, has been preserved’. All this suggests, then, that first-century Christians really did believe that people could literally travel on clouds, and that Jesus really was expected to return from heaven on such a mode of transport. Moreover, it seems to be particularly associated with the early church and not the historical Jesus.

The argument that the reference to the son of man coming on clouds is secondary gains greater strength when it is recalled that ὁ υἱὸζ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου was a christological title of the early church (e.g. Acts 7:55–56; Jn 3:13–14; 6:27, 53). While there is good evidence that several of the synoptic sayings are developed from the historical Jesus’ own use of the idiomatic Aramaic בר (א)נש(א), which would not have had a titular function in Aramaic and used unqualified would not necessarily imply a reference to Dan. 7, in the present form of some of the synoptic texts the Greek ὁ υἱος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου reads as a title for Jesus alone and it seems that this title was in the process of development in the synoptic tradition. It can be argued that in Mark and the synoptic tradition there is tension between a literal translation of the idiomatic Aramaic and the attribution of a title for Jesus. For example, Mk 2:28, ‘so the son of man is lord even of the Sabbath’, retains the general meaning of the Aramaic רב (א)שנ(א), hence it builds upon the general statement in Mk 2:27, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind (τὸν ἄνθρωπον), not humankind (ὁ ἄνθρπος) for the Sabbath.’ Compare the commonly cited Psalm 8:5 (English 8:4) where the parallelism similarly contains a general level of meaning,

what is a man (mt—אנוש; lxx—ἄνθρωπος; Tg.—בר נשא; Pesh.—ܓܒܪܐ) that you are mindful of him, a son of man (mt—בן־אדם; lxx—υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου; Tg.—בר נשא; Pesh.—(ܒܪܠܫܐ) that you care for him (my translation).

The general meaning of Mk 2:27–28 is not present in the Matthean and Lukan editing which omits Mk 2:27 thereby obscuring the idiomatic Aramaic and turning it into a titular reference to Jesus (Mt. 12:8/Lk. 6:5). Yet it may be that Mark’s gospel was written at the period of transition from the idiomatic Aramaic to the titular Greek because the omission of the general frame of reference and the emphasis on Jesus alone, clearly functioning as a title for Jesus, is also found in Mark (e.g. Mk 8:31; 9:9; 14:62). In this respect it may be significant that in Mk 13:26 it is no longer ‘one like a son of man’ (כבר אנש; lxx, Θ: ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου) of Dan. 7:13 but ‘the Son of Man (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)’.

In light of the evidence given here, along with other New Testament passages expecting the return of Jesus (e.g. Acts 1:11; 3:19ff.; 1 Cor. 15:22ff.; 16:22; 1 Thess. 4:15–17; Rev. 1, 19:11ff.; 22), a Christian audience would be in no doubt that Mk 13:26 was referring to the return of Jesus. Mark would be seriously misleading his audience if he believed Jesus’ coming as the ‘son of man’ meant his vindication when Jerusalem fell. The return of Jesus, the son of man, would have been the only way this text could have been taken by the Markan audience, and indeed any first-century Christian audience, on the basis of the available evidence. There were many clear ways to express the vindication of Jesus’ prediction of the fall of Jerusalem but mentioning the son of man coming is not one of them. It is also important to note that the second coming was particularly associated with the early church and not the historical Jesus, although its origins can be seen as a development of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom (cf. Mk 14:25; Mt. 16:28/Mk 9:1).

Wright’s attempt to enhance his own argument by denying that the early church had serious problems with a delay in the parousia, or the return of Jesus, is not persuasive. His claim that there is no post-70 evidence suggesting that there was any dismay is incorrect. 2 Peter 3 is a famous example of an attempt to deal with this problem. We are told that the ‘scoffers’ mock, ‘Where is the promise of his coming (τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ)?’ (2 Pet. 3:4). Happily, ‘with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day’ (2 Pet. 3:8). This strongly suggests that the time limit of Jesus’ return has been extended further than a generation and this is one of the best reasons for viewing 2 Peter as a late (post-70) New Testament text. Wright dismisses 2 Pet. 3 in a footnote as ‘an exception … perhaps dealing with a non-Jewish misunderstanding of Jewish apocalyptic language’. Is this an exception? There is another text that is certainly post 70, Jn 21:21–23, which also attempts to deal with this problem. In Jn 21:22 Jesus says to Peter concerning the ‘beloved disciple’, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’ So the rumour arose among the brothers that this disciple would not die (Jn 21:23a) and in response to this there is a clear statement that the parousia will not necessarily come within a generation: ‘Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come (ἔρχομαι) …” ‘(21:23). John 21:18–19 also implies that Peter had already died at the time of writing. This is good evidence for Jn 21 being a late passage. It is perhaps significant that Peter, one of the most celebrated figures of the early church and one who might not have tasted death (Mk 9:1), is associated with 2 Pet. and is used in Jn 21:21–23, thereby adding greater authority to the change in time scale. This would also account for the lack of problems concerning the delay of the parousia in the church fathers: the problem had been dealt with, linked with Petrine authority, and was to be collected as a part of Christian scriptures.

All this suggests that Christians really did expect the return of Jesus within a generation, that post-70 Christians really did have problems with non-fulfilment, and that the son of man coming on clouds was not a reference to the vindication of Jesus’ predictions of the fall of Jerusalem. Against Wright, this is actually supported by evidence from the first generation in 1 Thessalonians. That 1 Thessalonians highlights an early Christian view that the parousia would occur within a generation has long been noted but it is worth recalling some of the relevant passages because they show just how strong this argument is. While Wright is certainly correct to note that the date of the end times is uncertain (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:1–3) Paul also indicates in 1 Thessalonians that there existed a strong belief that the parousia would certainly occur within a generation, hence the concern with people who had already died (1 Thess. 4:13–14). This would make excellent sense against the background of prophecies of imminent eschatology which was not precisely calculated (cf. Mk 9:1; 13:30; 14:25). Moreover Paul makes it clear that, despite the deaths of some, the parousia will still happen within a generation,

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord (τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου), will by no means precede those who have died/fallen asleep … we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air … (1 Thess. 4:15, 17).

This evidence suggests that the predictions of ‘end times’ and the parousia within a generation were too strong to be challenged when first-generation Christians were still alive. This shows that first-generation Christians really did expect end times to happen within their lifetimes (cf. 1 Cor. 7:29–31), including Paul himself at this stage of his life, a view which he would eventually doubt (2 Cor. 1:8–9; Phil. 1:20ff.).

It can be concluded that Wright has not provided a convincing defence of the historicity of Mark 13. Although it is not impossible that the historical Jesus predicted some of the events contained in Mark 13 there are too many that fit developing Christian thought and events after the death of Jesus which at the same time do not look as if they are from the historical Jesus. This provides an argument of powerful collective weight for Mark 13 as a product of the early church. This is a significant point for present purposes: if Mark 13 was a product of the post-Jesus church, or a heavily redacted use of early traditions, then this means it could potentially be of some use in dating Mark’s gospel.

2. The Abomination of the Desolation

Some of the verses in Mark 13 are too general to be of any great significance so far as dating is concerned. However, there is a particularly notable verse which has become one of the central pieces of evidence for dating Mark through Mark 13, namely to τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως; (13:14). It has been used to support a variety of positions and therefore requires discussion.. βδέλυγμα generally means something like ‘abomination’. In lxx it usually translates שקץ (and derivatives) and תצב (and derivatives) and is used with reference to unholy acts such as idolatry and the worship of foreign gods (e.g. Deut. 20:18; 27:15; 32:16; Ezek. 7:4, 20; 11:18, 21; 16:22, etc.: this is a very common use), defiling the Temple (e.g. Mal. 2:11; 2 Chron. 36:14), perceived immorality such as sexual deviancy (e.g. Lev. 18:27–28), unclean foods (e.g. Lev. 11–12), and wrong sacrifices (e.g. Exod. 8:26; Deut. 17:1; Prov. 15:8). Similar sorts of meanings are found in later Jewish and Christian literature in Greek (e.g. Philo, Fug. 18.4; Migr. 64.2; T. Rub. 3.12; T. Levi 6.3; 15.2; T. Jud. 12.8; 23.2; T. Dan 5.5; T. Job 15.8; Jos. Asen. 7.1; 8.7; Lk. 16:15; Rev. 17:4; 21:27). Ἐρήμωσις translates חרבה and שמם in the senses of ‘desolation’, ‘destruction’ or ‘depopulation’ in lxx and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between these meanings (e.g. Jer. 7:34; 32 [25]:18; 51 [44]:6). To state the obvious, τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως would convey the meaning of something that is unholy, perhaps idolatrous, that in some sense causes desolation and/or destruction.

However, as is well known, the combination of the two words in Mk 13:14 (βδέλυγμα and ἐρήμωσις) almost certainly refer to the שקוץ שמם of Daniel (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). This is unambiguous in the parallel in Mt. 24:15. So it is to the Danielic references that we will now turn and then to the way in which they would have been understood. When Daniel was first written שקוץ שמם would have been understood as a reference to a foreign cult being established in the Temple, possibly involving an idol (cf. 2 Macc. 6:3ff.; m. Ta’an. 4.6; Jerome, Comm. Dan. 8:9, 13, 14; 11:31; 12:12), established under Antiochus IV. Most importantly for present purposes is just how to τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως שקוץ שמם would have been understood by Mark and the Markan audience in the first century ce. It is well known that Daniel was often interpreted in light of the Roman Empire in the first century my those within the empire (e.g. Ant. 10.203–210; 4 Ezra 11–12). It is therefore probable that a reference to τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως would have been understood with reference to Rome and it is significant that Mark 13 contains several allusions to Daniel (e.g. Mk 13:7/Dan. 9:26; Mk 13:14/Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mk 13:19/Dan. 12:1; Mk 13:26/Dan. 7:13, 14). However, it does not necessarily follow that the original interpretation of Daniel was forgotten. On the contrary, Casey has noted the ‘Syrian tradition’, a tradition that preserved the original interpretation of Daniel for centuries in certain synagogues and monasteries. The Syrian tradition is important for this study because if the original interpretation of Daniel was known to Mark and the Markan audience then the Danielic understanding of τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως may also have been clear. The possibility that the original interpretation of Daniel was known in the first century ce is not often noted in biblical scholarship. Thus there are statements such as the following in what is an otherwise excellent article by Taylor: ‘First-century Jews regarded Daniel as an exilic prophet of events yet to be fulfilled, and would certainly not have connected these texts [sc. Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11] with Antiochus.’ If Casey’s Syrian tradition is accurate then this statement is faulty. Unfortunately it is not known whether something like the original interpretation of Daniel, particularly the reference to the abomination of the desolation, was known to Mark or the Markan audience. However, later on it certainly was known to Jerome. Jerome knows of something like the original reading of Daniel in the context of the Maccabean crisis and believed that a statue of Zeus Olympius was erected in the Temple (e.g. Comm. Dan. 11:31; cf. 8:9, 13, 14). It looks likely that a similar view was also known to Porphyry who apparently interpreted Dan. 12:12 in something like the following way: ‘the forty-five days beyond the one-thousand two hundred and ninety signify the interval of victory over the generals of Antiochus, or the period when Judas Maccabeus fought with bravery and cleansed the Temple and broke the idol to pieces, offering blood sacrifices to God’ (Comm. Dan. 12.12, my italics). It is possible that this is a ‘Syrian tradition’ rooted in the second century bce even if Jerome is not wholly accurately portraying Porphyry’s view.

There is strong earlier evidence that the original interpretation of the abomination of the desolation was known my Mark and at least some of his audience. The setting up of the שקוץ שמם which caused a major reaction in the second century bce may well have been remembered at Hanukkah. Due to lack of evidence it is difficult to know for certain to what extent this was recalled at Hanukkah but the impact that the Maccabean crisis had on Judaism ought not to be underestimated. The Maccabean literature, the book of Daniel, Josephus, and Philo amply attest to this. In fact the Maccabean literature provides the best evidence for the original understanding of the Danielic abomination at least being recalled in the first century. The earliest known interpretation of Daniel’s שקוץ שמם appears to be in 1 Macc. 1:54 where we are told that a ‘desolating sacrilege’ (βδέλυγμα ἐρημώσεως) was erected on the altar of burnt offering. This is placed in the context of the imposition of gentile religion and the suspension of Jewish practices under Antiochus Epiphanes. Thus it is clear that the author(s) of 1 Maccabees retains the same essential meaning of שקוץ שמם as found in Daniel. Anyone with a knowledge of the scriptures, so often assumed in the New Testament and Jewish literature, ‘could’, as Theissen notes, ‘learn from 1 Macc. 1:54 that what was meant was the establishment of a pagan cult in the temple, and from Dan. 12:11 that such a “desolating sacrilege” was also threatened at end time!’ This gives an argument of some weight for something like the general Danielic meaning of the abomination of the desolation being known to Mark and many among the Markan audience. While the interpretation of Danielic abomination was probably known it would certainly have also been re-applied to Rome within the Empire. But it would have been applied with the actions of Antiochus IV in mind.

3. The Caligula Crisis and Mark 13

Undoubtedly the best first-century Roman parallel to the actions of Antiochus IV and the establishment of something idolatrous in the Temple is Caligula’s attempt to erect his statue in the Jerusalem Temple. The Jewish reaction to Caligula echoes the reactions of Jews under Antiochus. As Grabbe comments on Caligula’s attempt to erect his statue in the Temple, ‘Had he succeeded, his action would have been the equivalent of the destruction under Antiochus IV; only its failure has kept it from full notoriety’. There should be no surprise that there are distinct echoes of the Maccabean crisis in Josephus’ and Philo’s retelling of the Caligula crisis aside from the idolatrous act in the Temple. Some examples: Jews were prepared to die for their traditions in the Caligula crisis, recalling the Maccabean martyrs (e.g. Gaium 117, 192; Ant. 18.265, 271); the Jewish threat of rebellion is evident throughout the accounts, recalling the Maccabean revolt (e.g. Gaium 226; Ant. 18.261f., 264); and similar to Antiochus being labelled ‘mad’ (Ἐπιμανὴς, Polybius 26.1) is the ‘madness’ (μανίᾳ) of Caligula’s actions (Ant. 18.277). Whoever is responsible for such echoes—Jospehus, Philo, or an accurate recording of events—this is a Jewish reaction to the Caligula crisis that clearly recalls the Maccabean crisis in some way.

Such evidence suggests that a reference to the Caligula crisis could plausibly be seen as underlying Mk 13:14, as has long been noted and has even been used in support of a date for Mark around 40 ce. This is supported to some extent by the unusual grammar of Mk 13:14. As is well known, Mk 13:14 uses the masculine participle ἑστηκότα despite referring to neuter βδέλυγμα. This would certainly cover the idea of both an emperor and a statue behind Mk 13:14 and account for the unconventional use of Greek grammar; indeed Matthew changes this by making the participle a neuter (Mt. 24:15). It may well be significant that after the abomination is set up in Mk 13:14, ‘those in Judea must flee to the mountains’ (τότε οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ φευγέτωσαν) which is quite possibly an echo of 1 Macc. 2:28, ‘Then he [Matthias] and his sons fled to the hills …’ (καὶ ἔφυγεν αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ υἱοὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰ ὄρη). This may imply a parallel between the Caligula crisis and Antiochus IV similar to those found in Josephus and Philo. These suggestions alone do not of course mean that Mark or Mark 13 was necessarily written during the Caligula crisis. Moreover, it is entirely plausible to suggest that a prophecy could be reinterpreted in ancient Judaism and Christianity. In the present case even if Mark 13 originated during the Caligula crisis it would not follow from an analysis of this chapter alone that it could no be re-applied (say) during the Jewish-Roman war of 66–70. However, it is an important argument in establishing the earliest possible date. If, as was argued above, Mk 13:14 was not directly from the historical Jesus then the early church needed some reason to write it and the first good reason in the earliest years of Christianity appears to be the Caligula crisis. The evidence put forward so far may suggest that the Caligula crisis was the earliest plausible setting in which Mk 13:14 could have entered the tradition. It is also possible to develop this idea further. There is evidence that Mark 13 as a whole, and potentially the gospel as a whole, could have originated in light of the Caligula crisis. This can be shown through an evaluation of the recent work of G. Theissen and N.H. Taylor.

Theissen gives a thorough discussion of the Caligula crisis and makes very plausible links with Mark 13. Theissen has shown that the people coming in Jesus’ name (Mk 13:6–8), wars, rumours of wars (13:7–8), and the ‘desolating sacrilege’ (Mk 13:14) can all be fitted into events of the late thirties—c. 40 and would all make sense for people located in or around Judea.38 As it has already been argued that Mk 13:14 could possibly be linked with the Caligula crisis, it is the events described in Mk 13:5–13, before the setting up of the abomination, and their potential relevance in the late thirties, that are now of most importance. In vv. 5–6 there is warning against people leading astray: many will come in Jesus’ name saying ‘I am (he)’ (ἐγώ εἰμι). While Theissen believes these people are Christian figures believing that the exalted Lord was speaking through them, which would consequently mean little concerning dates, it is not impossible that 13:5–6 could be referring to certain prophetic or ‘messianic’ figures. In the thirties there were such figures. For example, a Samaritan prophet led a group up Mount Gerizim to find lost Temple vessels (Ant. 18.85ff.) and Simon Magus was making great claims about himself in Samaria (Acts 8) and even in Rome if later Christian tradition is to be believed (e.g. HE 2.13–14; Adv. haer. 1.23, 1–4; Justin, Apology 1.26).

More crucial than these figures is the identification of the events behind 13:7–8: ‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν).’ It is suggested that this could reflect the Antipas-Nabatean war of 36–37 ce (Ant. 18.109–19). While Herod Antipas (4 bce to 39 ce) was technically speaking tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (War 2.94–95, 168; Ant. 18.27, 36–38) he could be called king: note especially that Mk 6:14 calls Herod ‘king’, ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης. Josephus also calls the tetrarchy of Lysanias βασιλεία (War 2.215, 247; but cf. Ant. 18.237; 20.138). Just for completeness, Josephus also calls the Nabatean ruler Aretas IV ‘king’ (βασιλεὺς, Ant. 18.109). There would not therefore be any major stumbling block for a first-century Christian to label the Antipas-Nabatean a war between kingdoms. It may well be significant that the Nabatean war was fought between the rulers of Galilee and Perea (Herod Antipas) and the Nabatean kingdom (Aretas IV), while Judea and Samaria were not involved. As the events of Mark 13 are located in Judea this war could certainly have been understood as wars and rumours of wars around 36–37 ce. There may also be some significance in there being other wars and rumours of wars in and around the regions of Parthia and Armenia around this time (Ant. 18.96–104; Tacitus, Ann. 6.31–37; Dio, Hist. LVIII.26; cf. Suetonius, Caligula 14). Or again it might be added that the legions accompanying Petronius during the Caligula crisis would imply that war was expected (two legions according to Ant. 18.262 and Gaium 207; three according to War 2.186). There is no problem accounting for, in a quite literal sense, the plural ‘wars and rumours of wars’ in the mid to late thirties if we so wished.

The dramatic events described in the second half of 13:8 may also echo events of the thirties, ‘there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines’. Theissen points to the evidence of an earthquake in Antioch and parts of Syria in 37 ce, shortly after the death of Tiberius (Malalas, World Chronicle 243:10). There is no direct evidence of famines at this time but they were fairly common in the ancient Near East and it appears that the Christian movement had plenty of contact with destitute people. There is some further indirect evidence. In the late thirties the Jewish aristocracy asked for the removal of all taxes on agricultural products (Ant. 18.90), which may well have been due to food shortage. In this respect it is perhaps significant that Herod the Great (ruled 37 to 4 bce) had previously abolished taxes during poor harvests (Ant. 15.365). It is also possible that the presence of the legions in the area would increase anxiety over food.

Although some of the details should not be pushed too hard in terms of historical correspondence it is important to outline the evidence Theissen collected because he has shown with a great deal of plausibility that certain events described in Mark 13 could have entered the tradition around the time of the Caligula crisis. This provides further evidence of an earliest possible date for Mark based on ch. 13 because if he is along the right lines then the final form of Mark may well reflect these events. However, Theissen also believes that there is evidence that some of the events described in Mark 13 reflect a situation some time after the Caligula crisis, such as his suggestion that Mk 13:9–13 ‘must have been interpreted into this context at a later time’. He believes that these are ‘persecution logia’ that have ‘independent variants in the tradition’ (for 13:9, see Lk. 12:11–12; for 13:11, see Lk. 21:15; and for 13:12, see Mt. 10:34–35 and Lk. 12:53) which are linked by the key words. Matthew includes them in his mission discourse (10:17–22) whereas Mark places them ‘at exactly the point at which we find his own present time, that is a time of persecution and missionary activity’ (13:10). For Theissen, ‘this section is of crucial importance for determining the situation in which Mark’s gospel was written’. Theissen knows that there is a possibility that Mk 13:9–13 is traditional, particularly 13:12. Indeed, this seemingly makes Theissen a little less confident of his assertion that 13:9–13 was inserted at a later date: ‘although it is not impossible to find events of the years 30–40 worked into Mk 13:9–13, especially 13:12, still it could very well be true that the author of Mark inserted this section into the source text in view of the events of his own time’.

Theissen’s arguments concerning 13:9–13 are not convincing. It does not matter that independent sayings are preserved elsewhere. Sayings concerning persecutions would no doubt have been of great importance to the early church and could have been reworked into other passages. Indeed in the passages where we get these independent traditions the theme of conflict or persecution is already present and thus a tradition such as Mk 13:9–13 would be of some use (Lk. 12:8–12; 21; Mt. 10:32–39; Lk. 12:49–53). The fact that these may have circulated as independent sayings does not mean that Mark could not have put them into a finished form of Mark’s gospel, c. 40. It does not mean that this is necessarily the case of course but it does show that Theissen’s reasoning is not demanded by the evidence. Some comments are also required concerning the historical possibility of Mk 13:9–13 reflecting events in the late thirties/early forties. The persecutions and legal proceedings described in Mk 13:9–13 are paralleled to some extent by events before and around the time of the Caligula crisis. Christians were handed over to various authorities on account of their preaching from the earliest days and this would be compatible for a part of v. 9, ‘they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues’. As Theissen knows, in the early chapters of Acts and elsewhere we are told of several clashes with the Jewish authorities which included being taken into custody, beatings and even death (e.g. Acts 4:1–23; 5:17–42; 6:8–8:3; Gal. 1:13, 22–23; Phil. 3:6; 1 Cor. 15:9).

The second part of v. 9 is less certain, ‘and you will stand before governors and kings (ἡγεμόνων καὶ βασιλέων) because of me, as a testimony to them’. There were certainly problems with Roman officials recorded during the Pauline mission (e.g. Acts 13:7–12; 18:12–17) and it is not impossible that there were similar issues in the thirties. Paul certainly had problems with the ethnarch (ὁ ἐθνάρχης) under the Nabatean king Aretas IV (died c. 40; cf. Ant. 16.294) in Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32–33; cf. Acts 9:24–25). It is also possible, perhaps partly based on Paul’s experiences in Damascus, that Mk 13:9 is a genuine prophecy of an early Christian. After all, there are clear parallels with Jesus’ suffering, most notably in Mark. For example, Jesus was handed over (Mk 9:31; 10:33; 14:10ff.; 15:15; cf. 1:4) to the Jewish authorities and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Any prophet with knowledge of Jesus’ sufferings could potentially make such predictions and it could therefore find its way into the final form of the gospel as the model of discipleship. There is also evidence that there were problems with ‘kings’. Shortly after the Caligula crisis, Acts 12:1f. claims there were persecutions under ‘king Herod’ (Ἡρῴδης ὁ βασιλεὺς), i.e. Agrippa I. It is also possible that earlier Christians had problems with certain kings. Also, as just noted, Paul had problems with the representative of king Aretas IV in Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32–33). Problems with ‘kings’ in Palestine were a problem from the time of John the Baptist and, while this may have continued in the earliest years of Christianity, it is also possible that once more this could be a genuine Christian prophecy based on earlier examples. For example, John the Baptist had already been handed over to ‘king’ Herod Antipas and killed (Mk 1:14; 6:17–29), and Herod and Jesus certainly had problems with one another (Mk 6:14–16; Lk. 13:31ff.).

The persecutions are linked to preaching the gospel to the nations (13:10) and likewise this does not mean a date sometime after the Caligula crisis. A concern with people outside Palestine was present from the early thirties onward. It has already been argued that gentiles were not a major concern for Jesus but a concern for accepting gentiles can be found among the earliest Christians after the death of Jesus (cf. Acts 8:4ff., 27ff.; 9:15; Gal. 1:16; cf. Acts 11:20). Paul had an explicit concern for the gentile mission from the time of his conversion/call, which was, of course, before 40 ce. Accounts of his vision, both from Acts and Paul himself, stress the importance of the mission to the gentiles (Gal. 1:15–17; Acts 9:1–19; 26:12–18). It is significant that it is in Christianity that Paul could undertake a large-scale gentile mission. Persecutions, as Theissen rightly notes, occurred in the earliest days of Christianity and can be linked to the preaching of the gospel. It may well be, then, that 13:10 is not just referring to the present time of the author(s) of Mark but also functions as a retrospective look at the early years of the Christian mission, a justification of their past and present actions. Mark 13:10 has, however, been used to justify dates sometime after 40. For example, Hengel believes that such references to a ‘world-wide mission’ such as Mk 13:10 (cf. Mk 14:9) suggest that the ‘earliest conceivable point of origin is at the time of the expansion of the universal Pauline mission, i.e. after the so-called Apostolic Council about 48. Even more understandable would be the time after the late fifties when others—in my view also including Peter—had already taken over this revolutionary world-wide concept of mission …’ As has just been argued, the gentile mission, or at the very least an openness towards gentiles, had its origins in the thirties and so Mk 13:10 would make sense anytime from this time onwards and thus sometime before the Apostolic Council. Indeed an assumption made in the record of the Apostolic Council is that there were sufficient numbers of gentiles to warrant a discussion about their Torah observance (Acts 15; Gal. 2) which included acceptance by Peter (Acts 15:7ff.; Gal. 2:9; cf. Acts 10–11:18). This may not have been due to a literally world-wide mission, or, rather, one throughout the Roman Empire, although it should be noted that a gentile mission had spread as far as Rome at least by the fifties, if not some time earlier (Rom. 15:20; cf. Eusebius, HE 2.14; Jerome, De Vir. Ill. I). However, it may be a mistake to read Mk 13:10 too literally (e.g. ‘all the nations in the Roman empire’) because Mark uses ‘all’ (πᾶς) in an exaggerated sense elsewhere (Mk 1:5; 7:3; 11:11; cf. 1:33 [ὅλη]). Mk 13:10 could equally be an emphatic piece of encouragement to evangelists in light of the eschatological events and so vindicating the Christian mission, past and present.

Mark 13:11–13 is too general to expect a precise historical parallel and, as Theissen knows, conflicts within the family may well be an old tradition going back to Jesus (cf. Mk 3:21; Mk 3:31–35/Mt. 12:46–50/Lk. 8:19–21; Mk 10:29–30/Mt. 19:29/Lk. 18:29). The possibility that this theme in Mark 13 reflects events of the late thirties should also be entertained. The charge that brothers and children will betray could easily reflect various persecutions of Jewish Christians by Jews in the thirties (e.g. Acts 4:1–23; 5:17–42; 6:8–8:3; 9:19–25; Gal. 1:13, 22–23; Phil. 3:6; 1 Cor. 15:9). In its present narrative context, there is also the possibility that Mk 13:11–13 reflects events during the Caligula crisis. On the one hand, the inherited tradition of the predictions of the historical Jesus and the opening of Mark 13 make it clear that the Temple will fall and by implication Christians should not interfere with a threat to the Temple; on the other hand, the Jewish reaction to the news that Caligula was going to set up his statue in the Temple was to fight to the death. This could have led to Jewish Christians clashing with fellow Jews and even if this did not happen it would certainly not be an unreasonable prediction to make. It is therefore possible that Mark 13 as a part of the final form of the gospel reflects this general background. Theissen himself points to an interesting parallel which could have been re-applied in Mark 13. In Philo’s account of the events surrounding the Caligula crisis the Jewish demonstrators claim that they are prepared to kill one another, ‘But what need of an army! Ourselves will conduct the sacrifices, priests of a noble order: wives will be brought to the altar by wife-slayers, brothers and sisters by fratricides, boys and girls in the innocence of their years by child-murderers’ (Gaium 234).52 It can therefore be concluded that it is possible Mk 13:9–13 reflects events of the thirties and the early forties although of course it does not mean that it necessarily does because taken on its own it could theoretically be dated at any time during the first century after the death of Jesus.

Two articles by N.H. Taylor provide a valuable social and historical reconstruction of Palestinian Christianity at the time of the Caligula crisis and how this ties in with Mark 13. In the first article Taylor outlines his reconstruction of Palestinian Christianity c. 40 ce. He argues that tensions in social relationships between Christians and Jewish movements would have been further aggravated through Christian non-intervention in the crisis and that any leadership of a given protest movement would have been incompatible with Christian beliefs about Jesus. Taylor also discusses Christian attitudes towards the Temple, which inherited a prediction of its destruction from Jesus; so however positive some Christian attitudes towards the Temple were they would have perceived Caligula’s attempt to erect his statue as a vindication of Jesus’ prophecy. All this would have led to tensions with the Jewish communities. Moreover such Christian beliefs were also a prelude to the parousia and as such a test of the eschatological and christological message of Christianity: if the parousia did not follow the desolation of the Temple then Christian belief would have been exposed to falsification. This meant Christian passivity which further intensified the tensions between Christianity and Jewish movements. The second article links the social and historical reconstruction with Mk 13. Not only does Taylor provide good arguments for Mk 13:14 originating around the time of the Caligula crisis but he also gives plenty of evidence for wars, rumours of wars, false leadership, persecutions, and so on around this time.

Taylor does not, however, date the proclamation to all nations (13:10) and the apparent theme of the delay of the parousia to a time during the Caligula crisis but rather to the time immediately following, c. 41–42, around the time of Paul and Barnabas’ mission from Antioch to Cyprus and Asia minor (Acts 13–14). The latter half of Mark 13 is particularly representative of the aftermath of the Caligula crisis because it reflects the earliest time when Christian hopes of the parousia were not materialising. ‘The messiah is still to return but after a hitherto unexpected delay.’ Greater tribulations expected would be most plausible in the aftermath of the Caligula crisis (Mk 13:18–27), after Christians such as Peter had been released from prison (Acts 12:1–17), because the suffering of the Christians was clearly not yet over. There are then, ‘no elements in the text incompatible with the Caligula crisis and the reign of Agrippa I’.58

Like Theissen, Taylor has provided crucial background information for Mark 13 and shows that large parts of Mark 13 can be read in the light of the Caligula crisis with little difficulty. However, his view of Mk 13:10 originating as a reaction to the delay in the parousia and the latter half of Mark 13 being written in the light of unfulfilled Christian hopes is problematical. Paul and Barnabas’ mission may well have been very important in early Christianity but, as Taylor knows, this does not mean that there was not an earlier Christian mission, evidence of which was mentioned above. The delay of the parousia may have been over-emphasised by Taylor. The reason for the uncertainty of precise dates could lie elsewhere. Firstly, in Jesus’ predictions of the imminent kingdom no precise dates are given: all that is known is that it is going to be very soon. It does not matter that Mark 13 does not use the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ because both Jesus and Mark are thinking in eschatological terms. Secondly, there is also evidence from the Caligula crisis itself that indicates delays. Petronius attempted to stall the process, notably through the time and care he ordered for the construction (Gaium 220ff.; 246ff.). The reason for Petronius’ actions is the catch-22 situation: his fear of the emperor and fear of a Jewish reaction (Gaium 209; Ant. 18.265ff.). This is almost certainly accurate: any sensible Roman legate would know the reaction of Jews in this situation and such a legate would know the risk of being ordered to commit suicide if an emperor’s orders were disobeyed. Petronius’ delaying tactics make good sense in a near impossible situation. Other events could have led to a theme of delay such as time taken over correspondence (cf. Gaium 330ff.), the Jewish protests, and the death of Caligula himself. The idea of uncertainty concerning the end times could plausibly be located then during the Caligula crisis. Taylor’s view may be correct but it is certainly not demanded by the evidence.

The aftermath of the Caligula crisis is not necessarily ‘the most plausible setting’ for the final sufferings and delivery in Mk 13:18–27. Another plausible setting can be found during the Caligula crisis. The natural Jewish reaction to Caligula’s wishes had they been realised would have been war: this is heavily emphasised throughout Josephus’ and Philo’s accounts. Also worth noting again are the legions believed to by necessary to curb the Jewish threat (two legions in Ant. 18.262 and Gaium 207; three in War 2.186). It would not, therefore, have taken the greatest prophet to see that war with Rome, just like the rebellion against Antiochus IV, would mean widespread suffering. Mk 13:19—’For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of creation … and never will be’—would certainly no be out of place as a prediction of what would happen if Caligula had actually erected his statue in the Temple, particularly for Jews and Christians in Judea. Likewise, in light of Jewish history and contemporary events, it would not be difficult to foresee false messiahs and false prophets (Mk 13:21–22). Great suffering and the emergence of leaders in times of war would be a natural consequence of someone setting up an abomination in the Temple. This does not mean that Taylor is necessarily wrong but once more his argument is not demanded by the evidence. Again, it must be emphasised that it does not necessarily follow that Mark was written during the Caligula crisis, but a development of the work of Theissen and Taylor shows that this is certainly plausible.

4. Other Possible Historical Contexts: From the Mid-Thirties to the Jewish War

As the Caligula crisis was the first major crisis after Jesus’ death and as Mark 13 is not simply a literal translation of the words of the historical Jesus, there is the possibility that c. 40 ce is earliest possible date for Mark 13 and potentially for the gospel as a whole. It has been stressed that even though Mark 13 can be seen to have originated during the Caligula crisis it does not necessarily follow that Mark’s gospel was written around this time. It is of course possible to argue that Mark 13 was used in a later situation. Alternatively, it may even be possible that an eschatologically minded person or group could have composed Mark 13 (and thus perhaps the gospel as a whole) before the Caligula crisis, in response to, say, persecutions. The different possibilities should therefore be evaluated.

There is a possible explanation for the emergence of τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως in Mark which would indicate that the earliest possible date for Mark based on Mark 13 is earlier than the Caligula crisis. This is based on acts associated with Roman power in Jerusalem, notably when Pilate moved Roman standards into Jerusalem (Ant. 18.55–59; War 2.169–174). The term to τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως could refer to such an event but the main objection to this theory is the dating, c. 26 ce. The objection is of course important but it should be noted that this episode shows there was Jewish sensitivity towards Roman actions in Jerusalem as do other incidents: for example, the potentially volatile episode recorded by Philo in Gaium 299–305 (although this may be the same event as recorded in Ant. 18.55–59) which tells us that Pilate had shields brought into Herod’s palace which included a dedication inscription (but no images). This led to Jews petitioning Tiberius to have them removed. There are other incidents which involve the Temple and would therefore be better suited to Mark 13. For example, another incident involving Pilate is when he used money from the Temple to fund the building of an aqueduct which resulted in the killing and injuring of many Jewish protesters when he visited Jerusalem (Ant. 18.60–62; War 2.175). Yet another incident recorded by Josephus which would have contributed to Jewish sensitivity towards idolatrous actions in Jerusalem and the Temple is Herod the Great’s clash with two Torah experts, Judas and Matthias, who encouraged their followers to pull down the golden eagle which Herod erected over the Temple. Herod’s response was to order the deaths of Judas and Matthias and many of their followers (War 1.648–655). According to Antiquities 17.162–163 Herod defended himself by arguing that his work on the Temple had been for the honour of God and that the actions of the men were in fact a ‘sacrilege’ (ἱεροσυλοῦντς). It should also be recalled that Herod the Great was of course linked with Rome and was perceived by some to have a dubious Jewish ancestry (e.g. Ant. 14.403; War 1.181; cf. Ant. 14.8, 121; War 1.123) and so this background could easily be seen to fit the Danielic prophecies of a pagan ruler setting up an abomination in the Temple. In fact the Danielic prophecies could easily be applied to all the situations described in this paragraph and would have fuelled apocalyptic and eschatological speculation.

These events show that the Jewish people were particularly sensitive towards anything classed as idolatrous (cf. As. Mos. 8.1–5) in and around Jerusalem and its Temple. It is not impossible, therefore, that prior to the Caligula crisis some of the earliest Christians wanted more information concerning the end times and the destruction of the Temple, and so the setting up of something scandalous in the Temple would have been a plausible explanation. The Maccabean crisis is good evidence as to what a Jewish reaction may have been and the passages in Daniel concerning the abomination that desolates would no doubt have been interpreted in the light of Rome in the first century. Thus, just as Josephus was reluctant to let his audience know about the Jewish interpretations of Daniel which were applied to Rome (Ant. 10.203–210) so theoretically Mark, in fear of Rome during the thirties, would also have to exercise caution over the interpretation of Daniel in 13:14b, ‘Let the reader understand’.

In addition to this there is nothing in particular that decisively contradicts the view that Mark 13 reflects events sometime in the thirties. Mark 13 may have been written after the events behind Mk 13:5–13 had taken place, for example after the war between Antipas and the Nabateans in 37–38, but even this does not have to by the case. Some of the events described in 13:5–13 are simply standard apocalyptic imagery. For example, wars were, and are, all too common. Wars were also a part of Jewish literature concerning cataclysmic events (e.g. Isa. 19:2; Jer. 4:16f.; 6:22ff.; 51:27; Zech. 14:2; Dan. 9:18ff.; 2 Chron. 15:6; 4 Ezra 8:63–9:3; 13:31). Famines were also common in the ancient world (cf. Acts 11:28) and likewise they too can be found in prophetic and apocalyptic literature (e.g. Isa. 14:30; Joel 1; 2 Bar. 27.6). Earthquakes did and do occur and they too were a part of Jewish imagery in describing cosmic events (e.g. Isa. 13:13; Jer. 4:24; Enoch 1.6f.; 2 Syr. Apoc. Bar. 70.8). The wars, famines and earthquakes could all have been written/predicted without any specific events in mind. In addition to this, recall the earlier argument that persecutions, including being put to death, could be very early, e.g. the death of Stephen and the subsequent persecutions of his circle happened in the early to midthirties,64 and it is not impossible that a prediction of being in front of governors and kings could have been based on actual events or possibly predicted based on what had happened to people such as John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul sometime before 40 ce (cf. Mk 6:17–29; 15:1–15; 2 Cor. 11:32–33/Acts 9:19–25). While caution should be exercised about the mid-thirties being the earliest possible date for the writing of Mark’s gospel based on Mark 13, it is certainly not implausible.

5. Antichrist, Unfulfilled Prophecies and the Problems with Dating

Not incompatible with this sort of approach is a popular view identifying Mk 13:14 with an ‘antichrist’ figure and therefore seeing Mark 13 as an unfulfilled, unspecified prophecy. It is argued that the concept of some ‘antichrist’ figure connected with a wicked act in the Temple or a divine dwelling is ancient. Ezekiel was critical of the ruler of Tyre who apparently claimed, ‘ “I am a god; I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas” ‘, but in reality, Ezekiel claimed, ‘you are but a mortal, and no god, though you compare your mind with the mind of a god’ (Ezek. 28:2). This tradition was particularly amplified by the actions of Antiochus IV which was to result in the book of Daniel. In turn the prophecies in Daniel of a gentile ruler profaning the Temple were to be applied to Rome by certain Jews. Further intensification of this tradition was found in the concrete actions of Rome such as Pompey entering the Temple after taking Jerusalem and, of course, the Caligula episode. Mark 13:14 then can be seen as referring to the future actions of an antichrist figure who would do something to oppose God.

There are problems with this view particularly when the ‘antichrist’ theory is used in the context of defending the historicity of Mark 13, particularly 13:14, which it was argued is highly unlikely. However, there are some important issues raised by the ‘antichrist’ theory. As the Danielic prophecies were applied to Rome and as Daniel was held in some regard it is quite plausible to suggest that Jews believed something unpleasant was going to happen to their Temple at the hands of the Romans. The idea that the Caligula crisis further fuelled this belief is also plausible. Theissen points to a very interesting reconstructed passage in Tacitus:

The like moderation, however, was not shown by his brother, surnamed Felix; who for a while past had held the governorship of Judaea, and considered that with such influences behind him all malefactions would be venial. The Jews, it is true, had given signs of disaffection in the rioting prompted [by the demand of Gaius Caesar for an effigy of himself in the Temple; and through] the news of his murder had made compliance needless, the fear remained that some emperor might issue an identical mandate (Ann. 12.54.1; cf. Hist. 5.9.2).

Such beliefs must surely have been present among Jews and Christians after the Caligula crisis. This is important because it shows that a passage such as Mark 13 would not necessarily be open to the charge of false prophecy if it was first delivered before or during the Caligula crisis: it could continue to flourish. Indeed the fact that it did survive says something in favour of this. The ‘antichrist’ approach does to some extent show that the tradition could flourish after the Caligula crisis (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3–5) which must make us wary of dating Mark through use of Mark 13 alone: c. 35–40 may well be the earliest possible date for Mark based on Mark 13 but this does not rule out the possibility of the passage being reused after the Caligula crisis and so Mark’s gospel could be dated at anytime in the subsequent decades if based on Mark 13.

6. Mark 13 and the Jewish War

Thus even if Mark 13 originated during the Caligula crisis or earlier, later dates in the first century for Mark’s gospel are also possible. The date of Mark based on Mark 13 has of course been seen to reflect the events of 66–70 ce be numerous scholars. One of the most important and learned defences of Mark reflecting events of the Jewish war is that of Hengel. Hengel dates Mark not long after the persecution of the Christians by Nero in 64/65 ce, around 69 ce, in the chaotic year of the four emperors, which included wars throughout the Roman Empire. The abomination is therefore something that will happen in the future for Mark. What Hengel has done is to show how Mark 13 could plausibly be a reflection of the events of the Jewish war but he does not show that it must. Events such as the Caligula crisis contain equally plausible parallels to the various things recorded in Mark 13 and so arguments such as Hengel’s cannot be regarded as definitive: as Hengel knows, there is always an element of uncertainty in a hypothetical reconstruction. Another possibility is the ‘Zealot’ occupation of the holy place (War 4.121–388) or perhaps more specifically the Zealots’ choice of a new High Priest (War 4.155–156) lies behind 13:14. Although it might be reasonably expected that the prophecy from Daniel refers to pagan Rome it is not impossible that a verse from scripture could be re-evaluated and re-applied. The ‘Zealot’ theory provides us with another situation which could go some way to explaining Mk 13:14. Other possible events from the Jewish war supposed to be behind the abomination of the desolation have been entertained. For example, the βδέλυγμα of Mk 13:14 could certainly include Titus’ soldiers setting up their standards and the gentile sacrifices in the ruined Temple c. 70, or even the Roman armies in some way.71 A point worth adding is that it is unlikely that Mark 13, and by implication the gospel as a whole, could reflect events any later than the fall of Jerusalem given the existence of verses 13:24–31 (cf. 9:1) which surely implies that Jesus would return within 30–40 years of his death.

7. The Narrative Frame: Mark 13:1–2

As some of these arguments suggest, there have been attempts to show that Mark 13 in its present form implies a post-70 composition for Mark’s gospel. One of the most famous attempts is that of Brandon who argued that Mark 13 reflects not only the Jewish war but also the procession through Rome of the spoils of war including booty from the destroyed Temple in 71 ce (War 7.116–162). There is nothing definitive in Mark 13 which points in this direction and which could not be placed some other time in the first century. One argument that has persuaded a great deal more scholars to accept Mark 13 being post 70 is 13:1–2, supposedly reflecting the fall of the Temple. Theissen, despite believing Mark 13 originated during the Caligula crisis, argued that in its final form the gospel was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce. One of his key arguments is the existence of Mk 13:1–2 which, he argues, ‘has been adapted to correspond to events that have already happened’. For Theissen the precise description in Mk 13:2—’Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here (ὧδε) upon another; all will be thrown down’—is particularly striking: ‘The restrictive ὧδε could be a hint that only the buildings on the Temple platform, but not its foundation walls, would be destroyed. The mighty stones of that foundation can still be seen today … the temple prophecy has been refined ex eventu.’ However, this is far from certain and scholars have long debated whether Mk 13:1–2 actually reflects the fall of the Temple without a firm consensus ever really emerging, because it is by no means unreasonable to suggest that for Mark it remains a prediction which still expects the fall of the Temple in the future. Jews, including the historical Jesus, could predict the fall of the Temple when it was still standing and this could go some way to explaining why vv. 1–2 are present in the final form of Mark 13. As for Theissen’s suggestion it is surely reading too much into such a prophecy. There is no indication that ὧδε is restricted to the Temple platform in Mk 13:1–2 therefore implying that the whole Temple complex is understood. If this is the case then Mk 13:1–2 remains a general statement concerning the fall of the Temple and provides no evidence decisively pointing to either a pre-70 or post-70 date for Mark’s gospel, nor even a date decades earlier.

The uncertainty of dating Mark on the basis of 13:1–2 can be shown by highlighting the possible reasons as to why Mark has used these verses in their present literary context. In their present form they frame the eschatological discourse in some way and so some degree of importance ought to be attached to this fact. The destruction of the Temple would of course be an obvious explanation for this. The Markan Jesus has actually predicted the fall of the Temple! However, whenever Mark was written, it seems likely that he had an inherited tradition of Jesus predicting the fall of the Temple and this leads to other possibilities which should also be mentioned. Let us assume for the moment that Mark was written during the Caligula crisis and that Mark 13 reflects this dispute. Mark 13:1–2 could be said to reflect the well-known tradition of the prediction of the fall of the Temple, whereas vv. 3–37 explain this more fully with the aforementioned crisis in mind. Jesus’ predictions really were going to be fulfilled! Given that Jews continued to expect that something like the Caligula crisis was going to happen even after the death of Caligula similar comments could be made if it is assumed that Mark was written in the forties, fifties or early sixties. Verses 3–37 could again be seen as an interpretation of the events surrounding the fall of the Temple, modelled on the experiences and expectations of the Caligula crisis. Let us assume for the moment that Mark was written in the thirties. Again it could be argued that Mk 13:1–2 reflects the well-known tradition of the prediction of the fall of the Temple, whereas vv. 3–37 explain what is going to happen around the time of this monumental event, perhaps with recent perceived idolatrous threats to Jerusalem and the Temple as a model, such as those outlined above involving Pilate or even Herod the Great. Let us assume that Mark was written during the Jewish war. Mark 13:1–2 could again reflect the inherited tradition of Jesus’ predictions, or indeed a ‘common sense’ prediction made during the Jewish war, and vv. 3–37 expand this to explain further what was going to happen, with contemporary events in mind. It should now be clear that any description of the end times in the context of Jerusalem and the Temple would have to take into account the pre-Markan tradition of Jesus’ predictions and so it is difficult to provide a concrete historical situation facing the writer(s) of Mark’s gospel which led to Mk 13:1–2 being placed in its present form. At best, these speculations show that if a reasonable historical explanation as to why Mark used 13:1–2 to head the eschatological discourse in the form as we have it were to be provided, we must establish first the date of Mark and not establish the date of Mark on the basis of Mk 13:1–2 in its narrative context.

8. Conclusions

Some of the conclusions to this chapter are too general to be an altogether satisfactory argument for the date of Mark’s gospel. It can be said with some certainty that Mark 13 is a product of the early church and that on the basis of Mark 13 the earliest possible date for the gospel may be c. 40 ce, around the time of the Caligula crisis, but a date in the mid to late thirties cannot be ruled out based on different potentially idolatrous threats to Jerusalem and the Temple prior to Caligula. However, on the basis of Mark 13 alone there is nothing stopping us dating the gospel after the Caligula crisis in the forties, fifties or most of the sixties, because the perception of a similar threat was consistently present in Judea. If Mark was written after the fall of Jerusalem it could not be long after given passages such as 13:24–31 (cf. 9:1). A dating of Mark sometime between the mid to late thirties and c. 70 may not be a stunningly useful argument for a precise dating but it is about the best that can be done through an analysis of Mark 13 alone.

Chapter 3

The Date of Mark and Modern Gospel Criticism

While Mark 13 has been the major piece of internal evidence used for dating Mark, other pieces have been employed to show when Mark was supposedly written. These are often tied up with the dominant scholarly trend of the day, such as source, form, and redaction criticism, and used to provide an argument of collective weight. Many of these arguments have become so common in scholarship that they are in many cases simply repeated as if fact, particularly by those scholars who date Mark in the light of the Jewish war. It will be argued that many of these arguments are weak and often without any solid foundation. However, they are too common and accepted by too many scholars for them to be ignored. We may begin with source analysis of Mark’s gospel.

1. Source Criticism

One of the most significant results of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century source criticism is the establishment of Markan priority. It is still reasonable to say the argument that Matthew and Luke both used Mark and other sources, most notably Q, is most widely accepted and it is the one that will be assumed in this study. Important though this conclusion is it only means that Mark is the earliest gospel and cannot tell us any more than that, unless of course Matthew and/or Luke can be dated with any precision. Indeed certain scholars have employed a developed version of the Markan priority to date Mark early, notably Harnack and Allen. Harnack is particularly associated with the following argument: ‘Internal indications … place no impediment in the way of assigning St Mark at the latest to the sixth decade of the first century, as is required be the date we have assigned to St Luke’.2 Harnack gave little evidence from Mark itself, other than it must have been written before 70 on the basis of Mark 13. It is therefore to his dating of Luke-Acts that we will turn. After a change of mind, Harnack pushed for a pre-70 date for Acts and thus for Luke too. Harnack’s arguments are now familiar to modern scholarship. Acts does not mention the result of Paul’s trial, something in which the author had a profound interest and so it must have been written prior to this: ‘Throughout eight whole chapters St Luke keeps his readers intensely interested in the progress of the trial of St Paul, simply that he may in the end completely disappoint them—they learn nothing of the final result of the trial!’ ‘If St Luke, in the year 80, 90, or 100, wrote thus he was not simply a blundering but an absolutely incomprehensible historian!’5 Harnack makes another important and not unrelated point: ‘nowhere in the Acts is either St Peter or St Paul so treated as if his death was presupposed … Neither is the slightest reference made to the martyrdom of St Paul! St Luke allows Agabus to foretell a famine, to foretell St Paul’s imprisonment in Jerusalem he suffers St Paul himself (on the voyage) to foretell, like a fortune teller, the fate of the ship and all its passengers; he in many chapters of the book deals in all kinds of “spiritual” utterances and prophecies—but not one is said concerning the final destiny of St Paul (and of St Peter)!’ The absence of such important events, ‘make it in the highest degree possible that the work was written at a time when St Paul’s trial in Rome had not yet come to an end’.7 Harnack gives further reasons why Acts must be dated in the early sixties. There is no mention of the events of the Jewish war, nor of the persecution of the Christians under Nero. ‘St Luke’s absolute silence concerning everything that happened between the years 64–70 ad is a strong argument for the hypothesis that his book was written before the year 64 ad.’ Thus if Acts was written before 64 then Luke must have been too and Mark before this.

The strength of Harnack’s arguments should not be underestimated. If we were lacking just the death of Paul in Acts it might be dismissed as being too shameful to include (but cf. Stephen) yet it is not simply the omission of Paul’s death that we face in Acts but other extremely important events, such as allusions to the persecution of Christians under Nero and the war of 66–70. In addition to this it should also be noted that there is no mention of the martyrdom of James in 62, which Robinson suggests would have suited Luke’s purposes because it shows the Jewish authorities killing a Christian against Roman authority (Ant. 20.200). At first sight these seem to be powerful arguments. However, there are counter-arguments.11 There is no mention of the Caligula crisis so Luke could omit famous events. Paul’s death may not be mentioned explicitly, but there are certainly hints (Acts 20:25, 38). It is also possible of course that Luke’s audience knew what happened to Paul. There may be no mention of James’ martyrdom because Luke is more concerned with Paul in the second half of Acts. The persecutions in Rome may not be mentioned because Luke’s story simply has not got that far chronologically. None of these criticisms are decisive: they simply mean that the arguments in favour of an early date are not demanded be the evidence. There are, however, reasons to believe that Acts assumes knowledge of the Jewish war, and be implication the death of Paul, namely the existence of Lk. 19:41–44 and 21:20.

Allen also developed the model that Matthew and Luke used Mark to argue for a relatively early date for Mark. Allen followed Harnack in arguing for Luke being written before the death of Paul, ‘earlier than the year 60 ad’. He argued that Matthew was ‘the work of a Hellenist Christian who believed in Christ as the Messiah of the Jews’ and that ‘the disciples of Christ’ were ‘still under the obligation of the Mosaic Law, and believed that the Messiah was soon to reappear’. This, Allen suggested, ‘points to Antioch at about the period of the great controversy with regard to the admission of the Gentiles into the Church. These ideas … penetrate the whole book, and are clearly representative of the mind of the evangelist and of Christianity of his period.’ Thus if Mark was written before Matthew, ‘it is plain that the Second Gospel must have been written earlier than the year 50, if that is approximately the date at which the First Gospel was written’.14

This is a useful argument which deserves to be developed. While his dating of Matthew is probably wrong—Matthew appears to have some knowledge of the Jewish war—it is possible that Mark was written before the controversies over the gentiles and Torah observance. It will be argued in Chapter 5 that such controversies were already present in the forties. One point not fully exploited be Allen is that if Mark was written before Matthew and the hot issue of gentile, and indeed Jewish, Torah observance then presumably this would imply a very early date for Mark. This kind of view will be developed at the end of this chapter and throughout this study.

Despite the popular view that accepts Markan priority there have been attempts to locate Markan sources and this on occasion has been seen to be relevant for the dating of the gospel. For example, there have been scholars who think that Mark had some access to Q. Given that it is common, rightly or wrongly, to see Q as a literary document dating from the fifties this argument would therefore hold obvious importance for the dating of Mark. However, despite occasional clear-cut Mark/Q overlaps, there is no good evidence that Mark had access to the kinds of Q material that is found in Matthew and Luke. As so often noticed, the same problems as those who push for Matthean, or even Lukan, priority would arise. Why, for example, is there no discussion of important passages such as the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, and so on? Consequently there are very good reasons to reject the view that Mark had direct literary access to Q.18 However, it has been argued more modestly that Mark is more ‘developed’ than Q in some way, without relying on the hypotheses that Mark directly used Q. For example, Hengel believes the Markan parallels to Q show that ‘Mark usually gives the impression of being secondary, having been worked over more strongly’. This for Hengel tells against a dating in the forties and in favour of the more conventional dating. This argument is far from decisive. It assumes the Q passages are necessarily from the forties onward and any interpretation must take several years. Even if there were such a thing as a fixed Q document there were no doubt underlying traditions and there is no control over what people would do with such traditions and how long this would take. If it is assumed that Hengel is correct in saying that Mark has a more developed reworking than Q it does not necessarily follow that Mark is later than the forties: Mark may simply have had access to some parallel traditions and developed them earlier in line with his own theological motivations. Moreover, there are passages such as the temptations of Jesus (Mk 1:12–13; Mt. 4:1–11; Lk. 4:1–13) where Q clearly has a more detailed tradition, and so it can be argued that the Markan tradition is earlier than Q. Indeed if the Q temptations had been available to Mark it might reasonably be expected of him to use them. As he does not it may be argued that the Q additions to the temptation story are later additions to the Markan tradition thereby highlighting the degree of uncertainty of Hengel’s argument.

2. Paul as a Source for Mark?

While not technically source criticism another popular argument for dating Mark some time in the second half of the first century is that Markan theology is in some way influenced be Paul. This approach was important for Bacon as a part of his collective argument for the relatively late dating of Mark (c. 75). Mark was an interpreter of Paul, rather than being directly dependent upon the Epistles. The problem with this approach is that it assumes Mark used Paul. The influence could theoretically be the other way around or both could be influenced be first-century Christianity in general. This suggests that the view of Paul influencing Mark on the basis of a comparison between Paul and Mark cannot be established with any certainty. Moreover, even if Paul did influence Mark it could have been when Paul was alive, say in the fifties. However, this sort of argument is so important for numerous scholars that the main examples must be discussed further.

Bacon sees Pauline influence in Mk 4:1–34, particularly in outsiders lacking understanding. Only the ‘little group of the elect’ understood the true meaning. ‘This apologetic is undoubtedly related to that of Paul in Rom. 9–11. For the purposes of developing it Mark utilises a logion about the “hiding of the mystery” which also plays a great part in the thought of Paul, though traceable in a form antecedent to both in the Wisdom literature (1 Cor. 1:18–3:2; Mt. 11:25–30 = Lk. 10:21f.).’ Thus for Bacon, ‘So singular a combination of Old Testament [Isa. 6:9] quotation with current logia in the interest of a particular form of anti-Jewish polemic apologetic is difficult to account for unless we suppose the evangelist to have been familiar with the parallel argument of Paul, which employs the same quotations in the same interest.’ If Bacon is correct then Mark would probably have to be later than Romans, but how accurate is Bacon here? There is good reason to believe that his argument is not so strong. Bacon assumes that Mark uses Paul here and not vice versa. For all we know Paul may have thought that Mk 4:1–20 was a useful attempt at dealing with a certain theme. On the other hand, the parallels between Rom. 9–11 and Mk 4:1–20 are not precise and there are notable differences. Unlike Rom. 9–11, Mark does not discuss the issue of the salvation of all Israel, Mark does not see the incoming of the gentiles as a means to provoke Israel to jealousy, Mark does not have any parallel to a branch being grafted on to an olive tree, and Mark does not talk of a hardening of Israel for the full quota of gentiles to come in. It should be clear that the view of the elect group who understand the mystery is only a very general parallel. Given both that the Jewish literature of the time has plenty of references to an elect group having the true meaning and that the Christian movement faced rejection and persecution from the very beginning, as witnessed be Acts and Paul (e.g. Acts 4:1–3; 5:17ff.; 6–8; 12:1–4; Gal. 1:13f.; Phil. 3:6), it is no great surprise that a general theme of in-group understanding occurs in two different Christian texts. It may well be that it is a simple coincidence that the same biblical text occurs in both Mark and Paul. Alternatively, it was certainly a useful text to use for both writers and one may have copied the other. Even if this were the case we are not in a position to say who was the first writer to use Isaiah 6:9 on the basis of Mk 4:1–20 and Rom. 9–11 alone. It is hardly inconceivable that Paul developed an earlier Christian tradition to suit his present needs, just as he clearly did elsewhere (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:10–16).

There are other familiar arguments. Some have seen a Pauline view of atonement, or a creative engagement with Paul’s theology, in Mk 10:45 (cf. Rom. 3:23–5; 5:8–9, 18–19; Gal. 3:13; 1 Cor. 7:23; and Lk. 22:24–27), ‘For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom (λύτρον) for many.’ The major problem with this view is that Mark is significantly different from Paul, most notably Paul does not use λύτρον nor ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. The saying is very general in Mark and it is difficult to be too precise about those benefiting from Jesus’ death. It could be argued with Seeley that here ‘Mark is indirectly acknowledging a theologian he could not completely ignore, but whose theology he did not fully approve of.’ However, even if Seeley is right in the sense that there is some discontinuity between Mark and Paul it is far from certain which came first. Perhaps Paul formulated such views immediately after his call/conversion and if not perhaps Mark, or his tradition, was the first to put them into writing and then influenced Paul. It is quite possible that such views were developed be Jesus himself. Jesus must have known that he was going to die after what happened to John the Baptist, his conflict with opponents over the Torah and the healing mission, and his action in the Temple. Although it was once thought that this should be read against the background of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52–53 a much more likely background in which Jesus and the early Christians could have read a righteous death is that of the Maccabean martyrs (e.g. 2 Macc. 7:32–38; 4 Macc. 17:20–22; cf. Dan. 11:35), which would have probably been remembered yearly at Hanukkah. The tradition of the Maccabean martyrs also suggests that redemptive suffering could have been present from Jesus onwards and does not require Paul to have been first developed in Christianity.

Another popular argument used to show Pauline influence in Mark is the supposed abandoning of the food laws in Mk 7:1–23. Bacon believed that the Markan interpretation of Jesus ‘swept away all distinctions of meats … and thereafter had extended his mission of mercy to gentiles also. This goes quite beyond Paul’s teaching (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 15:8); but not beyond what Paul was commonly understood to teach (1 Cor. 10:23ff.; Rom. 14:8; Acts 21:21).’ Bacon also notes that Mark’s ‘proof text’ (Isa. 29:13) ‘is the same which Paul had employed with reference to the same subject in Col. 2:22’. Bacon believes that the ‘author of the doctrine … can hardly be other than Paul’.27 Against this, the issue of the Markan food laws does not necessarily indicate Pauline influence. If it is assumed for the moment that Mk 7:15, 19 rejects the food laws—a view not accepted in this study (see Chapter 7)—then why could it not have occurred after Peter’s vision in the forties? Or, to anticipate later discussion, the interpretation given in Chapter 7 of this study is that Mk 7:15, 19 attacks handwashing before eating with no reference to criticism of biblical food laws and this implies a date earlier than Galatians and Romans for Mark. Moreover, even if he did not actually quote Mark, it seems as if Paul knew an earlier tradition concerning the food laws, οἶδα καὶ πέπεισμαι ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ ὅτι οὐδὲν κοινὸν διʼ ἐαυτοῦ Rom. 14:14; cf. Mk 7:19, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα). Also the Isa. 29:13 quote is not employed in the same way be each author, as scholars such as Bacon would have us believe. In Mark the Isaiah passage is explicitly used to attack Pharisaic and scribal ‘tradition’ in contrast to the word of God in Scripture. In Colossians there is a different scenario, presumably concerning gentile Christians and the question of whether certain laws should be observed at all, and there is no mention of scribes and Pharisees in Col. 2:22.

It is worth comparing one of Hengel’s minor arguments concerning the date of Mark. While Hengel does not accept that Mark was a disciple of Paul in any way despite certain points of contact, he does think that certain issues when compared with Paul shed some light on the dating of the gospel. As we saw in the previous chapter, Hengel believes that references to a world-wide mission in Mark (13:10; 14:9; cf. 15:39) suggest a date after the universal Pauline mission, possibly after the late fifties. In addition Hengel notes other issues surrounding the gentile mission which he believes point to a post-fifties date for Mark. He argues that for Mark ‘the question of the validity of the ritual law, over which there was a fierce struggle at the time of Paul, is in principle no longer a problem and has clearly been resolved in favour of the mission to the Gentiles’. For Hengel, Mark is ‘obviously written for gentile Christians’ and ‘we cannot presuppose the existence of these in large numbers before the Pauline mission …’29

Hengel’s argument also fails to show that Mark must be after the Pauline mission. As noted, a mission to, or at the very least acceptance of, gentiles appears to have started early (Gal. 1:15f.; Acts 9:15f.; 22:21; 26:17f.), perhaps even before Paul’s conversion, in the thirties (e.g. Acts 8:26–40; cf. Acts 10–11:18), and the Apostolic Council in Acts 15 presupposes a fairly widespread gentile mission otherwise it would never have occurred. Thus a reference to a world-wide mission could have been written anytime from the thirties onwards and consequently this does not require a date after the Pauline mission. Nor does it require a majority gentile audience although this may have been the case: there is no reason why a significant minority of gentile believers would not b enough for the gospel to be aimed at them. Moreover, the question of (biblical) ‘ritual law’ is not as great as Hengel supposes in Mark, and the rest of this study will show this in some detail, but even if Mark had rejected such laws then this could have been done in the forties after Peter’s vision.

The Markan version of the ‘Last Supper’ (Mk 14:22–25) has often been described as being reliant on Paul. Bacon used this argument in his dating of Mark suggesting that Mk 14:22–25 should be seen ‘as evidence for direct use’ of 1 Cor. 11:23–25 because there ‘is a real coincidence of language’. He argued, ‘it is impossible not to recognise that such expressions as “the new covenant in my blood” are of Paul’s own coinage. Paul is original. Mark is dependent.’ Bacon did not think he could prove direct literary dependence but he did claim that Mark ‘simply uses the words of institution stereotyped in a church of Pauline practice’. This argument is far from conclusive. Similarity of language does not point to Markan dependence on Paul. It is again clear that Paul is using an earlier tradition so there is no good reason why Mark is necessarily reliant on Paul on this point. Indeed if anything the alternative textual readings of Mk 14:24 altered the Markan text to bring it in line with Paul, with καινης being the ‘Pauline’ (1 Cor. 11:25) addition. It should also be noted that Casey argues strongly for Mk 14:12–26 being a literal translation of an Aramaic source accurately depicting the historical Jesus’ last Passover. For Casey, Paul provides a ‘comprehensive rewriting’ in which he had applied the tradition to rowdy meals in Corinth, quite alien to the original use.32 If this approach is accurate then Mark must contain the earlier tradition; perhaps Paul even used the gospel of Mark itself if it could be shown to have been written earlier.

Christology is one theme commonly employed to show Markan dependence on, or at least similarity to, Paul. Bacon points to the question of the Messiah in Mk 12:35–37, claiming that it points to a ‘distinctly Pauline’ Christology (cf. Rom. 1:3f.) ‘in striking contrast to the son of David Christology represented in the other gospel material’. Bacon attempted to bolster his argument be noting that the ‘proof text’ (Ps. 110:1) is ‘repeatedly employed’ by Paul (Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1). Telford notes that just as Mark rejects a Son of David Christology, ‘Paul too appears to do so in favour of a higher “Son of God” Christology. While acknowledging its priority in Rom. 1:3–4, he thereafter disowns it by sheer neglect.’ This sort of argument is too vague to be secure. The so-called influence of Paul here is only in a very general way in terms of a Davidic Christology and not enough to say that Mark has been influenced by Paul. Mark does indeed seem to reject some kind of Davidic Christology in 12:35–37 but Paul does not in Rom. 1:3f. It is not good enough to say sheer neglect counts as a parallel because Paul has already differed from Mark. This does not in any way constitute an argument for Mark being influenced by Paul. As for similar proof texts this is not dramatically important, for all we know Paul may have thought well of Mark or an earlier tradition for using this text. Indeed Luke even attributes use of it to Peter, before the emergence of Paul the Christian, as Bacon himself noticed (Acts 2:34).

Another christological title often mentioned in discussions of Mark and Paul is ‘Son of God’, a title significant for both writers (Mk 1:1, 11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 15:39; Gal. 4:4; Rom. 1:3–4; 8:3; cf. Mk 12:6; 13:32). For example it has been noted that Paul had a concept of a pre-existent Son of God figure (Gal. 4:4; 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:4; 2 Cor. 5:21; 8:9; Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:6–7; Col. 1:15–17) and that Mark may have shared this concept, with reference to the ‘sending’ or ‘coming’ language in Mk 12:6 (cf. Mk 1:38; Rom. 8:3), the possibility of the miracles as epiphanies, the transfiguration (Mk 9:2–8), the apparently heavenly Son of Man (e.g. 2:10; 8:38), and a supposed pre-existent ‘Lord’ (Mk 12:35–37). Again caution needs to be exercised. While Mark may well have accepted a concept of pre-existence, a common view in the ancient world, there is little evidence that this is developed into a pre-existent Son of God concept. The only possible time it may be developed is in Mk 12:6 but this is parabolic language which is hardly strong evidence for such a belief. The so-called heavenly Son of Man is likewise not as obvious as many would have us believe. Mark 2:10 may simply be a literal translation of the Aramaic בר (א)נש(א), with a reference to humans having authority on earth to forgive/loosen sins (cf. Mk 9:38–41) which would include a reference to Jesus himself. Even if it does function as a title for Jesus alone in Mk 2:10 it does not necessarily follow that this is a heavenly Son of Man concept: it may well be a question of Jesus’ authority, something which clearly interests Mark (e.g. 1:21–28; 3:22–30; 11:27–33). That said, the case can be made elsewhere in Mark for a heavenly Son of Man concept (8:38; 13:26; 14:62) but even so Paul does not actually use the term ‘son of man’. While pre-existence may not be alien to Mark it is certainly not developed in these passages and similar sorts of comments may be made for the miracles and the transfiguration. As for Mk 12:35–37 the idea of pre-existence may be assumed but there is no development of a pre-existent ‘Lord’ explicitly applied to Jesus here. The only real parallel between Mark and Paul at this point is that they both accept the title Son of God in some way. This is hardly a great surprise as it was popular in first-century Christianity, and Matthew, Luke and John all accepted it. Moreover, it is entirely possible that it originated from what is the now well-known Jewish concept where it could be used be or of any good Jew (e.g. 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; Sir. 4:10; Jub. 1.24; m. Abot 3.14; b. Ta’an. 24b; b. Ber. 17b; b. 1.86a). There are therefore no major difficulties in the origins of this title going back to the historic ministry. Consequently the title itself, used in both Paul and the Gospels, may have been developed at a very early date and would therefore tell us little in terms of Mark supposedly using Paul.

It does not matter that Mark uses what appear to have been favourite Pauline words like Son of God or the famous εὐαγγέλιον, so commonly assumed to have been introduced into the New Testament by Paul and consequently used by Mark. Kertelge, for example, argued that Mark ‘takes up the keyword “gospel” from early Christian missionary language’ and this early Christian missionary language is largely due to Paul. This sort of argument is not so clear cut when it comes to dating the gospel. Even if Mark were dependent on Paul it is not impossible that he could have been introduced to the term εὐαγγέλιον just after Paul’s call/conversion in the thirties. Another possibility is that it could be nothing more than general independent knowledge of the Christian concepts, after all there are significant Pauline words not used in Mark and significant Markan words not used in Paul. The argument would be much stronger if favourite Pauline words (and themes) were recurrent throughout Mark, which they are not. As Kee comments, ‘none of the characteristic theological language of Paul appears in Mark, or if roughly similar terms occur, they are used in a significantly different conceptual framework’.

It could actually be that Mark came first and indirectly influenced Paul. A rough analogy is found in Matthew’s use of ὑποκριταί. With the notable exception of Matthew, ὑποκριταί is not a common word in the synoptic gospels but it is used right across the tradition which suggests that it is very early and certainly pre-Matthean: Mark (7:6/Mt. 15:7), L (Lk. 12:56; 13:15), M (Mt. 6:2, 5, 16; 22:18; 23:13–15, 23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51), and Q (Lk. 6:42/Mt. 7:5). In Matthew Mt. 23 it is used frequently, particularly when compared with Mark, Luke and Q. This is a case of what is clearly a Matthean favourite word yet a word that he got from his sources where it does not appear to have been used with any degree of frequency. There is nothing remotely implausible in suggesting that Paul could have done something similar, i.e. found a word that he particularly liked and used it with a greater degree of frequency, either from Mark (if earlier) or generally from a traditional use.

One famous argument that has proved particularly influential in the dating of Mark is Mark’s eschatological predictions, especially 9:1, being later than those assumed be Paul. Hengel provides a tradition of reinterpreting eschatological predictions in early Christianity, which it is believed can be shown to refute the forties as a possible date for Mark. Mark 9:1, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some (τινες) standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with (ἐν) power’, is the Markan expectation, supposedly given in terms of the evangelist’s own time. Here, according to Hengel, Mark says that ‘some’, ‘no longer most’, of Jesus’ audience, ‘will still experience in their lifetime the parousia of the Son of man, which was mentioned immediately beforehand’. Hengel contrasts Paul in the fifties recording 500 brothers seeing the risen Christ in 1 Cor. 15:6. Hengel emphasises the point that the majority are still alive, and only ‘some’ (τινὲς) have died. Similarly others have pointed to 1 Thess. 4:13–18 where the believers had expected ‘the Lord’ to return imminently and were surprised that some had started to die. The outcome of this eschatological enthusiasm is disappointing as indicated be Jn 21:21–23 where John counters the rumour that the ‘Beloved Disciple’ would not die before the return of Jesus by saying that the return of Jesus might happen in the life of the Beloved Disciple. Thus chronologically Mark stands between 1 Corinthians and John. Mark 13:30 parallels Mk 9:1, namely that the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries will not pass away before end times.

This argument is certainly not without merit. Hengel is surely right though to emphasise that this passage could not have remained unaltered too late without being toned down, just as is found in Lk. 9:27, and that it must be prior to John. However, the evidence does not refute a date in the forties for Mark as Hengel believes. Significantly Mk 9:1 talks about the coming kingdom whereas 1 Cor. 15 talks about a different subject matter, the appearances of the risen Jesus, so it says little about the nature of Mk 9:1. Moreover, Mk 9:1 could well be a literal translation of a saying of Jesus, for example it speaks of the kingdom with no reference to the parousia, something not noted in the influential view of Bultmann. It is consistent with Jesus’ predictions about the kingdom in that no specific date is given, but it is thought to be soon (e.g. Mk 1:15; 14:25; Mt. 6:10/Lk. 11:2). Hengel and others have placed a lot of emphasis on τινες (‘some’) in the sense that Mark has had to come to terms with the deaths of people. However, there is no real evidence for this and in the light of Jesus’ teaching it would be more accurate to put the emphasis on τινες as a warning of the imminence of the kingdom (cf. Mk 1:15; 13:28–37). Τινες is not precise and the assumption made is that Mark must be read absolutely literally at this point and in contrast to 1 Cor. 15:6 and 1 Thess. 4:13–18. Actually Mk 9:1 could be a very early tradition indeed, standing at the earliest point of eschatological expectation. Even if it was a secondary formulation it still does not mean it was written between Paul and John. It is perfectly plausible that a prediction such as Mk 9:1 could have led to the eschatological enthusiasm and the subsequent disappointments found in 1 Thess. 4:13–18. It could be the case that Mark did alter the saying to account for the kingdom not coming as quickly as some expected (although if this were the case more editing in Mark could reasonably be expected) but this does not mean that it must be post-1 Thessalonians. Disappointments would almost certainly have been common in earliest Christianity. Why not in the aftermath of a persecution, in the context of the death of Stephen or the persecutions under Agrippa for example? It may have been thought that the kingdom was at hand but when it did not materialise and some people had died a prediction was written up saying that ‘some’ would still see the kingdom coming within their lifetimes. The same kind of reasoning may be applied to the Caligula crisis. It may have become clear in the years that immediately followed that this was not the precise time of the coming kingdom and that a number of people would in fact die before it arrived. Disappointment could therefore have arisen very early. However, it should be stressed that if Mk 9:1 was written up in the light of a (mild) delay in the parousia then more editing would be expected (cf. Mk 13) and it is Matthew, significantly, who makes explicit reference to the return of the son of man coming in his(!) kingdom (16:28). The argument that Mk 9:1 puts Mark between Paul and John therefore is not all that strong: its main strength lies in that it shows Mark to be earlier than John. All this really tells us about the date of Mark is that the second gospel must have been written within about 40 years after Jesus’ death, given that life expectancy from birth appears to have been somewhere between 20 and 30 years.

It seems as if many scholars assume that Mark or even Jesus could not possibly have influenced Paul. However, the possibility that Paul was influenced be his fellow Jews and Christians and developed their ideas creatively cannot be ruled out of course, and if Mark was earlier than the Pauline epistles then it is hardly inconceivable that Paul was at times influenced be the Markan gospel. Moreover there should be no surprise in two different authors having some similarities. They were both part of the same first-century movement after all. They could easily have had access to similar traditions and if there was a major influence it could have been Jesus, with both developing his life and teachings in their own particular way. Indeed, if the arguments put forward here are correct, many of the themes common to Mark and Paul have good parallels in the teaching of Jesus. It may of course have been the case that Mark did use Paul but this can only be established once the date of Mark has been fixed as being later than at least most of the epistles. However, if the date of Mark is earlier than the epistles then the possibility of the very opposite, namely Paul the interpreter of Mark,45 needs to be considered. At the moment, though, it can be concluded that a comparison between Mark and Paul, at least on the basis of the commonly discussed passages, says very little concerning date and priority, and these parallels are too often vague.

3. Form Criticism

The rise of form criticism has provided convenient arguments for the conventional date of Mark’s gospel (65–75 ce). The argument normally used is that the developments of specific sayings and stories in different areas of and uses in Christianity must have taken about 40 years to arrive in their present forms in the gospels. Nineham’s commentary is a typical example. He claims that scholars cannot date Mark much earlier than 65 ce for ‘they must allow time for the oral tradition to have developed …’, and that it was probably written sometime in the first five years of the seventies not least because ‘a later date allows more time for the various stages through which … the tradition passed before its incorporation in the Gospel’.48

For the sake of argument let us assume that the Jesus traditions were strongly influenced be a variety of Christian practices and that there was an ‘advanced theological development’ in Mark’s gospel. Is it too much to ask that 10 years could be a long enough time for traditions to develop? Perhaps a pilgrim took note of Jesus’ teaching at Passover and took it immediately back to, say, Rome. Perhaps such traditions did not spread so far so early but the point remains the same: the traditions could have spread quickly at a very early date. Already by the time of Paul’s letters there is what could reasonably be called advanced theological development. One of the most important aspects of Robinson’s Redating the New Testament is his attacks on scholarly presuppositions. One of these attacks was aimed at the assumption of a developed tradition means a late gospel:

But this judgment is precariously subjective. It is impossible to say a priori how long is required for any development, or for the processes, communal and redactional, to which scholarly study has rightly drawn attention.

It is difficult to disagree with such sentiments. Indeed in the case of Mark’s gospel some of the passages are famously ‘offensive’ and what may be called ‘undeveloped’ and significantly altered or omitted by Matthew and Luke, such as Jesus being labelled ‘out of his mind’ (Mk 3:21), his lack of healing powers in Nazareth (Mk 6:5; cf. Mt. 13:58), and his refusal to be called ‘good’ (Mk 10:17–18; cf. Mt. 19:16–17; Lk. 18:18–19). Casey has gone even further and argued that Mark’s gospel contains a significant amount of literal translations of Aramaic sources (probably from eyewitnesses) which is lacking in serious secondary editing, so much so that it may have been written c. 40 CE.50 Also this present study will put forward a view that Mark’s attitude towards the Torah is both very Jewish and extremely early and would eventually require the kinds of developments and qualifications found in Matthew and Luke.

There have of course been attempts to show that individual traditions finding their way into Mark’s gospel must have been influenced be events after Jesus’ death. A popular example is that of the apparent martyrdom of James and John (Mk 10:35–45). It is often argued that this passage reflects the deaths of James and John, supposedly both in the early forties based on the combined evidence of Acts 12:2 and that of Papias, found in Georgios Monachus and this in Philip of Side: ὅτι Ἰωάννης ὁ θεολόγος καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ἀνῃρέθησαν. This kind of argument cannot be accepted, particularly as Gal. 2:9 acknowledges John as one of the pillars of the church and Acts 12:2 only mentions the death of James: Luke would surely have mentioned the death of John had it occurred at this time, indeed it may be that given only half of the Markan prophecy had been fulfilled in Acts 12:2 Luke felt it necessary to generalise Mark at this point with no mention of the question of James and John (Lk. 22:24–27). Hengel knows that it is extremely difficult to argue that John was martyred in the early forties but nonetheless accepts the validity of the Papias tradition. For Hengel the prophecy concerning the martyrdom of James and John (Mk 10:39ff.) is, in the form we now have it, ‘certainly formulated as a vaticinium ex eventu, i.e., it is presupposed that the hearer knows about the violent death, presumably of both disciples, and at least of one of them …’. Again the evidence used to defend this view is from the Papias tradition.

Even Hengel’s version of the argument is unconvincing, particularly as it relies on dubious evidence from a late date: the Papias saying is from the De Boor fragment of the Epitome of the History of Philip of Side (early fifth century); compare the saying of Georgios Monachus (ninth century) according to the Codex Coisilinianus 305 which claims that John was worthy of martyrdom and killed be the Jews because Papias said so in the second book of his Exegesis of the Dominical Oracles. This late tradition is general and lacking in context, giving us no evidence of the date of the martyrdom of John or the circumstances in which John was killed. Moreover, as Zuntz noted, the generalising nature of the Jewish blame is typical of secondary anachronistic polemic (cf. John’s gospel). It is quite possible that the later evidence of John’s martyrdom was instead based on Mk 10:39ff., as an attempt to make sure scriptural prophecy was properly fulfilled, particularly as Acts 12:2 only describes the death of James. Casey notes the tradition that John lived until old age in Ephesus, a powerful argument against the tradition of his martyrdom, commenting that it ‘would surely not have been produced if John had really been martyred in accordance with a scriptural prophecy attributed to Jesus’.56

Bacon was particularly keen to show that the traditions which found their way into Mark’s gospel were influenced be ‘earlier’ events. For example, Bacon believed that the combination of ‘Pharisees and Herodians’ (Mk 3:6; 12:13) or the warning against the Pharisees and Herod (8:15) opposing Jesus reflects Acts 12:3 and ‘Herod’ Agrippa’s attack which pleased many Jews. Bacon suggested there are reasons against this being an even earlier tradition. For example, he claimed that there was no such sect as ‘the Herodians’ at the time of Jesus. Moreover, Bacon continued, ‘all loyal Jews’ hated the Herod family intensely ‘down to the adoption be Agrippa I of his pro-Pharisean policy’; until then ‘it is difficult to see how such a party could exist’. Finally Bacon commented that in the parallel traditions the term Herodians is omitted, with the exception of Mt. 22:16. Thus for Bacon, ‘we can hardly suppose the Gospel to have been written a year before the pro-Pharisaic policy of Agrippa was developed. In fact the very domicile of Mark in the persecution of 41–42 was the refuge of the Church against these same assailants “the Pharisees with the Herodians” (Acts 12:11 f.).’

This approach is not as decisive as Bacon believed. There is no good reason why there could not have been a joint opposition of Pharisees and ‘Herodians’ at the time of Jesus, in fact it is very likely. John the Baptist had already been killed be Herod Antipas so there is nothing unreasonable about him fearing another prophet and there is actually some indication of this in the gospel tradition (Mk 6:14–16; Lk. 13:31). Indeed he may have feared a popular uprising as he did with John (Ant. 13.109–119). The Pharisees were in a bitter intra-Jewish conflict with the historical Jesus, as witnessed across the synoptic tradition. This kind of union with a mutual enemy is, on one level, perfectly understandable. Note also that Mk 3:6 is at the end of two Sabbath disputes which would mean death according to some rabbinical authorities (m. Sanh. 7.8; cf. y. Sanh. 7:11). If this was present in the first century, as it appears is assumed in Mk 2:23–3:6, then the Pharisees would need the help of Herod, although some Pharisees would no doubt have disapproved (cf. Lk. 13:31). It does not matter if there was a distinct sect or group called the ‘Herodians’, they need be nothing more than people from Herod, representatives of the secular power. There is, therefore, no need to resort to a post-42 date for the traditions concerning Herod(ians) and Pharisees.

4. The Composition of Mark’s Gospel

Arguments concerning the actual writing down of Mark’s gospel, so often combined with the form critical arguments, have been used to argue for both relatively late and (less commonly) early dates for Mark. This is clearly set out in Guy’s 1968 commentary on Mark. He accepted the view that Mark’s gospel was probably written about 65 ce and he gives ‘three main reasons why the narrative was not immediately committed to writing’. (1) The early Christians were not, apparently, literary people and most of the first-century Christians ‘would not have had the ability or the time to set out a written account’. Guy argues that writing a book was ‘a long and expensive business’ and ‘very few people could afford to possess books of their own and the early Christians, most of them busy working people and some of them slaves, were not accustomed to handling or writing books’. (2) Even if they had the opportunity to write a document, ‘it is doubtful if they would have seen the necessity for a written account, for future preservation. The urgent matter for them was for everyone to hear the gospel, especially in view of the expectation that the “end of age” was near … The message had to be delivered to as many as possible, before it was too late. There would be no point in setting it down for the benefit of future generations.’60 This popular view has received weighty support from Hengel. Hengel notes that in terms of language and content Mark is ‘extraordinarily coherent, and both literarily and theologically it gives the impression of being very mature’. Thus the clarity of Mark’s writing ‘does not fit well into the earliest period of ferment after the birth of Christianity, when the events of a recent past were still vivid to many people, and they were expecting an imminent end with burning hearts’. For Hengel, in this earliest period of ‘eschatological enthusiasm’ there had been ‘hardly any thought of a “Jesus biography”, but only of the proclamation be word of mouth of the new message … within a limited area’. (3) Guy also argues that the story could be remembered orally and learned off be heart, just as the rabbis practised and just as was taught in Roman schools. ‘All this was possible because people in the ancient world had very good memories. This is still the case in places in the modern world where people do not rely on the written word as much as we do.’62

These views are not convincing. That people were illiterate is simply an assumption but even if it were true it means exceptionally little. Were the Christians of the sixth decade more literate and ‘book minded’ than those of the third or fourth? If very few people could afford books in the third decade why was it different in the sixth? If they were not accustomed to handling documents when did this happen? None of this logically holds together and it has to be stated bluntly that this is one of the weakest arguments I have come across concerning the date of Mark.

Guy’s second point concerning eschatological enthusiasm is common but is an assumption that should no longer be accepted. On this rationale Daniel would never have been written! But Daniel was written and at a time when a major eschatological event was probably even more imminent than that of the first Christians (cf. Dan. 12:9–13; Mk 9:1). Nor is this an exception, because the Dead Sea Scrolls clearly show that an eschatologically minded group could write and collect writings. Even the important support of Hengel adds little to the argument. Does a theologically mature text have to be late? Why not 10 years later? It cannot be stressed enough that 10 years is a lot longer than many New Testament scholars give credit. Also how is it possible to verify that no one was interested in a Jesus biography in the early times? What if a group of recent converts asked for this, would it be turned down? If they could not write it down in the earliest decades why could they during the Jewish war when eschatological enthusiasm would have also been intense? It can only be concluded that arguments such as these assume too much about the psychology of the earliest Christians, they neglect clear evidence of eschatological texts being collected or even written at times when the end is nigh, and are all too often contradictory in nature.

Guy’s third point, namely that the story could have been remembered orally, is extremely weak, because it is irrelevant: no ancient Jewish or Christian document could ever be dated on these grounds. As argued earlier, there is no rule over the length of oral traditions and there is no saying when people would have wanted them put into writing. It must be concluded that Guy’s negative arguments, i.e. the reasons why the gospel was not written down at an early date, should not convince anyone.

Guy later gives reasons why the gospel was committed to writing. The original apostles were dying off, notably Peter and Paul in 65–66 ce. Other apostles would have been scattered all over the Roman world and were not available with their first-hand recollections of the life of Jesus. Guy also notes ‘the danger that the story would be distorted because of failing memories and the oral account would be no longer reliable’ which meant a gospel would have to be written, and that the early Christians followed the practice in the synagogues in having readings from the Old Testament and thus ‘there would arise the need for a written account of Jesus’ ministry which could be put alongside this’.

It should be obvious that not one of the reasons Guy gives here necessarily means that the gospel was written in the sixties. Apostles were scattered all over the place from a reasonably early date and some also appeared to stay in Jerusalem for some time. However, Christians at Corinth, Antioch, or Rome may have wanted a gospel from the beginning particularly if they would not always have an authority close at hand. Guy is also inconsistent at times. At one stage we are told how impressive the ancient memory was, including using the rabbinical tradition as one that could last a few centuries before being committed to writing, yet we are also told that there would have been failing memories in the sixties which would have required the need for a written document. The argument that the Christians would want Jesus’ teaching alongside the Jewish biblical readings is no doubt accurate but this could have occurred at anytime after the death of Jesus and at any Christian base in the Roman Empire.

At this point it is worth noting that a variety of reasons as to why the gospel was put into writing are given by scholars and these reasons are often linked to the date of Mark. Some of these can be briefly highlighted. There is of course the famous argument of Bultmann that Mark was essentially a Pauline gospel written in the face of what Bultmann believed was a genuine issue, the relationship of primitive Palestinian and Hellenistic Christianity. Mark brought these apparently different streams of thought together, with his purpose being, in an oft quoted passage, ‘the union of the Hellenistic kerygma about Christ, whose essential content consists of the Christ myth as we learn of it in Paul (esp. Phil. 2:6ff.; Rom. 3:24) with the tradition of the story of Jesus’. Kelber believes that the emergence of the gospel genre, which he believes to be a new genre, can also help us with dating Mark. He claims that Mark is essentially a new written form, in direct contrast to the earlier oral tradition. For Kelber the destruction of Jerusalem was the focal point which led to the full revamping of the traditions, in fact the traditions from earlier times ‘had been rendered obsolete’. This is because ‘they did not answer to the challenge of the hour … they appeared to be irrelevant’. Mark responds to this ‘unparalleled crisis’ be ‘reshaping and transforming his traditions into the (for Christians) radically new form of gospel … This beginning is the answer to the end of Jerusalem and the implied end of history.’67 In a not too dissimilar way, Radcliffe has also argued that Mark invented a new genre, ‘because apocalyptic was unable to give sense to the collapse of the Christian community in Rome’.

None of these views should be regarded as convincing. Bultmann’s is long outdated and lacks any firm evidence. As argued earlier, there is little evidence that Mark was reliant on Paul. The popular view that Mark invented a new genre has also been seriously challenged and it looks very much as if the gospels fit into the general category of ancient biography, which would hardly have required the fall of Jerusalem or the persecutions under Nero for it to be written. Kelber’s arguments for Mark as a revolutionary document in direct contrast to the earlier oral tradition have been demolished in an article be Hurtado.70 Even if it were accurate it would not have required the events of 66–70 for it to be written. As Hurtado notes, ‘given the focus of the earliest Christian tradition on the figure of Jesus, and given the Greco-Roman interest in bios literature, it is not surprising that Gospels were written’. Incidentally, Radcliffe’s argument that Christians experienced such intense persecutions under Nero that apocalyptic could not cope seems a little odd given not only that Mark does not actually appear to create a new genre but also that Jews were able to continue using what may generally be called apocalyptic both in light of the persecutions of Antiochus IV (Daniel) and the disastrous war against Rome (4 Ezra).

5. Redaction and Literary Criticisms

It is the final composition of Mark that has of course most interested redaction and modern literary critics of the gospel. Redaction criticism has also been influential in establishing the general consensus date for Mark in light of the Jewish war. While the basis for dating Mark remains Mark 13, redaction-critical studies have developed detailed arguments designed to show just how influential these events were for the author of the second gospel and the Markan audience. Although some arguments do explicitly claim that certain editing could only have occurred in the light of the Jewish war, many studies do not suggest their arguments provide actual evidence for the date of Mark. This point cannot be stressed enough. However, these arguments must still be discussed in some detail because they contribute in no small way to the general consensus that Mark’s gospel was written with the Jewish war in mind. In addition to this the possibility of alternative first-century life settings for Markan redaction, if any can be found at all, ought to be assessed. As Mark 13 is the classic passage in locating the date and life setting of Mark’s gospel in the light of the Jewish war based on a prediction concerning the fall of the Temple, the logical progression for Markan scholarship was to analyse other passages that refer to Jerusalem and the Temple, and this is invariably tied up with Mark’s attitude towards Judaism. We may start with certain scholarly opinions on what is perhaps the most discussed passage in this respect: Mk 11:15–17.

6. D. Seeley on Mark 11:15–17

In a detailed article Seeley has attempted to show that Mk 11:15–17 cannot go back to the historic ministry and that it should be seen as a post-70 composition. For Seeley, Mk 11:15–17 indicates the end of the Temple service, picking up various motifs concerning cleansing and destruction in the aftermath of the Jewish war. Following Neusner, Seeley argues, ‘To attack the money-changers was tantamount to attacking the essential, atoning function of the temple itself … We are left, then, with an act in which little or no positive meaning would have been seen by contemporary witnesses. This fact, in turn, makes one wonder whether it was actually performed in the first place.’

Seeley’s approach runs contrary to a number of recent approaches which argue that Jesus’ actions are an attack on a corrupt priesthood. Thus, he is extremely critical of a major proponent of this view, namely C.A. Evans. Seeley believes that there are no passages in which Jesus attacks the priesthood as an institution, the Jewish material is either rabbinical, and therefore too late, or comes from Josephus’ illustrations which discuss the years leading up to and including the Jewish war. Concerning the latter Seeley comments, ‘Incidents from that period, when social order was breaking down, cannot comfortably be used as an index to earlier events.’74 Seeley then proceeds to suggest that any aggressiveness against the financial people in the Temple, ‘would probably have caused onlookers to surmise that Jesus was angry because he had been cheated. The thought that he was attacking these people in order to protest against priestly corruption seems unlikely to have occurred to anyone watching.’ If Jesus was not against sacrifice, as Evans argues, then Seeley believes that Jesus could simply have thrown coins at the priests to show his anger. For Seeley, ‘if Jesus did not want people to think he were against sacrifice, why did he drive out those who provided a service necessary to it?’ Although Evans does not explicitly say so Seeley suspects that he assumes ‘that the traders were making an exorbitant profit on the sale of animals, and on money changing, and then passing on at least part of that money to their corrupt bosses, the priests’. However, Seeley argues that there is no evidence for this particular financial abuse. If Jesus really did as was said of him, ‘Onlookers would instead be more apt to regard him as angry for having been taken advantage of personally be these businessmen.’76 Indeed, Seeley questions why Jesus would attack ‘ “the little guys,” the poor working men, if one really wants to condemn the architects of a perceived evil …’.

Seeley’s criticisms of Evans are not strong and some comments must be made. If Evans is correct then one of Seeley’s arguments that Mark is a post-70 composition falls. Indeed the evidence Evans cites remains valid and should not be dismissed so lightly. The rabbinical material includes references to sometime around our period including passages that are directly relevant. For example, Simon ben Gamaliel was fiercely critical of the price of doves being many times more expensive than they ought to have been (m. Ker. 1.7). This strongly parallels Jesus’ concern and is attributed to a first-century Jew alive c. 10–80 ce so it is perfectly reasonable to assume that Jesus’ attack on dove sellers could reflect pre-66 Judaism and, for what it is worth, the attitude of the historical Jesus. It shows at least that the rabbinical passage accurately reflects a first-century concern in Mark: these are two independent traditions claiming that dove sellers are corrupt in some way and both attribute this concern to the same period. This suggests that there were people concerned with the price of doves at the time of Jesus and that such rabbinical material should not be dismissed because it is late, either this or posit a remarkable coincidence. The Dead Sea Scrolls should not be dismissed so lightly either. Attacks on a perceived economic exploitation are common and at the very least they bear witness to a tradition of perceiving the Temple authorities to be exploiting people (cf. 1QpHab. 8.8–12; 9.4–5; 10.1; 12.10; 4QpNah. 1.11; CD 6.16, 21). Given this context, combined with the attack on the traders in Mark, Jesus’ attacks on rich people, and Jesus’ concern for the poor, it should not come as a surprise that Mark portrays Jesus launching an attack on a perceived economic exploitation. In this respect there is nothing stopping Mk 11:15–17 recording the attitude of the historical Jesus. This certainly would not require the destruction of the Temple for Mark to include it in his gospel. That the historical Jesus would have thrown coins at the priest if he had this concern, as Seeley suggests, is simply a guess. It is difficult to know how Seeley knows that onlookers would have perceived Jesus as being disgruntled at being conned. Given the background of perceived economic exploitation there is at least evidence to argue that the general scenario suggested be Evans is much more likely. This in turn says very little about dating: a writer could incorporate such material at almost any time in the first century.

Nor would this kind of action have indicated the cessation of the sacrifices. On the contrary it appears that this is a very angry man, furious at certain people being exploited and hindered in their sacrifices (cf. Lev. 5:7; 12:8). From the perspective of the Markan Jesus at least, the Temple authorities were not behaving as they ought to. Nor is it valid to reject the historicity of Jesus’ Temple action because Jesus would have been wrong to attack the ‘little guys’. This may be a valid ethical question but it is totally out of place in historical reconstruction. If Jesus did not behave in the way in which we would like then that is too bad. It should not be rationalised too much about what we might think an angry man like Jesus should have done. Once again, if this accurately reflects the attitude of the historical Jesus then it hardly demands a post-70 date for its incorporation into Mark’s gospel.

It should also be noted that Seeley takes the references to the hindering of the money changers far too literally: ‘In so large an area, would Jesus really have felt that eliminating the money changers and traders would make that much difference?’ Again, ‘how would one man drive out all the traders and money changers?’79 This is misleading. The extent of Jesus’ actions are not known and it is quite possible Mark exaggerated them, just as he does elsewhere in reports that look very much like they refer to historical events (Mk 1:5, 32–33; 7:3; 11:11). That said, Mark does not say Jesus drove out all the money changers and traders anyway! He may not have wanted any of them in the Temple but this need only be an attack on what he believed to be people exploiting the poor and not behaving as they ought to. For all we know the historical or the Markan Jesus may simply have wanted them outside the Temple precincts. Concerning Mk 11:15–17, Seeley is therefore misleading when he comments that the Temple ‘cannot function without sacrificial animals and shekels, as well as the vessels which its priests carry through it’. For Seeley this must imply, particularly when read in the context of Mk 11–12, ‘the end of temple operations …’. But nothing in the text says that Jesus prohibited the sale of sacrificial animals, yet it does indicate a criticism of people in the financial sector. Again it does not matter that Jesus prohibited the money being carried through the Temple: it need only be an attack on a symbol of the exploitation and a plea for the financial dealings to be done elsewhere. This attitude may well reflect the historical Jesus and so once more it does not require the fall of the Temple for it to be included in a gospel.

Seeley does not believe that the historical Jesus would have quoted Isa. 56:7. He thinks it unlikely that Jesus would simply protest at ‘the distracting presence of animals and traders in the part of the temple reserved for Gentiles’, nor would he be concerned for ‘Gentiles to be able to pray quietly, without the noise and jostling attendant upon this commercial activity’. Seeley believes this is out of character for Jesus. Jesus had no concern with a lack of consideration towards gentiles, ‘it seems awkward for him to stress the temple as the place to pray. The gospels generally portray Jesus as a somewhat iconoclastic person who often challenges institutional or regularised modes of religion and emphasises individual, sincere actions’ (Mk 2:23–28; 7:1–13; 6:6; Q [Lk.] 11:1–4). ‘It is hard to imagine him becoming exercised over anyone praying at a certain location’ and if Jesus was concerned with gentile rights he could have said so more effectively in, say, a parabolic fashion.

All Seeley has done is to attack a set of assumptions and replace them with his own. The text says nothing about gentiles praying quietly. One thing that can be assumed is that there was a court for the gentiles and its abstract ideal function would not have been disputed. It does not matter that the historical Jesus did not have a great concern for the well-being of gentiles because he, or indeed anyone who went to the Temple, would have been confronted directly with the court of the gentiles anytime upon entering it and so this may well be an accurate recording in Mark of the historic ministry or indeed of a heavily redacted passage written when the Temple was standing. Besides, the role of the gentiles in this passage should not be over-emphasised. As Casey notes, the court of the gentiles would have been packed with Jewish pilgrims at Passover, as Mark would also surely have known, so there is no need to go as far as saying this is a direct concern for gentiles. Indeed, the Isaiah passage is set in the context of gentiles bringing sacrifices for the Temple and observing the Sabbath so the concern is not simply of a place for gentiles to pray quietly. Seeley sets up a false opposition when he claims that it is awkward to stress a concern for prayer when Jesus was an iconoclastic figure concerned with individual actions: the obvious response is, Why? That said, there is no explicit concern for prayer as such anyway: the quote from Isaiah 56:7 is better understood as a polemical contrast between a view of the ideal Temple and the present (and perceived as being) corrupt Temple. Moreover, discussing Jesus as some kind of proto-anarchist will not do, attractive as this may or may not be. The passages Seeley cites, and many more could be added, show Jesus attacking an expansion of the Torah. As will be argued, this was a dispute over the right interpretation of the Torah and most unlike Seeley’s description of Jesus’ teaching. So again it looks as if Mk 11:15–17 is an accurate recording of the historical Jesus’ attitude.

After rejecting Jesus’ Temple act as an historical event Seeley believes that he is now in a position to view Mk 11:15–17 as a Markan composition. He is quite explicit that it was inspired be the Jewish war: ‘it seems improbable that, without the stimulus of the events of 70 ce, anyone would have imagined a Messiah who assaults the temple’. Seeley also believes that Mk 11–12 was composed so that the Temple act ‘must be construed as the end of temple operations, not just the rejection of temple leadership’ because it fits into what Seeley perceives as Markan redaction in light of 70 ce: ‘the end of the temple service constitutes a powerful motif running through the last chapters of Mark’. Seeley gives some examples of this apparent redaction. When Jesus is asked about his authority (11:28) he recalls John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins (1:4). This, Seeley believes, implies that the Temple system is obsolete. Seeley points to Jesus’ trial, particularly the suggestion that Jesus would replace the Temple (14:58). This must refer to the resurrection and the early Christians ‘would have believed that, despite the witnesses’ intent, Jesus’ resurrection did indeed signal the obsolescence of the second temple and the inauguration of a new one’. The taunt of Mk 15:29 ‘can also be seen as an ironic anticipation of the old order’s end and the beginning of the new order’. The rending of the veil (15:38) also points in the direction of a defunct sacrificial system. ‘Mark pondered the meaning of the temple’s destruction and concluded that it was a punishment for Jewish rejection of Jesus … It would also be necessary, of course, to narrate some conflict between Jesus and the temple system.’

Seeley is a good example of a common view in gospel scholarship, namely one that views every possible reference to the Temple as being written up in the light of the Jewish war. Seeley’s points, like many scholars working with redaction criticism and literary criticism on Mark, are over-exaggerated. Mark does not portray Jesus assaulting the Temple: he portrays him attacking a specific group of people in the Temple. Again, even if there is a motif of the end of the Temple running through the last chapters of Mark it does not follow that it must necessarily be due to the Jewish war. It cannot be stressed enough that the Caligula crisis was a very important event in Judaism. Any motif concerning the end of the Temple could have been written around this time, or indeed at the time of any perceived threats to the Temple. As for the end of the sacrificial system in Mark the evidence is not convincing. There is no evidence that John’s baptisms were believed to have been an alternative means of forgiveness to the Temple. This would surely have been transmitted if this were the case. Seeley, like so many scholars, does not think Jews could be forgiven directly be God outside the Temple. They could of course (e.g. Pss. 32; 51; Sir. 3:30; Ps. Sol. 9:6). Moreover, Mk 11:28 focuses on Jesus’ authority, an important issue in Mark and probably in the historic ministry too (e.g. Mk 1:21f., 27; 2:6ff.; 3:22ff.; 4:35–41; 11:27–33; Mk 14:62), without necessarily referring to forgiveness. The reference to the false witnesses at Jesus’ trial does not necessarily imply the end of sacrifices. Mark 14:58 is placed on the lips of false witnesses and their words are confused, as implied be 14:59. The early Christians would no doubt see an ironic reference to the resurrection but given the fact that the witnesses are confused a reference to sacrifices should not be pushed too much. Perhaps all we are supposed to think is that the false witnesses could not understand the reference to the resurrection.

At this point some comments should be made concerning Mk 15:38 and the rending of the Temple veil, which is commonly assumed to refer to the fall of Jerusalem and/or the end of the Temple service for Christians with Jesus as its replacement. However, these views must now be seriously questioned due to the important work of Aus which must be discussed in some detail. Aus has provided a significant background to the rending of the Temple curtain in the context of mourning practices and applied this to Mk 15:38 arguing that this is an early Christian haggadah where God rent his garment (the outer curtain of the Temple) in deep mourning for his only son.92 Rending a garment in mourning was standard Jewish practice. One significant example is that of King David. David rents (קרע) his clothes for the slain King Saul (2 Sam. 1:11–12), the Lord’s ‘Anointed One’ (2 Sam. 1:14, 16). The later Jewish sources such as Semahoth 9 discuss how a garment should be torn. For people generally the garments are torn a handbreadth, based on 1 Sam. 1:11. For parents the garment should be torn so that the chest is showing. It is important to note rabbinical passages which discuss the direction of the tearing, starting from the shoulder downwards to the chest or even the navel (b. Mo’ed Qat. 26b; cf. Joel 2:13; Sem. 9.6). This would all make sense of the expression ἐσχίσθη εἰς δύο ἀπʼ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω in Mk 15:38: God, Jesus’ heavenly father, rents his garment (note the ‘divine passive’ ἐσχίσθη) ‘not only from top to bottom, but also completely “in two”.’ Also worth noting is 2 Kgs 2:12. When Elijah ascended to heaven Elisha tore his clothes in two rent pieces (קרעים לשנים/εἰς δύο ῥήγματα). In the case of God’s mourning for his son Jesus we also get the ‘garment’ torn in two, but fully, as Elisha did for Elijah, which ‘demonstrates the great intensity of God’s mourning for His only Son’. Another tradition according to R. Jacob of Kefar Hanan (c. 280 ce) in Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 15, in a midrash on Lamentations 2:17 which further illuminates Mk 15:38, states that God rent his purple garment (מבזע פירפיריה) over the fall of Jerusalem in the sixth century bce. God, like earthly kings, is presented as wearing purple, and the curtains of both the tabernacle and the Second Temple were also made of purple (Ant. 3.124–129, 183; 8.72; War 5.212; 6.390; Philo, Cong. 117; Mos. 2.86). Note also that the term פרגודא/פרגוד used for the heavenly curtain can also mean ‘tunic’ or ‘garment’ (cf. b. Hag. 15a).

This is an extremely important view because there is much more evidence for this than the arguments claiming Mk 15:38 symbolises the end of the Temple service or the destruction of Jerusalem. Some of Aus’ evidence is late but the fact that much of this is combined with traditions firmly based in the Jewish scriptures, and backed up with notable parallels from Josephus, Philo, Mark and a well-known tradition of tearing garments for mourning would suggest that Jewish people or people familiar with Jewish traditions would have picked up the references to God’s mourning for his son Jesus in Mk 15:38. Moreover, it fits into the Markan narrative context as another piece of cosmic imagery, in addition to the darkness (15:33), not unlike the dramatic imagery used to describe the deaths of great figures in Jewish literature as Aus has shown. Luke and especially Matthew appear to note this and heighten the cosmic imagery (Mt. 27:51–53; Lk. 23:44–45). Aus notes the popular views that Mk 15:38 refers to the fall of Jerusalem and/or the end of the sacrificial system, commenting that this ‘may have been the view of Mark and other Christians after the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce’ but that ‘this was simply not true before that date … Jesus’ death had redemptive significance for them, yet it did not exclude continued active participation in the Jewish cult’. This is a very important point because it shows that the date of Mark’s gospel must be determine first before post-70 views are read into Mk 15:38, and even if Mark was post-70 it would not necessarily mean that the idea of God mourning would have been forgotten: This view undermines the use of Mk 15:38 be Seeley and so many Markan scholars as evidence of a negative view of the Temple system.

Returning to Seeley’s article and his claim that Mark faced a tricky problem: he was faced with a concern for the security of the Temple and the absence of a Jewish tradition concerning a Messiah opposing the Temple. Seeley suggests that Mark’s solution to this problem was an ambiguous attitude towards the Temple. Jesus’ attack is not on the priests but on the traders whose ‘business is absolutely essential to the functioning of the temple. Without them, the tax for upkeep cannot be paid, and there will be a shortage or dearth of animals necessary for sacrifice. Mark has thus presented an incident that furthers his plot marvelously, since 11:15–19 can appear both as a cleansing and as a symbol of the end of the temple service.’ This allows Mark to present readers at first with ‘a reforming or purifying messiah’. This means that there is no ‘great consternation among those aware that the Messiah was not supposed to utter such threats’. The references to scripture about a general cleansing would make this more acceptable for some. Yet the implication of the Temple’s end was unavoidable. ‘No matter how Mark got the idea of having Jesus begin his conflict with the temple … the act fits the Second Gospel’s plot line so well that its compositional appropriateness far outweighs the difficulties in trying to conceive it as a historical event.’99

Unfortunately Seeley’s argument is so dominated be his view that Mk 11:15–17 is historically inaccurate that he almost invents problems that Mark faced. It is particularly ironic that Seeley, like Mack, rejects the historicity of the passage partially based on a view that Jesus as Messiah would not attack the Temple, because be this logic it follows that the historical Jesus must have thought of himself as Messiah for this not to have happened, something that is not particularly associated with scholars like Seeley and Mack. That said, it does not even matter that there was no tradition concerning the Messiah opposing the Temple, particularly if it is accepted that Mk 11:15–17 is a reasonably accurate recording of an event from the historic ministry. Jesus’ actions, and this should be stressed again, do not imply an end to the sacrificial system. The historical Jesus, and indeed the Markan Jesus, was protesting at what was thought was an abuse and something against the Torah: exploiting the poor in the context of selling sacrificial animals. Jesus’ actions caused problems naturally and the Temple authorities sought to kill Jesus for this. As has been argued, and indeed will be further argued, Seeley is quite wrong to write off the passage for any historical worth. Jesus’ actions in the Temple are be far the best reason for Jesus being put to death. Consequently, this passage does not demand a post-70 date for Mark’s gospel.

However, Seeley does speculate that if historically accurate then merchants would have got angry and responded and others may have joined in. Jesus’ disciples may have responded and if so it may have looked like a takeover of the area ‘by a gang that had suddenly shown up from Galilee, a region noted for its revolutionaries’. It is not likely that the Romans would then have stood by. Seeley rejects the Markan view that Jesus would have been protected be the crowds because no one would have really known him and the crowds would call for his blood later anyway (15:11–14). ‘Why would they experience such a quick and drastic change in sentiment?’ This again is highly misleading. It is not so easy to predict just what will happen when someone gets angry. It cannot be assumed that they will react in the way Seeley believes. This enormous assumption is simply not backed up. Even if the situation were to have escalated in the way Seeley believes it should have done (if accurate) he does not explain how the Romans would have known this group to have been Galileans. It is far from certain that Jesus was not known be the crowds, particularly in light of Mk 14:49. If it is assumed for the moment that both this passage and Mk 15:11–14 are accurate it is entirely possible that these were two different crowds, or it may even be correct that the crowds were stirred up be the chief priests (15:11). It has to be stated bluntly: Seeley’s criticisms aimed at the historicity of this passage are pure speculations over what he thinks would happen if the passage were accurate, and nothing more.

As for the ambiguity of the Temple theme in Mark this, as this study is consistently stressing, does not necessarily mean a setting in light of the Jewish war. The Caligula crisis is a perfectly acceptable alternative for such a theme. Indeed it could be even earlier. It looks very much like Jesus threatened the fall of the Temple and, if Acts is in any way accurate, this was a continuing early belief, held be Stephen at least. Paul does not appear to have an overtly negative view of the Temple, as Seeley notes, and many Christians continued to worship there after the death of Jesus. Thus the combination of a threat of destruction and a general acceptability of the role of the Temple could lead to an ambiguous view of the Temple as early as the historic ministry and continuing in the following decades. It is quite misleading to say that compositional appropriateness outweighs the historical difficulties. If Jesus had attacked the traders and the Temple authorities and issued a threat against the Temple at Passover in Jerusalem then it is not difficult to imagine the core of any ‘anti’-Temple theme being present from the time of the historic ministry.

Seeley argues, as so many have also done, that the conclusion of the story of the fig-tree (Mk 11:20–21) indicates the Temple’s end. In Mk 11:25, ‘Jesus finishes his comments on the awesome effectiveness of prayer be counseling hearers to forgive whenever they pray. If they do, God will forgive them. This process would render the temple’s sacrificial system needless. Verse 25 thus unassumingly, without actually mentioning the temple, undermines its role in Jewish life.’ Seeley also points to Mk 13; 14:58; 15:29; 15:38. Again, why does this have to refer to the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Temple service at all? The fig-tree could easily be a Markan reference to the leaders that plot to kill Jesus, a rejection theme that genuinely does run throughout Mk 11–15: There are of course passages that may refer to the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple (e.g. 11:23) but even if this were the case it could have been written around the Caligula crisis or another perceived threat instead of the Jewish war. Also the idea of God forgiving people directly was perfectly acceptable in Judaism and so it does not have to render the Temple obsolete.

7. G. Theissen and J. Marcus on Mark 11:15–17

Theissen and Marcus have developed a different approach to Mk 11:15–17 yet, importantly for this study, they share with Seeley the idea that Markan redaction reflects the Jewish war. Theissen claims that the cleansing of the Temple (Mk 11:15–17) is justified in Mark be the quotations from Isa. 56:7 and Jer. 7:11 and that the combination of these ‘could be determined be experiences during the Jewish war’. Theissen notes that the rebellion began when ‘radical groups’ excluded gentiles from any participation in the cult be refusing to accept their sacrifices and gifts (War 2.409ff.) and therefore ‘the temple was no longer a house of prayer for the Gentiles’. Later in the war the inner Temple was a place of shelter for what Josephus calls ‘robbers’ or ‘brigands’, ‘that made the temple itself a robbers’ den’.

Marcus uses similar arguments to those of Theissen and adds some of his own. Marcus believes that the references to Jer. 7:11 and Isa. 56:7 in Mk 11:17 are an important indication of the Sitz im Leben of Mark. Marcus notes supposed Markan redaction, e.g. καὶ ἐδίδασκεν καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς and γέγραπται, and that the reference to the Temple as a house of prayer for the gentiles goes beyond the situation envisaged in the pericope. Marcus adds that the conflation of two or more Old Testament passages is typically Markan. Mark has apparently developed a tradition through the use of Old Testament language. Marcus adds that the use of λῃστής indicates violent robbers or brigands thus reflecting the Jewish revolutionaries described by Josephus in the Temple in 66–70. Despite the fact that λῃστής does not always denote a revolutionary brigand, Jer. 7:11 being a perfect example of this, in this case, according to Marcus, it probably does, pointing to other uses in Mark denoting this meaning (14:48; 15:27). Thus it is argued that the force of 11:17 is, ‘ “God intended this place for international prayer; you have made it a nationalistic stronghold.” ‘ This reflects the anti-gentile mood of the revolutionaries described in Josephus (War 2.409, 414, 5.562–64) and would have been of interest to Mark because of a largely gentile community. For Marcus, ‘the Temple made by hands, having fallen into the clutches of brigands who deny its universal purpose and turn it into a desolating abomination, has now been replaced by a church not made be hands, which restores God’s vision of a house of prayer for all nations (11:17; 13:14; 14:58)’.

Some of the points raised by Theissen and Marcus may be accurate but they are hardly decisive. The view that Mk 11:15–17 reflects a situation after 70 is backed up with reference to Mk 13:1–2 yet, as was argued in the previous chapter, this is not the only plausible interpretation of 13:1–2. In Mk 11:15–17 the criticisms are specifically aimed at those buying and selling in the Temple, money changers and dove sellers, with no genuine reference to the fall of Jerusalem. It could of course be argued that Jesus’ actions in the Temple symbolically pointed to the destruction of the Temple, as scholars such as Sanders, Crossan, and Wright have done, and then apply this to a setting around the time of the Jewish war. However, it should be noted that the passages cited be Wright and Sanders as indications of ‘prophetic symbolism’ being comparable with Jesus’ action (e.g. Isa. 20:3; Jer. 19:1–13; Jer. 27–28; Ezek. 4–5; 12:1–16; 24:15–24), as Sanders rightly notes, required interpretation so that they could be understood. But this is precisely the problem with this view: unlike the recorded actions of the prophets, there is no explanation of Jesus’ actions in Mk 11:15–17 and given what the text of Mk 11:15–17 actually tells us it is difficult to see this action as a symbolic destruction. There would also be no need to mention the money changers and those who sold doves, which clearly points us in the direction of perceived economic exploitation with particular reference to the requirements of the Torah (cf. Lev. 5:7; 12:8). Moreover, contra Seeley, there is plenty of evidence illustrating perceived financial exploitation in the Second Temple. In this context the quotations from Isa. 56:7 and Jer. 7:11 make good sense and there is no need to posit a post-70 interpretation.

The redactional elements noted be Marcus may be Markan but they do not dramatically alter the sense of the passage and if Mark did deliberately conflate two Old Testament passages it is still entirely possible that this was adapted from an earlier teaching, perhaps even that of Jesus himself. Even if these Old Testament references are typically Markan they tell us little about date. Again notice that they are applied to the financial figures in the Temple in Mark, a possible (cf. t. Menah. 13:22) but hardly an obvious reference to 66–70. The common interpretation of λῃστής as revolutionaries is also misleading: hyperbole is found across the synoptic tradition and the Jeremiah text, which does not refer to revolutionaries, is an excellent text to use in an attack on economic corruption. Marcus is incorrect to say that the reference to a place of worship for all nations goes beyond the original situation envisaged in the passage: this is a reference to the ideal Temple in contrast to the perceived economic corruption. It is particularly worth noting the full reference to Isa. 56:7 (quoted in Mk 11:17) concerning gentiles because it refers to gentiles observing the Torah: ‘these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer of all peoples’. In addition to this the Temple contained a court of the gentiles, so a lot more evidence than that which Mark gives us would be needed if some kind of replacement symbolism was implied. There is therefore no indication whatsoever that Mark believed the Church replaced the Temple as a house for all nations as Marcus argues. Moreover, Mk 11:15–17 explicitly refers to the physical Temple as the place of worship for all nations and even if Mk 14:58 is supposed to refer to what Mark believed Jesus to have said it still does not necessarily carry any reference to the Church. Mark 14:58 is exceptionally vague and could even refer to the rebuilding of the Temple (cf. e.g. 1 Enoch 90.28f.; Tob. 13:10; 14:5ff.; 11QT; T. Benj. 9; Sib. Or. 3.280–294; 5.414–433). It is worth contrasting this with Jn 2:19 which makes it clear that the rebuilding of the physical Temple is not implied. There is no such clarity in Mark. Thus Marcus has not succeeded in showing that Mk 11:15–17 was redacted around the time of the Jewish war.

8. Mark 11:15–17: From the Historical Jesus to Markan Redaction

Given the importance of this passage and the detailed criticisms of certain scholarly approaches in this study, some comments should be made on the most likely development of Mk 11:15–17 from the historical Jesus to its present form. The tradition that Jesus predicted the fall of the Temple is well attested and probably reflects Jesus’ attitude in some way although some passages may be secondary (Mk 11:12–14, 20ff./Mt. 21:18–22; Lk. 19:41–44; Mk 14:58/Mt. 26:61; Mk 15:29/Mt. 27:40; Mk 13:1–2/Mt. 24:1–2/Lk. 21:5–6; cf. Acts 6:14; Jn 2:19; Gos. Thom. 71). It can reasonably be inferred that Jesus said something concerning the destruction, just as is found in Jeremiah 7 from which Jesus quotes. In Jeremiah 7 a major theme is that the Temple is to be ruined because of the various abuses. If Jesus, standing in the prophetic tradition, did object to what he perceived as the economic and legal abuse of the Temple and preached with reference to Jeremiah 7, as seems likely, then this theme would also be of importance. It is a threat telling the Temple authorities to change their ways and if they did not the Herodian Temple would be destroyed as was the first Temple. This may well have required a new Temple as Sanders suggests, a view which should not be dismissed lightly (cf. Mk 14:58). However, this is different from saying that overturning the tables was symbolic of destruction as Sanders believes. Rather, destruction is the logical consequence of disobeying God and God’s messenger. In this context it should be noted that the allegations made during Jesus’ trial concerning the destruction of the Temple do not mention Jesus’ attacks on abuses, because this could work in his favour whereas an implied threat to destroy the Temple certainly would not. Regardless of the historicity of the trial, Mk 14:56ff. and Mt. 27:59ff. are correct in one sense to imply that the allegations were false because Jesus’ threat was conditional. If the authorities did not respond positively then, from Jesus’ perspective at least, destruction would be inevitable and as it was unlikely that they would respond—indeed, they were plotting his death—this became deadly certain as supported be a tradition of Jesus predicting destruction. Likewise the mocking of Jesus on the cross, if historically accurate, should be seen in a similar light: here groups mock Jesus in the context of his helplessness, and knowledge of Jesus’ threat of destruction could be used for such purposes (cf. Deut. 18:20–22).

But what about Markan redaction? Mark retains Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple as an attack on abuses in Mk 11:15–17 with no explicit reference to destruction. However, the literary context in which Jesus’ Temple action is placed probably implies destruction (Mk 11:12–14, 20–24). As noted, Mark does not give any explanation of Jesus’ action so it can be assumed that it is not to be regarded as prophetic symbolism, neither for Mark nor for his audience. It can therefore be argued that from a Markan perspective destruction was also the logical consequence of not accepting God’s messenger, just as it was for Jesus. In other words, Mark also accepts that the Temple was being abused and as a consequence it must be destroyed. The threat of destruction does, then, come from Jesus and is taken up by Mark, although the threat of destruction should not be overlooked at the expense of the Markan condemnation of the Jewish leaders. But what inspired Mark to put the cleansing of the Temple in its present context, which implies some kind of destruction? This is a difficult question to answer if the date of Mark is not as clear-cut as scholars think. Theoretically the combination of the destruction theme with the attack on perceived corruption could have taken place almost immediately after Jesus’ death, possibly because Mark wanted to stress the attack on the Temple authorities, the people believed to be ultimately responsible for Jesus’ death. There are plenty of other possibilities. Perhaps it was edited in the light of the activities of Stephen, assuming that Luke’s description is in someway accurate. The Caligula crisis is another possible context. The Jewish war would be another obvious candidate. The only real benefit this kind of speculation has is that it clearly shows dating Mark cannot rely on Jesus’ Temple actions in Mk 11:15–17.

9. Markan Redaction and Replacement Symbolism

The kinds of scholarly approaches to Mark’s attitude towards Jerusalem, the Temple and Judaism in general, which supposedly locate the gospel around the time of the Jewish war are not of course restricted to Mk 11:15–17. Other passages (particularly, but not exclusively, those located in Mk 10:46–15:39) and themes have been linked to this supposed Markan attitude. In addition to his arguments concerning the cleansing of the Temple, Marcus has provided further arguments for what he believes is Markan replacement symbolism in the light of the Jewish war. At the beginning of the war there were bloody confrontations between Jews and gentiles (e.g. War 2.457–61; 7.362). For Marcus this ‘provides a plausible Sitz im Leben for the Marcan emphasis on openness toward Gentiles and the generally negative verdict on Jews, especially Jewish leaders’. He believes this is the ‘probable Sitz im Leben‘ for the ‘replacement motif’ of Mk 12:9 because Jews were prepared to take up arms against people of Mark’s community (gentiles and Jews open to gentiles) in a desperate attempt to survive.

This kind of argument is of course based on the view that Mark was written c. 70, something which was argued here is not necessarily demonstrated by the usual basis for such beliefs, namely Mark 13. As Marcus knows, tensions between Jews and gentiles were nothing new and the same kind of comments could be made, for example, in light of the Caligula crisis—in its early stages when Jews and gentiles clashed in Jamnia (Gaium 200ff.).115 That said, as argued earlier, the conflict element may come directly from the historic ministry of Jesus, and this conflict explains why Jesus was killed. Mark may well have believed this to be an excellent explanation as to why Jesus was put to death and therefore included it in his gospel. Marcus notes that there are attacks ‘on Jews, especially the Jewish leaders’ in Mark but this is slightly misleading because there are no attacks on Jews as such: the polemic is all aimed at the Jewish leaders and note especially that Mk 12:9 does not really refer to an all out replacement because in Mk 12:12 the Jewish leaders realise that the parable is told against them. As is now well known from Qumran and elsewhere, intra-Jewish disputes occurred and they were polemical and scathing. Thus the context of conflict would no doubt have been meaningful to Christians during the war but it could also have been meaningful to Christians critical of the Temple, Christians during the Caligula crisis or Christians interested in intra-Jewish legal disputes. The positive view towards gentiles tells us little given that the gentile mission was very early. In other words a plausible Sitz im Leben for this theme can be found at almost any time in ancient Christianity. What is important is that other equally plausible settings for such themes and passages should not be ignored.

In a not too dissimilar way from Marcus, Theissen also claims that ‘the parable of the vine-dressers … contained for hearers of Mark’s Gospel a clear echo of the war’. At the end the passage says that the lord of the vineyard will react to the killing of his son: ‘He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others’ (Mk 12:9). Here the reference is clearly aimed at the scribes and Temple authorities which Theissen relates to the fact that ‘the Jewish war led to the destruction of the traditional power elite’. However, Theissen has not shown that this passage indicates that the Temple has fallen. The Temple authorities were, at least from Mark’s perspective, responsible for Jesus’ death so it is not too much to imagine that the early Christians would have wanted some kind of revenge for the death of their leader. Nothing in this verse demands a post-70 date for Mark. Moreover, it is also not too difficult to imagine the historical Jesus saying such a thing in this context and Mark accurately recording this tradition. There is some evidence that Jesus predicted his death and that it would be in Jerusalem (e.g. Lk. 13:33; cf. Mt. 23:29–39), as God’s spokesperson might (cf. 2 Chron. 24:20–21; 36:15–16; Mart. Isa. 5:1–14), and he would surely have been aware of the consequences of his Temple action (Mk 11:15–17). The reference to destruction of the tenants may well imply the fall of the Temple and given that the historical Jesus himself most likely predicted the fall of the Temple it would not take much to work out that this would have disastrous consequences for the Temple authorities. The threat is not too different from other threats in the synoptic tradition, such as those against the Pharisees being refused entry into the kingdom (Mt. 23:13; cf. Mk 3:28ff./Mt. 12:31–32/Lk. 12:10) or those coming from east and west to replace the heirs of the kingdom (Mt. 8:10–12; Lk. 13:22–30), which appears to be aimed at Jesus’ opponents. The common link here is that from the perspective of Jesus and/or the early church at least some of the scribes, Pharisees, and the Temple authorities have failed in their duties and are guilty of killing an important prophet of God. We may or may not agree with this view but people are not always pleasant to one another and it should come as no surprise that there is plenty of polemic in the synoptic tradition. In light of this context it does not follow that Mark must necessarily be post-70, or even written during 66–70, as such material is traditional.

10. Markan Redaction, the Jewish War and Nationalist Movements

Any discussion of Judaism at the time of the Jewish war cannot afford to ignore the Jewish nationalist movements, and those redaction critical scholars who push for a Markan dating at this time are no exception. Marcus, for example, has argued vigorously for Markan Davidic Christology to be read in this context. Marcus notes that certain Jews at the time of the Jewish war viewed themselves in messianic and Davidic terms (War 2.433–34, 444, 652; 4.510; 7.29–31). Most importantly for Marcus is that Mark’s audience ‘would have seen his description of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the antitype to Simon’s entry in April—May 69′. Jospehus notes that Simon was encouraged by the people of the city to enter Jerusalem; he was ‘arrogantly consenting to rule’ and when he entered was ‘greeted as saviour and guardian by the people’. Simon became master of the city and attacked the Temple to drive out rival ‘zealots’ (War 4.574–78). Marcus believes that ‘the parallels with Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry are striking’. In both, he argues, the Davidic figure makes an implicit claim to kingship be entering the city, is hailed as one who saves (cf. Mk 11:9–10) and immediately drives home his respective claim be launching an attack upon the Temple that has fallen into the hands of perceived corruption. Marcus accepts that the basic framework may well have been in place but he argues that the redactional insertions, e.g. 11:11 and 11:17 ‘indicate that Mark actually shaped them’. The redactional element in 11:11 (we have already seen Marcus on 11:17) is due to Mark linking ‘the Davidic thrust of the crowds acclamation (11:9–10) with Jerusalem and the Temple be juxtaposing the acclamation with the redactional verse 11:11’. For Marcus, Mark has linked the ‘Davidic’ section of the narrative (10:46–12:37) in light of the claims of figures like Simon and Menachem. This also, Marcus believes, ‘goes a long way towards explaining the ambivalent attitude his Gospel displays toward Davidic expectations’. This is because on the one hand Mark has to explain that the true ‘Son of David’ appeared earlier in Jerusalem (10:46–52; 11:10–11). On the other hand he has to play it down (12:35–37) due to revolutionary and nationalistic claims made by people such as Simon and Menachem which led to negative views towards gentiles: this is a potential down side to Davidic messianism.

This approach is surely an overemphasis on what Mark actually tells us. As for Marcus’ interpretation of Mk 11:11 it is a little over exaggerated. As Casey notes, after a long journey and surrounded be a group of potentially rowdy followers following the triumphal entry, Jesus would have good reason to simply look around before sleeping, and Mark, after all, does mention that it was late. This makes excellent sense of the Markan text and would be a perfectly natural thing to write without having to look for any hidden Markan meaning.124 Mark may or may not have added to his source but if he did then the additions could only realistically have been imposed on the received chronological order of events. The implications of this are that the general outline of Jesus entering Jerusalem followed be entering the Temple could plausibly be from the historic ministry and accurately recorded by Mark. Any parallels concerning Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the Temple with events of 70 may simply be coincidental.

As for the Triumphal Entry itself Marcus, like so many scholars, has overemphasised the Davidic kingship of Jesus, something Mark does not actually mention. The only time David is mentioned is in 11:10 and this only says ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David’, which is not an unsurprising hope to be attributed to a first-century Jew, i.e. that God would soon fully restore Israel, no doubt delivering them from the Romans. This is even less surprising in the context of Passover, the remembrance of God delivering Israel from Egypt. The lack of a Markan Davidic Christology, at least in the context of the Triumphal Entry, is even more striking when compared with the Matthean and Lukan versions. Matthew adds, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ (Mt. 21:9) and an instruction to tell ‘the daughter of Zion’, ‘Look, your king is coming to you’ (Mt. 21:5). Luke adds ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Lk. 19:38). This emphasis is simply not in Mark. The Markan Jesus is merely ‘the one coming in the name of the Lord’ (Mk 11:9). There is, of course, an emphasis on the importance of Jesus (Mk 11:6–8) but the specific Davidic connotations are understated in Mark in comparison to Matthew and Luke.

The references in Mk 10:46–52 to the ‘Son of David’ are not necessarily ‘messianic’ or an indication of royal descent. Note that this is a healing and that healings are extremely similar to exorcisms in that spirits are cast out. In the exorcisms the importance and righteousness of Jesus are implied by terms such as ‘holy one of God’ in Mark. ‘Son of David’ may well have this function for Mark in 10:46–52, a part of the importance of a reputation and authority that a healer and exorcist would require, as Mark indicates elsewhere (Mk 1:21–28; 6:1–6) and indeed may well be traditional. Moreover, the connotations may be nothing more than an indication of a Jewish person or a good Jew, without being a physical descendent of David, similar to the Jewish sense of, for example, ‘Son of God’ or ‘daughter of Abraham’, hence Mark tells us that Jews were talking of ‘The coming kingdom of our ancestor David’ in 11:10.

With these comments on Mk 10:46–52 and Mk 11:1–11, Mk 12:35–37 tells us very little. As Marcus notes it is ambiguous and does not provide Jesus with a specific title. Thus there is no evidence that Mark was explicitly concerned with the christological title ‘Son of David’ and this makes Marcus’ claims weaker. But even if it is assumed for the moment that it could be deduced from the three passages and in a similar way to Marcus’ argument, the Jewish war is not the only context in which such beliefs would be meaningful. Sometime during the Caligula crisis would again present itself as a possibility and, although there is no known Davidic leader during this crisis, it is not impossible that there could have been. If Jesus’ ‘Triumphal Entry’ and the ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ are to be seen as anti-types, why not an anti-type of Caligula? In other words Jesus enters Jerusalem as a ‘king’ and causes a commotion in the Temple. Perhaps Mark was disturbed at the failures of other figures, often based on important Old Testament names and events, such as Theudas and ‘the Egyptian’, and did not want Jesus to be recognised as such, hence the ambiguity in Mk 12:35–37. After all there was at least one school of thought that appeared to think that the death of these leaders implied that they were of human origin and not from God (Acts 5:33–39). Perhaps Mark wants to avoid any connotations of some self-styled bandit king (cf. War 2.60–62) and thus included the ambiguous Mk 12:35–37. This kind of reasoning can easily be read into Mark and it does not require a date in the late sixties or early seventies. This is all a little speculative but it does show that Marcus’ reasoning can be applied to events prior to the Jewish war.

11. Markan Redaction and Persecution

There are also themes in Mark not directly linked to conflicts with Judaism and that are used to date the gospel. Probably the most important of these is the theme of persecution. This Markan theme has particularly impressed scholars because it is believed that the major motivation for its inclusion is the Neronian persecutions in 64 ce. This has also been found to correlate with some of the external evidence for dating Mark’s gospel after Peter’s death. Martin is a typical example. He picks up the view that Mark was written in the light of a persecution with reference to 8:34ff.; 8:38; 10:30; 10:33; 10:45; 13:8; 13:10 (cf. 1:14; 4:17; 6:17–29; 9:11–13, 30–32; 14:41), commenting, ‘These texts virtually speak for themselves and take on a deeper meaning when set in a background of a church which realises its destiny as ecclesia pressa as the storm clouds of hostility from the Roman imperium gather.’ Martin also discusses the recording of John the Baptist’s martyrdom,128 which he places in the context of the Neronian persecutions, a common view in Markan scholarship. ‘From the evidence … the most viable conclusion to be drawn is that part at least of the historical setting of this Gospel is to be found in the conditions (both internal and outside) of the church at Rome in the middle of the sixth decade of the first century …’

Although it should be noted that some of the passages that are so often raised in connection with a persecuted community and failed followers of Jesus may well go back to the historic ministry, Mark, or at least an earlier editor, does appear to show some interest in such themes, especially persecution. Yet, as Martin himself recognises, the common view that this is a reflection of the persecutions under Nero, ‘builds a great deal upon scraps of information and argues from silence. Above all it depends on the close tie between Peter and John Mark and relates the publication of the gospel to a situation involving Mark’s desire, after Peter’s death as a martyr in the Neronian pogrom, to make public his reminiscences.’ It has already been argued that the external evidence concerning the date of Mark and the link with Peter is highly dubious. This would not fully refute the argument of course and if Mark were to be dated on the basis of the theme of persecution alone then the persecutions under Nero would be one plausible setting. One plausible setting among others that is. For example, why not the persecutions by Agrippa recorded in Acts 12:1ff.? Acts tells us that this was done to please the Jews, so it would be entirely possible that any themes of betrayal would have relevance for any Jewish Christian. Or again, Stephen’s death and the contemporary persecutions be people such as Saul and company (e.g. Acts 8:1ff.; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6) could give rise to an interest in themes of betrayal and persecution. There are also hints of persecutions and suffering scattered throughout Paul’s letters (e.g. 1 Thess. 2:14–16; 3:3–4; 2 Cor. 11:23ff.; Rom. 5:3; Phil. 1:15–17) sometime before the persecutions under Nero. Given that Christians were persecuted and, from a certain perspective at least, betrayed at other times in the first century, it means that this does not necessarily coincide with one particular event like the Neronian persecutions. Thus if Mark really does have a major concern for persecution and betrayal then the text simply does not tell us any precise life setting other than a general one of persecution.

12. A New(-ish) Approach to the Date of Mark

It may now be argued with some force that the methodological trends in modern biblical scholarship, from source criticism to the more literary readings, have not shown when Mark’s gospel was written. Yet almost in direct contrast to the recent datings of Mark based on complex redaction and literary critical approaches, Casey has provided a recent twist. He argues that Mark’s gospel contains several passages which are literal translations of Aramaic sources (i.e. Mk 9:11–13; 2:23–3:6; 10:35–45; 14:12–26). Casey sees ‘no reason why the accounts from the ministry should not have been written down by eyewitnesses shortly after the events occurred’. However, after a few years and a successful gentile mission much more extensive editing could reasonably be expected. This is found in Matthew and Luke but Mark ‘had no such need, and he felt sufficient confidence in them simply to transmit a literal translation’. Casey does ‘not see how such a source could have been written later than c. 40 ce, when the Gentile mission was such a great success that it would have been taken note of. A date earlier than this is surely more probable.’

Some of the passages discussed by Casey could still be literal translations of an Aramaic source without the need for significant pieces of editing and so do not necessarily point to an early date for Mark. For example Mk 10:35–45 contains the following verse: ‘For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (10:45). Casey believes that this passage is more or less from the historical Jesus indicating his personal acceptance as a martyr whose death holds to some degree a salvific function, also including a reference to James and John, which does not fully come out in the Greek because ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου loses the general connotations of the Aramaic idiom בר (א)נש(א). It might be added that from a Greek speaking perspective ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου could easily be read as a christological title. Both a christological title and a reference to the salvific function of Jesus’ death would be perfectly acceptable to most first-century Christians and would not require any major editing and could therefore imply almost any date for the final form of Mark’s gospel. However, certain Markan passages are different. Casey’s discussion of the Sabbath controversies in Mk 2:23–3:6 is the strongest argument of all for an early date and will be discussed in some detail in Chapter 6 of this study. Most importantly Casey believes that these are intra-Jewish Sabbath disputes which can only be understood on the basis of Jewish cultural assumptions and this is vindicated by the deliberate editing of Matthew and Luke, especially in Mk 2:23–28, in order to make it clear that Jesus did not reject the Sabbath. Although Casey does not go one step further and identify the earliest possible date for the kinds of editing found in Matthew and Luke it would be perfectly legitimate to do so. This is because legal controversies were extremely important for the first-century Christians largely due to the gentile mission, and they can be dated with some precision from evidence in Paul’s letters and Acts. It may therefore be argued that Mark can be dated before there were Sabbath disputes in first-century Christianity. This would require collective evidence so it would be beneficial to develop this kind of argument be discussing other legal debates in the gospels. It is also worth comparing Allen’s view, noted earlier, that Mark was written before the conflicts over the Torah as reflected in Matthew. This is not a strong enough argument but it can be developed because if it can be shown that Mark’s gospel was written before such disputes and that Mark contains certain traditions which would have been altered in some way if they were much later than c. 40, then it is possible that Mark may be dated extremely early. It is an approach along the lines of the arguments given be Casey and Allen that will be developed in this study.

13. Conclusions

To conclude, modern critical approaches to gospel studies have been extremely influential in reinforcing the consensus that Mark was written sometime around the Jewish war. However, these arguments tend to be too speculative to be convincing and all too often rest upon numerous unfounded assumptions. There have been challenges to the consensus, and while these are not always decisive some of the arguments can be adapted to form a fresh approach to the problem. It has also been argued that if Markan passages containing certain Jewish cultural assumptions can be identified and if it can be seen how Matthew and Luke use these passages then this may provide an earliest possible date for these adaptations. The most useful topic for this kind of approach is early Christian disputes over the law because there is firm datable evidence for such disputes in the first century. These datable legal issues in Acts and the Epistles may usefully be compared with changes made in the synoptic tradition. This requires a discussion of the portrayal of Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah as portrayed in the synoptic gospels, because not everyone accepts that the synoptic Jesus is portrayed as a Torah observant Jew. This issue will now be discussed in some detail.

Chapter 4

Jesus’ Torah Observance in the Synoptic Gospels

If Mark is to be dated based on a comparison with Matthew and Luke on issues of law then the portrayal of Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah in the synoptic gospels needs to be analysed. It should be emphasised that this is the synoptic writers’ portrayal of Jesus’ attitude, which is not necessarily the synoptic writers’ attitude towards the Torah: that may well have differed not least in the light of the gentile mission. The importance of the synoptic portrayal of Jesus and the Torah for this study cannot be underestimated. The final two chapters of this study will provide detailed arguments for the date of Mark based on assumptions that could only have been made very early, at a time when Christianity was predominantly Torah observant and this absolutely requires some knowledge of the portrayal of Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah in the synoptic gospels to make proper sense. The emphasis will have to be limited to whether, according to each synoptic writer, Jesus was ever prepared to abrogate, override, or question any aspect of biblical law, because such issues were to arise in first-century Christianity and they can be dated with some certainty. Other issues, e.g. Jesus as the uniquely authoritative interpreter of Torah, will not be discussed here because they are not relevant for present purposes. We may start with Mark’s gospel.

1. Jesus and the Torah according to Mark

Despite a variety of scholarly conclusions, it is widely accepted that Mark’s portrayal of Jesus in some way shows him breaking, challenging or ignoring certain biblical laws, particularly, but not exclusively, those that involve purity. Here, in stark contrast to modern scholarship, it will be shown that Mark portrays Jesus always as one observant of biblical laws (Mk 2:23–28, 7:1–23 and 10:2–2, will be discussed in Chapters 6, and 7 of this study).

Mark provides general indications that Jesus was a Torah observant Jew, where Jesus explicitly and implicitly endorses certain commandments. In Mk 6:56 we are told that people could be healed even by touching ‘the fringe of his cloak’. This ‘fringe’ or ‘tassel’ (κράσπεδον) clearly echoes biblical commandments for Jewish men to wear ‘tassels’ on their clothing to remind them of the commandments (ציצת/κράσπεδον, Num. 15:38–39; כנף/κράσπεδον, Deut. 22:12). Jesus also quotes a modified version of the Decalogue in Mk 10:17–22. Here a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus lists some commandments. The man said he had kept them since his youth so Jesus replied that he should sell what he owned, give to the poor and follow him. Here Jesus’ teaching may well supplement the Torah but there is no indication of a criticism.

A passage clearly showing Jesus favourably referring to biblical law in Mark is the question of the Greatest Commandment, a passage which occurs in the context of Temple worship (Mk 12:29–31; cf. Mt. 22:34–40; Lk. 10:26–28). The Markan Jesus combines the Shema’ (Deut. 6:5) and the commandment to love the neighbour (Lev. 19:18) which for Mark (and Matthew) was the order of the greatest commandments (Mk 12:28–34; Mt. 22:34–40). The reply attributed to the scribe endorses what Jesus said and adds that these two commandments were much more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices, a view with which Jesus agrees. There should be nothing controversial about this; after all, prophetic literature had much more damning things to say about sacrifices (e.g. Isa. 1:10–17; Jer. 6:20; 7:21–28; Amos 5:21–27). Loader, on the other hand, believes that a greater contrast with sacrifices is being advocated by the Markan Jesus, claiming, ‘Most Jews would have explicated love of God in such a way as to include the cult, so that a contrast between a summary of all laws with some of the same laws would make little sense. The two commandments are therefore not a summary of the Torah at all … It is therefore not even a contrast between attitude and behaviour, but between attitude and ethical behaviour, on the one hand, and cultic activity on the other.’ Loader recognises that to a certain degree this is a case of prioritising but suggests that for Mark it is much more than this: ‘For him the scribe mouths an important truth which justifies the abandonment of the temple as a sacrificial system.’ Although the scribe meant the contrast inclusively, Mark would have understood it exclusively because ‘according to Mark’s value system, the temple … belongs in the realm of earthly things made by human hands’.

Against Loader, as has already been argued, there is no real evidence that Mark thought that the Temple system was invalid, even if he thought the present system to be corrupt and require destruction. His views on Mk 12:28–34 are also problematic. His opinion that most Jews would summarise loving God be mentioning the Temple system is exceptionally difficult to prove and there are Jews who did not have to mention this. According to Josephus, ‘Honour to parents the Law ranks second only to honour to God …’ (Apion 2.206). According to Philo,

God asks nothing from you that is heavy or complicated or difficult, but only something quite simple and easy. And this is to love Him as a benefactor, or failing this to fear Him as least as a ruler and lord, and to tread in every way that will lead you to please Him, to serve Him not halfheartedly but with your whole soul filled with the determination to love Him and to cling to His commandments and to honour justice (Spec. Leg. 1.299f.).

According to the Testament of Issachar,

I am a hundred and twenty two years old, and I am not aware that I have committed any deadly sin. I have not had intercourse with any other woman but my wife: I have not committed fornication through a lustful eye. I have not drunk wine to be led astray by it: I have not coveted any desirable thing that was my neighbour’s. My heart has harboured no deceit: no lie has ever passed my lips … with the poor have I shared my bread … I have been reverent and truthful all my days. I have loved the Lord with all my strength; and in the same way I have loved all men as though they were my own children. Do these things too, my children … (7:6; cf. 5:1–2).

According to the Testament of Dan, ‘keep, my children, the Lord’s commandments and observe his law … Love the Lord throughout (ἐν πάσῃ) your life, and one another with a true heart’ (5:1, 3). These passages all emphasise the love of God without mention of the Temple system and when there are references to commandments they are what we often call ‘moral’. It is also significant that the scribe in Mark does not contrast burnt offerings and sacrifices with Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 in an absolute sense, ‘this is much more (περισσότερόν) important than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices’ (Mk 12:33), so it cannot be assumed that Mark’s readers would draw the opposite conclusion. Compare also the highly relevant Aristeas 234 which responds to the question, ‘What is the highest form of glory?’, with a more emphatic contrast than is found in Mark, ‘To honour God, and that not be offerings and sacrifices but be purity of spirit and of the devout conviction that all things are fashioned and administered by God according to His will.’ In the light of this sort of evidence neither the Markan Jesus nor the scribe are saying anything particularly revolutionary and if Mark wanted to say what Loader attributes to him something much more explicit would be expected.

It has been argued that the Markan Jesus overrides Sabbath law in, for example, Mk 3:1–6. S.H. Smith makes claims such as ‘Jesus’ authority is salvific, and transcends the constraints of the law’, ‘the unique authority of Jesus to override the Sabbath’, and speculates that behind this passage is a conflict between gentile and Judaising Christians which would mean ‘the action of Jesus in 3:1–5 is a liberating action designed to free the oppressed from the very legal restrictions which the Judaising Christians were intent on perpetrating. The man who is healed is, in a sense, symbolic of the new Israel, the Christian community, which is offered salvation from the oppression of Jewish institutionalism.’ This is all going too far. Smith gives no indication as to which Sabbath law Jesus overrides (nor any evidence of the supposedly ‘oppressive’ nature of Jewish law). This would be difficult because no biblical law is contradicted. As Sanders comments, ‘the synoptic Jesus behaved on the sabbath in a way which fell inside the range of current debate about it, and well inside the range of permitted behaviour’. Although the seriousness of the synoptic Sabbath disputes is often underestimated by Sanders, this sort of approach is along the right lines and must of course apply to Mark. As will be argued in Chapter 6, the disciples’ plucking grain on the Sabbath (Mk 2:23–28) contradicts no biblical commandment but would have been problematic for some post-biblical Jewish interpreters. Moreover, the ‘Judaising’ controversies in Christianity concerned the issue of whether the Sabbath should be observed at all (Rom. 14:5–6; Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16; cf. Jn 5:1–18) and not halakic discussions and so it is unlikely Mk 3:1–6 reflects such debate.

More specifically, the Sabbath dispute in Mk 3:1–6 can hardly be seen as abrogating or rejecting the biblical Torah as healing on the Sabbath is not prohibited in biblical law. The portrayal of Jesus shows that Jesus does not believe that he is questioning the Sabbath, because he does not question the validity of the Sabbath as an institution but rather the emphasis is on what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath: ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ (3:4). It has been rightly argued that Jesus is extending the dictum that saving life overrules the Sabbath (m. Yoma 8.6; cf. 1 Macc. 2:32–41; 2 Macc. 6:11) to include his healing ministry in Mk 3:4. The word used for ‘life’ in m. Yoma 8.6 is נפש. נפש is usually translated in lxx with ψυχή, precisely the word used in Mk 3:4. Jesus’ opponents do not accept this halakic ruling and conspire with the Herodians to kill him, which, when combined with Mk 2:23–28, echoes a view of a warning followed by prosecution for breaking Sabbath (m. Sanh. 7.8; y. Sanh. 7:11), and indicating that from the perspective of the Pharisees Jesus breaks the Sabbath commandment. The conflict has been viewed as implausible be some scholars not least because Jesus is not breaking any known Sabbath law. Although the immediate concern here is not with the historical accuracy of the tradition, certain factors actually count in favour of this, namely the concerns over the legitimacy of minor healings in rabbinical literature (e.g. m. Shabb. 14:3f.) and the continual development of Sabbath law be strict Jews from the Second Temple period through to rabbinical times (Jub. 2.23; my Shabb. 7:2). Mark may well be recording a plausible scenario which reflects contemporary debate.

In addition to Mk 3:1–6, Mk 1:21–31 should be noted. This passage includes an exorcism followed be the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law both on a Sabbath but this does not mean that Jesus is being portrayed as a law breaker and Mark makes no such suggestion. As mentioned above, healing on the Sabbath is not prohibited in biblical law and Jesus would again be seen as extending the view of saving life overriding the Sabbath to include his healings. There is no objection to this, which there almost certainly would have been if a biblical law were opposed (cf. Mk 1:32).

The apparent attacks on familial piety in Mark (e.g. Mk 3:21; Mk 3:31–35/Mt. 12:46–50/Lk. 8:19–21; Mk 10:29–30/Mt. 19:29/Lk. 18:29) are often perceived to be in direct contradiction to the commandment to honour parents (Deut. 5:16/Exod. 20:12). A great deal has been made of a supposed anti-familial theme in Markan scholarship particularly when it is believed to be part of a supposed anti-Judaism in Mark. Wright, writing about the historical Jesus but still very relevant for our study, claims that this theme ‘is shockingly unlike anything known before …’, ‘a shocking challenge to the Jewish world of Jesus’ day’, ‘Jesus, therefore, challenged his followers to sit loose to one of the major symbols of the Jewish worldview …’11 This is surely over-exaggeration. Barton has collected evidence from Second Temple Judaism concluding, ‘allegiance to God and devotion to the will of God transcend family ties and legitimate their subordination. Here is strong precedent, therefore, for the apparent “hostility” to family in the context of discipleship of Jesus found in the gospels’. Note, for example, Moses as recorded in Josephus who says of the commandments, ‘battle for them more zealously than for children and wives’ (Ant. 3:87). Josephus’ description of the Essenes is a good example (War 2:119–61/Ant. 18:18–22). They show greater attachment to one another than the other sects. They are said to disdain marriage but adopt the children of others regarding them as their kin (συγγενεῖς) in order to mould them in accordance with their own principles. Meals are eaten with the community and not their kinsfolk. The ‘individual’s possessions join the common stock and all, like brothers (ὥσπερ ἀδελφοῖς), enjoy a single patrimony’ (War 2:122). Barton’s comments on Josephus’ description of the Essenes are sound:

What we have, then, is a community of religious virtuosi where membership and status are a matter, not of what is ascribed according to marital and household ties, but rather of what is achieved by means of the renunciation of marriage and family and be initiation into the Essene order itself.

Thus, while the Markan Jesus’ call to follow him may well have been radical, it was not unheard of and follows a theme of subordination (not replacement) used by different Jews of around the time of the New Testament. Moreover it is clear that throughout the different examples given be Barton there is no evidence that the groups and individuals ever believed they were contradicting the command to honour parents. It should therefore come as no surprise to find that Jesus quotes the commandment to honour parents (Mk 10:19; cf. Mt. 19:19; Lk. 18:20) and attacks his opponents for their dedication to a qorban tradition at the expense of honouring their parents (Mk 7:9–13). It cannot therefore be argued that the Markan Jesus’ apparently anti-familial stance contradicts the Torah. Mark gives no indication whatsoever that Jesus’ criticisms of family or commands to leave them and follow him were ever perceived as explicitly anti-Torah or anti-Jewish. In fact there would almost certainly have been some indication from Jesus’ opponents if this were the case, not least because commandments to honour parents were held in high regard. The reality is that there is no explicit criticism either in Mark or anywhere else in the synoptic tradition. It should therefore be accepted that the Markan Jesus stands in the Jewish tradition of those dedicated to God and the Torah in his stance on the family.

One of the most important aspects of Jewish identity which comes directly from the biblical Torah, and discussed in Mark, are the purity laws. As is now well known any discussion of Jesus, purity, and the Torah cannot be separated from Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple. As the Markan Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple was discussed in some detail in the previous chapter only a summary of those details need be given here. The ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ did not imply an end to the Temple system but was an attack on perceived economic abuses and a desire to see the Temple functioning as it ought to. For Mark (and probably for the historical Jesus too) the Temple authorities were not going to change, and so it required destruction, possibly to be physically rebuilt by God. Neither Jesus’ death nor the Christian movement was seen as a replacement for the Temple for the Markan Jesus. For all the scholarly arguments advocating such beliefs Mark says absolutely nothing of the sort. Jesus’ death clearly had an atoning function (Mk 10:45; 14:24) but there was nothing unusual about this in Judaism. If Mark had wanted to have Jesus’ death replace the atoning features of the Temple he would have said so. He did not. It is particularly important to summarise the view that Mark did not oppose the ideal function of the Temple because many of the Markan passages concerning Jesus and the Torah are read in light of a supposed anti-Temple theme which holds no place for the purity system surrounding the Temple.

One of the clearest examples of Jesus upholding the Temple system, which indicates that at the very least one person was not to bypass it is Mk 1:40–45 (/Mt. 8:1–4/Lk. 5:12–16). There should be no doubt that Mk 1:40–45 claims that Jesus upheld the biblical regulations concerning ‘leprosy’. The biblical background is essential here and, although well known, its relevance is far too often dismissed so it is worth outlining. Leviticus 13–14 deals with various types of infections on clothes, houses, and people. These are צרעת (mt) or λέπρα (lxx), words often misleadingly translated with the English ‘leprosy’.16 When a person suffering from ‘leprosy’, or better ‘skin infections’, is clean the priest inspects them and declares them clean if they pass the criteria. Leviticus 13 uses the phrase וטהרו הכהן which is translated be lxx καὶ καθαριεῖ αὐτὸν ὁ ἱερεύς. The pi’el
טהר is used in a causative sense which can only be translated with the meaning of declared clean, rather than made clean, because the context clearly indicates that the priest has just inspected the individual. Leviticus 14 gives the purification rites and again it is the priest who declares him clean (cf. m. Neg. 3:1). This is entirely consistent with Mk 1:40–45. Here Jesus stretches out his hand and touches the leper and says to him, ‘Be clean’ (καθαρίσθητι). Immediately the infection left him and the leper was cleansed (ἐκαθαρίσθη). The passive of καθαρίζω is used here and can only mean that the Markan Jesus has cured him of his leprosy, hence the act of reaching out and touching the leper and the leprosy immediately leaving him. In 1:44 we read, ‘but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’. This can only be a reference to the priest declaring clean as in Lev. 13–14 because Jesus has already made the man clean in Mk 1:41–42 and so the man is to show himself to the priest. If Mark wanted to make Jesus the one declaring the man clean he would have to be a lot more explicit than he is because the biblical background would have been well known by an audience containing people with a good knowledge of Scripture coupled with the fact that it fits very neatly with the Markan text. ‘Them’ are probably the priests in general given the context of the discussion but ‘them’ = ‘people’ cannot totally be ruled out given that the declaration entails participation in society. Even if εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς is to be read in the sense of a witness against the priests it can hardly be taken in the sense of a direct confrontation with the purity system as some scholars have argued. If read in the sense of opposition it could simply mean, for example, that Jesus is sending the man to the priest to show that he really is clean or it may be Mark’s anticipation of priestly opposition to Jesus. If Mark wanted his audience to think Jesus was opposing the Temple here he would have to be much more explicit and would almost certainly have removed any ambiguity, a point which is made stronger be the fact that it is emphasised on numerous occasions throughout Lev. 13–14 that the priest declares the leper clean and acceptance of this can be the only reason why Jesus is shown to be sending the leper to the priest. There should be no doubt whatsoever that Mk 1:40–45 is in total accordance with biblical law in terms of priestly prerogative because it is in total accordance with the rules set out in Lev. 13–14. It is not surprising then that many scholars see a ‘conservative’ attitude towards the Torah on Jesus’ behalf preserved in Mk 1:40–45.

One approach which has Mark setting Jesus against the law in Mk 1:40–45 concerns the curing of leprosy. For example, Lane claims that Mk 1:40–45, ‘establishes the surpassing nature of the salvation which Jesus brings, for while the law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper, it was powerless to actually purge a man of the disease’. Lane claims that not only is it recorded just twice in Old Testament that a leper was healed (Num. 12:10ff.; 2 Kgs 5:1ff.) but also the rabbis argued that it was as difficult to heal the leper as it was to raise the dead (b. Sanh. 47a; cf. Num. 12:12; Ant. 3:264). This leads Lane to the conclusion that the healing of the leper indicates among other things that salvation ‘transcends cultic and ritual regulations, which were powerless to arrest the hold that death had upon the living, and issues in radical healing’. It is surely unfair to suggest that Jesus’ act was so remarkable that it must degrade the Torah in some way. In fact, if anything, Jesus’ act is fully endorsing one of the important themes of the Torah be purifying the leper, namely upholding the ideal of the holiness of Israel (e.g. Exod. 19:6; Lev. 20:26). Curing ‘leprosy’ was no doubt exceptionally difficult but an important alternative to the Markan Jesus directly curing the man should not be ruled out, namely the possibility of a divine passive being used in 1:41 when Jesus says, ‘Be clean (καθαρίσθητι)’, which would make God at work through his agent, and would bring Jesus in line with other biblical agents of God used to cure ‘leprosy’ (Num. 12:10ff.; 2 Kgs 5:1ff.). Whatever alternative is used, Jesus or God through his agent Jesus, there is still absolutely no criticism of the Torah in the act of healing.

There are, however, certain scholars who believe that Jesus’ touching of the leper (1:41) is contrary to biblical law. Lane comments on this act of Jesus in 1:41, ‘From the perspective of Jesus’ relationship to the cultic and ritual system, it indicated that he did not hesitate to act in violation of its regulations when the situation demanded.’ This, it has to be said, is highly exaggerated not least because Mark says nothing so explicit, although there are hints of behaviour which might have made some law observant Jews uncomfortable. Perhaps the leper’s law observance was not what some might have expected. The leper is supposed to stay away from people crying ‘Unclean, unclean’ (Lev. 13:45) so the leper probably should have avoided close contact with Jesus in the eyes of some.

Yet the view of a leper flouting biblical laws should not be pushed too much because biblical laws were not always so easy to implement fully and Jews of the Second Temple period and after knew it was always possible for people to become unclean through contact with a leper, despite texts which indicate that lepers were to live outside society (e.g. Lev. 13:45–46; Num. 5:1–4; 2 Kgs 7:3ff.; Apion 1.281; Ant. 3:261–268). According to m. Nega’im 13.12 lepers had their own section in synagogues; in Lk. 17:12–13 the lepers are in a village, although they do keep their distance; Papyrus Egerton 2, frag. 1 recto (Aland, Synposis, p. 60), a variant of Mk 1:40–45, even claims that there was a leper in an inn, although the plausibility of such a scenario is disputed. That someone was liable to contract impurity from a leper is reflected in statements from the rabbinical and Second Temple periods. The rabbis were prepared for the prospect of someone contracting uncleanness through a leper (cf. m. Neg. 3.1; 8.8; 12.1; Zab. 7.6). M. Nega’im 13.7, for example, states,

If a man unclean [from leprosy] stood beneath a tree (עומד תחת האילן) and one that was clean passed be (עובר), he becomes unclean; if he that was clean stood beneath a tree (עומד תחת האילן) and he that was unclean passed be (עובד), he remains clean; but if [he that was unclean] stood still (עמד) the other becomes unclean.

Josephus’ summary of lepers and their relationship with the rest of society in Apion 1.281 shows how direct contact with lepers through touch was possible in certain situations and how this would make a second party unclean:

In fact, he [Moses] forbids lepers either to stay in a town or to reside in a village; they must be solitary vagrants, with their clothes rent; anyone who touches or lives under the same roof with them he considers unclean (καὶ τὸν ἁψάμενον αὐτῶν ἤ ὁμωρόψιον γενόμενον οὐ καθαρὸν ἡγεῖται) (Apion 1.281; cf. Lev. 13:45ff.; Ant. 3:261–268).

If it is assumed for the moment that Mark believed Jesus became impure through touching the leper, although Mark does not say so, then this, according to evidence from Josephus and rabbinical literature, certainly would not make Jesus the only Jew to do so. Compare the Levitical laws concerning ‘leprosy’ in houses where a Jew would be unclean until the evening (Lev. 14:46; cf. m. Meg. 1.7; my Neg. 8.8) which is not, obviously, against biblical law. It is worth noting m. Zabim 5.6 where a leper is put alongside the one with an abnormal discharge, the menstruant, and the woman after childbirth. Contracting impurity from one of these is not against the Torah and the Torah provides information as to how to become clean again (Lev. 12:15).

It cannot be emphasised enough: becoming impure does not necessarily equal opposition to the Torah. If Jesus became impure in Mk 1:40–45 or indeed elsewhere in Mark (e.g. 2:15–17; 5:1–20, 21–24, 25–34, 35–43) he could become pure again be one means or another if he so wished. This sort of approach has not impressed certain scholars. For example, Witherington suggests that an argument based on the claim ‘that Jesus was willing to incur uncleanness in order to help others’ is ‘an inadequate assessment because we are nowhere told that Jesus, like the man he heals, ever went through ritual cleansing after this encounter’, This objection is not convincing. The very fact that the Markan Jesus told the healed man to go to the priest as Moses commanded (1:44) is already one indication that Jesus would also obey any necessary purity laws. It is also important to note that many Jews would have been impure most of the time, from corpse impurity for example, becoming pure again (say) when entering the Temple. In general terms Jesus could contract impurity at any given time and this would not matter. For example, if Jesus came into contact with some object upon which a person with an irregular discharge had sat then he would have to wash his clothes, bathe in water and be unclean until midnight (Lev. 15; cf. Mk 5:25–34). Or again if Jesus had slept or ate in a house containing leprosy (cf. Mk 14:3) then his purification would include having to wash his clothes (Lev. 14:47). A significant assumption made by Mark (14:1–26) is that Jesus would certainly have undergone purification before Passover (Num. 9:9–12; cf. Num. 19; Spec. Leg. 2:145–149) but this is simply left unmentioned and Mark could hardly have been unaware of this given that the laws were biblical. The rules for purification are there in Scripture and so it is quite probable that the transmission of such abbreviated stories, whether transmitted orally or through writing on wax tablets, would omit such incidental details.32 In fact an act of purification is so unremarkable that it can be assumed that Mark’s audience would have understood that Jesus became pure again when necessary. Such points will gain greater weight in the light of Chapters 6–7 in this study because it will be shown that Mark makes a great deal of Jewish assumptions concerning divorce laws, Sabbath laws, and, perhaps most importantly, purity laws.33

Similarly many scholars think that the Markan Jesus bypassed the Temple by offering the forgiveness of sins. For all his emphasis on the synoptic texts providing little evidence of Jesus being a law-breaker, it is surprising that Sanders believes Jesus permitted people to bypass the Temple system because repentance was not a major concern. Markan passages are cited to show that Jesus is portrayed as bypassing the Temple system. For example, as Sanders notes, the story of Lev. and other tax collectors (Mk 2:14–17) does not say that they repented and carried out the demands of the Torah, such as repayment with an added 20 per cent and a sacrifice (Lev. 6:1–7). This criticism can, however, be reversed: where does it say that they did not? Also we are not told what they have done wrong and so their supposed wrongdoing may not have required sacrifices. Again, repentance through the Temple could simply be assumed because there is no recorded criticism in Mark, or indeed anywhere in the synoptics, of Jesus setting himself aside from the sacrificial system. It is interesting that Sanders is prepared (and rightly so) to say, for example, that Jesus ate the Passover meal and undertook the necessary rites even though this is not explicitly mentioned in Mark 14. In defence of this argument Sanders points to the synoptics revealing no instance of Jesus transgressing the Torah or counselling others to transgress: ‘This all makes it overwhelmingly likely that Jesus and his followers were purified, and that they ate a lamb that had been sacrificed in the Temple.’37 The obvious criticism is this: surely similar assumptions can be applied to other gospel passages. Sanders does raise the possibility that repentance could also be assumed but rejects this in favour of the view that ‘the wicked’ would be ‘ahead’ of those who were righteous by the Torah despite not becoming righteous in the way the Torah required. This, according to Sanders, is why Jesus’ actions were offensive and drew criticism: no one would have objected if Jesus persuaded tax collectors to repent. This approach, however, leads to a misreading of passages such as Mk 2:14–17. Here Jesus is never criticised for allowing sinners to avoid making sacrifices for repentance; he is criticised for associating with them: ‘why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? (ὅτι μετὰ τῶυ τελωυῶυ καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶυ ἐσθίει)’ (Mk 2:16). This hardly shows that Jesus was prepared to let people override the Torah if it meant following him as Sanders believes.40 To put it simply, the Markan Jesus is never criticised for preaching a bypassing of the Temple system. The Markan Jesus certainly causes offence for associating with people who were no doubt perceived by certain Jews to be beyond the Torah in some way but this is not against biblical laws and nor is there any precise criticism of Jesus questioning or overriding any law.

Let us assume for one moment that the Markan Jesus (and John the Baptist—Mk 1:4) was preaching forgiveness without reference to the Temple. What would this entail? It certainly would not necessarily imply that the Temple system was redundant because there appears to have been an accessible tradition which spoke of repentance and forgiveness of sins aside from the Temple, as several scholars now acknowledge. For example, according to Sir. 3:30, as water extinguishes a blazing fire so ‘almsgiving atones for sin (ἐλεημοσύνη ἐξιλάσεται ἁμαρτίαζ)’. If Mark wanted to portray Jesus and John as anti-Temple figures he would have to be a lot more explicit.

This also strongly suggests that language reminiscent of priestly traditions would not necessarily invalidate the priestly and Temple system or imply an alternative Temple movement. Fletcher-Louis, for example, has attempted to show that behind the Transfiguration and its surrounding narrative context (Mk 8:27–9:13) are certain priestly and high priestly traditions which point to Jesus heading an alternative Temple system. Let us assume for the moment that Jesus was indeed being portrayed in the language of the High Priest and/or priests: would this then mean that Jesus was running an alternative Temple movement as a replacement for the Second Temple? Not necessarily. Language associated with the Temple and priesthood need not automatically imply an alternative Temple movement. An analogy with the development of purity laws in the Second Temple period is a particularly useful example. Handwashing is limited to priests in Scripture (Exod. 30:17–21) but, as will be argued in Chapter 7, this was extended to non-priests washing their hands before eating ordinary food. Neusner’s view that non-priests were to eat food as if they were priests in the Temple has been heavily criticised by Sanders but there should be no doubt that handwashing and the like were observed in some way as to imitate the priesthood but which did not replace priestly purity in any way. Thus using imagery associated with Temple and priesthood does not automatically imply an alternative to the Temple. Imitation does not necessarily mean replacement, and can imply endorsement. This strongly suggests Mark would have to be much more explicit if he wanted to portray Jesus in opposition to the Second Temple and establishing his own alternative Temple movement, and surely some criticism would have been levelled at Jesus if this were the case. In the absence of both it should be inferred that Jesus was not proposing an alternative Temple movement.

Mark 2:1–12 would, however, seem to imply that forgiveness of sins aside from the Temple could be a problem for certain first-century Jews and the passage has been read as a direct contradiction to the divine prerogative of forgiving sins and to the Temple system of forgiveness (cf. Exod. 34:6–7; 2 Sam. 12:13; Pss. 32:1–5; 51:3–4 [1–2], 9–11 [7–9]; 103:3; 130:4; Isa. 43:25; Dan. 9:9; Zech. 3:4; 1QS 2.8; CD 3.18; 20.34). There are problems with such approaches. Mark 2:5 and 2:9 use a passive which, given that God or God through his earthly representative forgives sins, could easily be understood as a divine passive, particularly if Jesus says that authority has been given to at least him on earth (Mk 2:10). Moreover nowhere else in Mark nor indeed in the other synoptic gospels is Jesus portrayed as directly forgiving sins. There are further problems. As just discussed, forgiveness was not restricted to the Temple in ancient Judaism so Jesus’ actions in 2:1–12 cannot be seen as usurping the role of the Temple. However, these sorts of points raise new problems. If a divine passive is used then what is the offence? If sins could be forgiven outside the Temple then, again, what is the offence?

Such problems revolve around the issue of forgiveness of sins yet it is highly questionable that Mk 2:1–12 contains controversy over forgiveness of sins. Casey has complained that the semantic area of ἀφίημι is overlooked in discussions of Mk 2:10, which is significant because it can mean things other than ‘forgive’. However, the translation of ἀφίημι as ‘forgive’ is widespread. A brief survey will show that the semantic area of ἀφίημι is wider than simply ‘forgive’. For example, it can mean ‘divorce’ (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:11–13; Herodotus 5.39); ‘release/give (ἀφεὶς)’ a loud cry (e.g. Mk 15:37); ‘release’ a slave (e.g. Mt. 18:27); ‘leave behind’ or ‘abandon’ (e.g. Tob. 11:2; Ant. 9.264). Significantly a possible Aramaic word underlying Mk 2:1–12, שבק, has a similar semantic area including more than just ‘forgive’ around the time of our period. For example, it can mean ‘leave [physically]’ (1 QapGen.19.14), ‘leave[possessions]’ (6HevA nab 1.13), and ‘divorce’ (Mur 19 ar 1.2).50 Similarly, another possible Aramaic word underlying the passage שרי, also found in the Syriac versions of Mk 2:1–12, can also mean ‘loose’ (e.g. 4QEnGiantsa 2.14) among other things. All these uses are well known and alternative translations of ἀφίημι should not be ignored in any discussion of the controversy in Mk 2:1–12.

In fact there is good reason to accept a translation of ‘release’ or the like rather than ‘forgive’ in Mk 2:2–12. This use of ἀφίημι is illuminating regarding the condition of a παραλυτικός. The associated verb παραλύω is used in the passive in the New Testament (Lk. 5:18, 24; Acts 8:7; 9:33; Heb. 12:12) and lxx. This is important to note because the noun does not occur in lxx. However, there are relevant lxx passages where παραλύω occurs in the passive. Here it is for the Hebrew רפה:

We have heard news of them, our hands fall helpless (παρελύθησαν); anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in labour (Jer. 6:24).

Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble (παραλυθήσονται), every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water (lxx Ezek. 21:12 [mt 21:7]).

Note that the Jeremiah reference suggests hands are useless in the face of mighty opponents and the Ezekiel reference likewise indicates the uselessness of the body in the face of adversity. There are further indications in later Jewish texts in Greek:

for at that time Alcimus was stricken and his work hindered; his mouth was stopped and he was paralysed (παρελύθη) so that he could no longer say a word or give commands concerning his house (1 Macc. 9:55).

He [God] shook him [the Ptolemaic king Philopater] on this side and that as a reed is shaken in the wind, so that he lay helpless on the ground and besides being paralysed (παραλελυμένον) in the limbs he was unable to speak, since he was smitten by a righteous judgement (3 Macc. 2:22).

It should be noted that in 1 Macc. 9:54–55 Alcimus died in great agony as he attempted to ‘tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary … the work of the prophets!’ and in 3 Macc. 2:22 Philopater was punished by God for his sins which meant his body was rendered useless and he was unable to speak, although this was only temporary and he would survive without repenting (3 Macc. 2:24). This is important for the interpretation of the condition of the paralytic in Mk 2:1–12: he neither speaks nor moves, and this may well have been seen as a punishment for some wrongdoing. This also fits the use of ἀφίημι as ‘release’ because it gives us a vivid image of the man literally being ‘released’ in the sense of being able to move his limbs properly (2:12) and, possibly, speak again, assuming that he could not, although it should be pointed out that we are not told anything concerning speech. Interestingly the passage often cited as a parallel to Mk 2:1–12, from the Aramaic Prayer of Nabonidus (4Q242, frags 1–3.4), uses שבק with reference to the curing of a disease and is usually translated as ‘an exorcist remitted my sin’, ‘an exorcist pardoned my sin’54 or ‘an exorcist forgave my sin’ (וחטאי שבק לה גזר). The translation of שבק with something like ‘release’ would again make good sense of the passage, that is the disease was ‘released’ from the king.

If Mk 2:1–12 is read in the context of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms then it can be explained why there is a conflict with the scribes in 2:6f. Sin, healings and exorcisms were closely identified in ancient Judaism, hence the association of sin, demons and disease (e.g. 1 Enoch 10; Jub. 10:7–13; 1QapGen 20:12–29; 4Q242; Ant. 8:44–46; cf. Jn 9:1–3; 1 Cor. 11:30) which suggests another layer of meaning behind the idea of releasing the paralytic man from his sins: Jesus was releasing him from the bondage of Satan probably to be understood in much the same way as the Lukan healing of a woman hindered by a spirit (Lk. 13:10–17),

And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound (ἔδησεν) for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage (λυθῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ δεσμοῦ τούτου) on the Sabbath day? (Lk. 13:16).

Mark tells us that when Jesus was casting out Satan (3:23) it caused problems with certain authorities, so much so that we are also told that Jesus was accused of exorcising in association with the satanic (Mk 3:22; cf. Mt. 12:24/Lk. 11:15). The scribes’ denial of Jesus led him to accuse them of an unforgivable sin against the holy spirit (Mk 3:28–30; cf. Mt. 12:31–32/Lk. 12:10). This is what the conflict in Mk 2:1–12 is all about: Jesus’ authority to release people from the bondage of Satan. This accounts fully for the problems raised by the text with little difficulty. While forgiveness of sins remains an issue in this passage the offence is one of authority, a problem that will arise again in Mark (e.g. 3:22–30; 11:28), and it is on this level that the conflict should be understood. It is very doubtful indeed that issue of the forgiveness of sins alone would lead to the accusation of blasphemy unless it was explicitly opposing the Temple. Most importantly for our study it must be concluded that there is no abrogation, questioning, or overriding of the Torah nor the role of the Temple in Mk 2:1–12 nor should such attitudes be read into the text.

Similarly conflict over Jesus’ authority is what lies behind the charge of blasphemy in the Temple trial. Here Jesus accepts that he is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One, and adds, ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’ (14:62). At this the High Priest tore his robes and classed it as ‘blasphemy (τῆς βλασημίας)’ (14:64). Jesus does not oppose any biblical law from the Markan perspective. In the case of Mk 14:62 the Markan Jesus clearly claims to have authority from God when he says he will sit at his right hand. The origin of Jesus’ authority has already caused problems for Jesus in Mark and is explicitly linked to a Son of Man saying (Mk 2:1–12). Mark picks up this theme in the trial scene in an attempt to explain why Jesus was put to death. For Mark the phrase ‘Son of Man’ suggested that the authority of Jesus was from God (Mk 2:10) whereas Jesus’ opponents believed Jesus’ authority was from Satan (Mk 3:22; cf. 3:30). Thus, for Jesus’ opponents in Mark, the title ‘Son of Man’ would denote blasphemy particularly with its Markan connotations of authority from God (cf. Lev. 24:10–23), a charge which Mark does not accept. Ironically for Mark it is Jesus’ opponents who are blasphemous for rejecting Jesus’ mission which was authorised by God:

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter (καὶ αἱ βλασφημίαι ὅσα ἐὰν βλασφημήσιν); but whoever blasphemes (βλασφημήση) against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—for they had said he had an unclean spirit (Mk 3:28–30).

The Markan evidence is utterly consistent concerning Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah. it conclusively shows that Mark portrays Jesus as a Torah observant Jew who was liable to run into bitter conflicts with his opponents’ interpretations. There are general statements endorsing the validity of certain commandments, the Sabbath is upheld, there is no material that would have been seen as a direct attack on the family, only the subordination to doing the will of God, and Jesus observes purity laws when necessary. He became unclean but this is not against biblical law. We may now turn to Matthew.

2. Jesus and the Torah according to Matthew

Whereas most scholars have tended to disagree with a law observant Markan Jesus, there is a somewhat opposing tendency concerning Matthew’s portrayal. In fact many Matthean scholars see a Jesus very conservative in his attitude towards the biblical Torah (and even post-biblical developments), although this is by no means universal. Yet even in this gospel it is widely believed, even by those who think Matthew largely accepts the biblical Torah, that certain aspects are rejected or no longer observed by the Matthean Jesus, most notably in the so-called ‘antitheses’ (5:21–48, esp. 5:31ff.; 5:33ff.; 5:38ff.; 5:43ff.) and in his view towards the Temple system. Against this, it will be argued here that the Matthean Jesus, like the Markan Jesus, is always portrayed as observing the biblical laws and on no occasion is he ever presented as opposing them.60 (Mt. 5:31–32; 19:3–9; 12:1–8; and 15:1–20 will be discussed in Chapters 6 and 7).

There are numerous passages where Matthew portrays Jesus as a law observant Jew which are based on Mark, often with few changes of significant note. For example, Mt. 14:36 (see also 9:20) retains the story of people touching the tassel on the corner of Jesus’ cloak (Mk 6:56), tassels of course were mentioned in the Torah in connection with remembering the commandments (Num. 15:38–39; Deut. 22:12). Matthew’s version of the rich man and the key to eternal life (Mk 10:17–22) simply adds to the list of the shortened Decalogue, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mt. 19:16–22) which is straight from Lev. 19:18. If there are any notable changes they tend to be Matthew making it absolutely clear that Jesus did not criticise any biblical law. One of the significant changes Matthew makes to the question of the Greatest Commandment (Mt. 22:34–40/Mk 12:29–31) is dropping the reference to the subordination of whole burnt offerings and sacrifices so there should be no doubt that Matthew accepted their validity. If he thought otherwise Matthew would have had the perfect opportunity to dismiss them.

Despite this it has even been argued that Matthew’s summary of the law in the Golden Rule (7:12) is inclusive only to a certain extent. Loader, for example, accepts that this is inclusive in the sense that the Torah is not reduced simply to the Golden Rule but, he claims, ‘there is much in the Torah for which it is quite irrelevant, especially ceremonial and cultic law; they are obviously not in Matthew’s mind at this point; nor have they been, except incidentally (5:23–24)’. Against this, there is no indication given by Matthew that Jesus would have excluded any aspect of the Torah. The very fact that Matthew does include passages assuming the validity of the Temple system, notably 5:23–24, which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt. 8:1–4; 23:16–22), surely implies that Matthew believed this to be true for Jesus. Surely an explicitly positive view towards the Temple system should not be discarded for a negative one which is not even mentioned by Matthew but implied by certain scholars. Even if the Matthean Jesus was using the Golden Rule with no mention of ‘cultic’ laws (although 5:23–24 suggests otherwise) he would not be the only one to do so (e.g. Tob. 4:15; Armenian Ahiqar 8.88; Philo, Hyp. 7.6; b. Shabb. 31a; Tg. Ps.-J. Lev. 19:18). A lot depends of course on how Matthew’s Jesus viewed purity and the Temple system throughout his gospel, but, as has been and will be argued, Jesus sees this in a positive light so it must be assumed that the Golden Rule implies the same as far as Jesus is concerned. Whether Matthean-minded Christians continued to accept the purity laws, the validity of the Temple and the like is another question but it certainly cannot be inferred that they did not from Mt. 7:12.

Another generalising statement about the law has been seen as an implied criticism of its general validity, namely Mt. 11:13, ‘For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came’, Menninger claims that’ 11:13 reveals that Christ is the τέλος of the Law, for he both completes and brings it to an end, he is both the goal and the replacement of the Law’. He notes that Mt. 11:13 is found in the context of the teaching that the kingdom has erupted into history (11:2–6), advancing since the days of John (11:12). He then suggests that Matthew inserts into his Q source (Lk. 16:16) the aorist ἐπροφήτευσαν,’ suggesting that the period of the Law and the Prophets has given way to the kingdom of Heaven. Henceforth, the revelation of God’s will comes through his Messiah and the church’s Lord’. Menninger is certainly wrong here. This passage only discusses the prophetic function of the Torah and has absolutely nothing to say about Jesus bringing an end to the Torah,65 nor indeed anything concerning the validity of its commandments. As Menninger himself notes, Matthew reverses his usual expression ‘Law and/or Prophets’ (5:17; 7:12; 22:40; cf. Lk. 16:16) which is probably deliberate in order to highlight their prophetic function. Far from implying a replacement of the Torah, the insertion of ἐπροφήτευσαν in fact further emphasises its prophetic function and it is difficult to see how it can be read in any other way. There is no indication whatsoever that, with the coming of the Kingdom, Torah observance will be a thing of the past. In fact Mt. 11:13 cannot be used to analyse the Matthean Jesus’ attitude towards observing biblical commandments in any way because it simply does not discuss the issue.

On other occasions Matthew has to strongly emphasise that Jesus was Torah observant just in case people believed otherwise. For example, Mt. 5:17–20 clearly indicates that the biblical Torah is valid and its commandments must be observed. This is explicitly stated in 5:17, ‘Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil (οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι)’. ‘Fulfil’ (πληρῶσαι) must surely stand in direct contrast with those who believe that the law should be abandoned hence the extremely strong language of Matthew in the absolute rejection of abolishing the law. ‘Fulfil’ in this sense is like that described in Mt. 3:15, where Jesus says that he must be baptised by John the Baptist, saying to John that they are ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ (πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην) which clearly has an emphasis on putting into practice God’s will. It is similar to Paul discussing ‘fulfilling the law’ and the love commandment: this too emphasises practice.70 Moreover, it is extremely difficult to see how any criticism of the Torah could be deemed correct in the light of the following verses: v. 18 says not one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all is accomplished, which at the very least implies that the Torah remains relevant for the Matthean Jesus; v. 19 says that anyone who breaks the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom, in direct contrast to those who observe them who will be called great; v. 20 even goes so far as saying that righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees to enter the kingdom. Matthew could hardly have been more explicit in endorsing law observance. However, this sort of interpretation of Mt. 5:17–20, while common, is not universally accepted and so the best way of finding out whether Mt. 5:17–20 endorses the biblical commandments is to look at the role of the law in the following verses, the so-called ‘antitheses’.

It is important to recognise that the conventional English translation, ‘You have heard it said … but I say to you …’ denotes a strong contrast. However, the English ‘but’ translates δὲ which is often a weak conjunction and may simply imply a continuation in these cases. In addition to this Betz has made a strong case for at least some of the ‘antitheses’ being an attack on the interpretation of biblical laws. Sanders points to the construction … ועל…אנחנו אומרים (‘and concerning … we say …) in 4QMMT (4Q394–399) and the common rabbinical use of the verb אמר (‘say’) both of which are used for legal interpretation. A lot, then, will depend on the context because the language does not necessarily support the traditional view that the ‘antitheses’ imply a strong break from the past. Of course some of the ‘antitheses’ explicitly expand and interpret the Torah, which is not implying any opposition. In Mt. 5:21–26 the prohibition of murder (Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17) is extended to include anger against an ἀδελφός. Likewise in Mt. 5:27–30 the commandment against adultery (Exod. 20:14/Deut. 5:18) is extended to even looking at a woman with lustful intentions. However, scholars have argued for criticisms of biblical law particularly in Mt. 5:33–37 (oaths), 5:38–42 (eye for an eye), and sometimes 5:31–32 (divorce) and 5:43–48 (loving enemies), or as Meier claimed, ‘The Antitheses Which Do Revoke the Letter of the Law’, and it is these which must be discussed in more detail.

In Mt. 5:31–32 is a teaching on divorce which would have been recognisable in first-century Judaism, similar in some ways to the teaching of the house of Shammai (m. Git. 9.10; cf. Deut. 24:1–4). There are, however, other ‘antitheses’ that are much more controversial in relation to the Torah, yet scholars are becoming increasingly aware that there is no opposition to biblical commandments in the teaching on oaths, ‘an eye for an eye’, and loving enemies.77 The teaching on oaths in Mt. 5:33–37 does not directly oppose any biblical commandment, although the saying of oaths and vows is found in Scripture (e.g. Lev. 5:4–6; Num. 30; Deut.23:21). Avoidance of oaths, though, was not perceived to be against the Torah (cf. Deut. 23:22). According to Philo one of the ways the Essenes show their love of God is ‘by abstinence from oaths (ἀνώμοτον)’ (Every Good Man is Free 84; cf. Decal. 84). Josephus also says of the Essenes that everything they say is more certain than an oath. Indeed, ‘swearing they avoid, regarding it as worse than perjury (τὸ δὲ ὀμνύειν [αὐτοῖς] περιίστανται χεῖρον τῆς ἐπιορκίας ὑπολαμβάνοντες)’ (War 2.135). This description of oaths may not entirely complement the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g. CD 9.9–12; 15; 16.7–12; 1QS 5.8; 6.27) but it does not matter for our purposes because if Philo and Josephus could talk about the Essenes in such a way without implying that this was controversial in terms of Torah observance then it is very unlikely that anyone would have perceived the Matthean Jesus to be speaking against biblical commandments in Mt. 5:33–37. In fact this sort of teaching prevents the possibility of contradicting biblical commandments (cf. Exod. 20:7/Deut. 5:11; CD 16; Philo, Decal. 84) because even rash oaths and vows were to be observed according to Scripture and other Jewish literature (Deut. 23:21; Judg. 11:29–40; 1 Kgs 2:23–24; Mk 6:26; Ant. 17.42; CD 16). Moreover, like several of the teachings in Matthew 5:21–48, that Jesus was speaking hyperbolically (cf. Mt. 23:16–22) should not be ruled out.

The idea of Jesus speaking hyperbolically is important for the discussion of the lex talionis in Mt. 5:38–42 where Jesus seems to contradict Exod. 21:24. Even Barth, who believed Matthew was conservative in his attitude towards biblical law, claimed, ‘here [Mt. 5:38ff.] the Old Testament direction is completely overthrown’. It is difficult to accept such a view. One possible view is that Jesus was opposing retaliation and is contrasting this with Exod. 21:24 but this does not mean he is opposing biblical law on this point. Exodus 21:24 puts a limit on retaliation which should limit vendettas so, it is argued, the restraint taught by the Matthean Jesus would be preventing the commandment from being exceeded, broken or abused by turning the other cheek (cf. Ant. 4.280; b. B. Qam. 83b–84a). This does not rule out the possibility of eschatological retribution (cf. Mt. 6:14–15; 7:21–23; 25; Rom. 12:17–19; 1QS 10:17–18).

There is an alternative, and probably more accurate, interpretation of Mt. 5:38–42 which also suggests that Jesus did not oppose the biblical commandment. It is possible that the Matthean Jesus is simply opposing an interpretation or a potential interpretation of Exod. 21:24 particularly in terms of violent retaliation. It is significant that Matthew lists three examples of ‘Do not resist an evildoer’, namely striking on the cheek, being sued for clothing, and being forced to go a mile, yet only one directly relates to retaliation and the principle of Exod. 21:24: the striking on the cheek. This is significant because an interpretation of Exod. 21:24 rejecting violent retaliation fits into ancient Judaism. Josephus provides an interpretation of the lex talionis:

He that maims a man shall undergo the like, being deprived of that limb whereof he deprived the other, unless indeed the maimed man be willing to accept money; for the law empowers the victim himself to assess the damage that has befallen him and makes this concession, unless he would show himself too severe (Ant. 4.280; cf. Philo Spec. Leg. 3.182).

Josephus shows that there were at least two possible interpretations of the lex talionis, one being a fairly literal understanding in that it accepts bodily maiming, the other being more metaphorical in that it accepts financial compensation. Both of these lines of interpretation are found elsewhere in Jewish sources. In rabbinical literature the idea of financial compensation seems to be more popular (e.g. Tg. Ps.-J. and Tg. Neof. Exod. 21:24; Mek. Exod. 21.24 [III.67]). The lex talionis tradition of financial compensation is assumed in m. Baba Qamma 8.1 in the cases listed: depreciation, pain, healing, loss of time and degradation. While Exod. 21:24 is not explicitly mentioned, it is probably assumed as it is made explicit in the gemara. Thus in the Babylonian Talmud, Baba Qamma 83b–84a, there is a lengthy discussion of the validity of the financial compensation in relation to Exod. 21:24 which is emphatically favoured over the more literal interpretation. Several Tannaim are cited in favour of this interpretation although there appears to be one dissenting voice in R. Eliezer (late first century ce) who favours the literal interpretation. A literal interpretation is also attributed to the Boethusians (Megillat Ta’anit 7.3) and the Sadducees (m. Mak. 1.6) and also appears to be found in Jubilees in its description of Cain’s death:

… his house fell on him, and he died inside it and was killed by the stones of it; for with a stone he had killed Abel, and by a just retribution he was killed by a stone himself. There is a rule about this on the heavenly tablets, With the instrument with which one kills another man, with the same instrument shall he be killed: if he has done a particular injury to another man, the same injury shall be done to him (Jub. 4.31; cf. Bib. Ant., 44.10).

It can therefore be argued that the Matthean Jesus is claiming how Exod. 21:24 should not be interpreted, that is do not interpret it in terms of violent retribution. The non-retaliation of the Matthean Jesus would be in line with those rabbis opposing the literal interpretation of the lex talionis. Read this way, Mt. 5:38–42 should not be seen as opposing Exod. 21:24 because Matthew would have to be much more explicit given the differing interpretations and condemn both totally not just criticise a literal interpretation of the scriptural verse.

In Mt. 5:43–48 Jesus says that ‘You shall love your neighbour and pray for those who persecute you’ in contradiction to what has been heard, namely ‘hate your enemy (μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου)’ (5:43–44). This cannot be seen as a contradiction of the Torah because Jesus upholds the commandment to love the neighbour (Lev. 19:18) and there is no commandment to hate enemies, although such sentiments are expressed (Deut. 7:2; 20:16; 23:4; 30:7; cf. Ps. 26:5; 137:7–9; 139:19–22). It may be that the Matthean Jesus is opposing a view found in the Dead Sea scrolls where the sons of light are ‘to hate’ (לשנוא) the sons of darkness, which includes hating fellow Jews (cf. 1QS 1.4, 10–11; 9.21–23; War 2.139). It may also be that Jesus or Matthew urged followers to also ‘love’ the Romans, in line with other statements made by ancient Jews,84 perhaps contrasted with active Jewish revolutionaries. However, most importantly for this study, Mt. 5:43–48 has Jesus attacking other Jews but in no way contradicting biblical law. Thus concerning Mt. 5:21–48 as a whole, this is another Matthean portrayal of Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah as not challenging any of the commandments at all but at the same time opposing certain interpretations.

Matthew 23 has further attacks on Pharisaic and scribal practices but it is clear that there is nothing that contradicts biblical law (cf. Mt. 23:1–3). For example, in Mt. 23:5 Jesus criticises the Pharisees for expanding their phylacteries. This is not a criticism of wearing them; it is an attack on a visible development of biblical law (cf. Deut. 6:8f.; cf. 11:18; Exod. 13:9, 16). In Mt. 23:23 (/Lk. 11:42) Jesus attacks one emphasis on the Torah at the expense of another, namely tithing mint, dill and cumin. These are precise expansions of biblical law: tithing regulations are biblical (e.g. Deut. 14:22–29; Lev. 27:30–33; Num. 18:12; Neh. 10:37–38) but herbs are never explicitly mentioned. Specifically tithing dill and cumin is an expansion of, and, for some, implicit in, biblical law, and is mentioned in the Mishnah (m. Ma’as. 4.5; Dem. 2.1). Mint is not mentioned anywhere else but can easily be deduced from general statements in Jewish literature (Deut. 14:23; Lev. 27:30–31; Num. 18:12; m. Ma’as 1.1). Significantly Matthew does not say that tithing is wrong. Here the point is that excessive tithing should not be done at the expense of mercy, justice and faith, fundamental aspects of the Torah from the perspective of the Matthean Jesus. It should also be noted that 23:25–26 and 23:27–28 are couched in legal language and function as an attack on scribes and Pharisees but there is no indication that there is any attack on biblical law.

Matthew portrays Jesus observing the Sabbath. Matthew adds another halakic argument to Mk 3:1–6 to show that Jesus did not dismiss the Sabbath when he healed the man with the withered hand (Mt. 12:11–12). This assumes that the Pharisees should agree that an animal ought to be aided on the Sabbath (cf. m. Betza 3.4), which would be the opposite of a position recorded at Qumran (CD 11.13–14). If the Pharisees agree with this position then surely, so the argument goes, they should accept that aiding a man on the Sabbath is permissible. This is therefore a dispute over the interpretation of Sabbath laws which in no way questions the validity of the Sabbath itself. It should be noted that Matthew’s use of the Markan Sabbath healing stories (Mt. 8:14–17/Mk 1:29–34) are no longer said to be on the Sabbath. This is perhaps due to unease on Matthew’s part, which is possibly supported in some way by Matthew feeling the need to add an additional argument to defend Jesus’ healing of the withered hand in Mt. 12:11–12. It is possible, but far from clear, that Matthean sensitivity towards the Sabbath is reflected in an addition to the eschatological discourse and the flight from Judea: ‘Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath’ (Mt. 24:20).

Matthew maintains the subordination of family ties and attitudes towards parents found in Mark (e.g. Mt. 12:46–50/Mk 3:31–35/Lk. 8:19–21; Mt. 19:29/Mk 10:29–30/Lk. 18:29) without ever implying that this should be seen as something opposed to biblical laws. In fact Matthew makes this subordination theme absolutely clear in his version of a Q saying (Lk. 14:26/Mt. 10:37) where the Matthean Jesus says that the would-be follower should not love close relatives more than him. Here (φιλέω + ὑπέρ is used as opposed to Luke’s harder μισέω (‘hate’) which makes Matthew’s Jesus all the more Torah obedient. Jesus’ mission may well have literally turned child against parent (Mt. 10:34–36), but there is absolutely no indication in Matthew, just as there was not in Mark, that the so-called anti-familial theme is perceived to be an attack on the laws to respect parents.

There is a Q saying found in Matthew which is widely believed to show that Jesus was prepared to override biblical law and common piety concerning the burial of dead parents, namely Mt. 8:22 (/Lk. 9:60)—’let the dead bury their own dead (ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκροὺς)’. The most notable contribution in terms of influence has been that of Hengel. Hengel takes the first νεκροὺς in the sense of spiritually dead, ‘those who do not allow themselves to be affected by Jesus’ message or by the nearness of the kingdom’. The saying has a ‘unique sharpness’ because it could be understood as an attack on the commandment to honour parents and it hit at the heart of Jewish piety where ‘the last offices for the dead had gained primacy among all good works’.89 Hengel notes exceptions to the custom of burying parents in the regulations concerning the High Priest (Lev. 21:11–12) and the Nazirites (Num. 6:6) but believes that this had been relaxed by the Tannaitic period. Jesus’ call is perceived to run sharply against law, piety and custom based on his unique authority as the proclaimer of the kingdom of God. This was an urgent message, which demanded the abandonment of all human considerations and ties.91

Hengel has had an enormous influence on recent discussion of Mt. 8:22/Lk. 9:60. Even Sanders is prepared to see the historical Jesus requiring a disobedience to the Torah in this case. Sanders develops the earlier work on this saying by noting a ‘double impact’: the positive thrust is an urgent call to discipleship; the negative thrust is a ‘Disobedience of the requirement to care for one’s dead parents is actually disobedience to God.’ Sanders’ ‘modest conclusion’ is that Jesus was prepared to say that following him superseded the Torah and was therefore prepared to challenge the adequacy of the ‘Mosaic dispensation’.94 Essentially the same outlook is found among several prominent scholars, although some question the extent of Jesus’ opposition towards the Torah.96

There is good reason to question the Hengel/Sanders line concerning the Torah in this instance and there have been important objections made be Vermes and Bockmuehl. One particular criticism given be Bockmuehl should be mentioned. Bockmuehl notes that there was not a relaxation of the biblical Torah but rather an affirmation of halakic priority within the Torah. The dead person would remain unburied if there were no other relatives so the biblical commandment of burial (e.g. Deut. 21:23; cf. Gen. 23:4–20; 47:29–30; 49:29–30; Sir. 38:16; Eccl. 6:3) takes precedence over demands both of a High Priest’s duty (cf. Sifre Lev. 21:11 [211]; be Nazir 47b) and of a Nazirite’s optional vow (m. Nazir 6.5; Sifre Num. 6:6 [26]). There is not one rabbinic source cited be Hengel (nor Strack-Billerbeck) which makes an exception for High Priests or Nazirites to bury parents (cf. Philo, Spec. Leg. 1.113–115, 250). The cited exemptions for High Priests and Nazirites apply to the מצוה מת, the burial of those with no one left to bury them. Bockmuehl also believes that there are reasonable grounds to doubt that the halakah of a High Priest or a Nazirite burying an abandoned corpse was fixed in the first century (cf. Lk. 10:29–37). In Philo there is no indication that the High Priest was allowed to come into contact with a corpse when he discusses the laws of Lev. 21:11–12 (Spec. Leg. 1:113–115) nor that the Nazirite could do likewise in his discussion of the Nazirite vow (Spec. Leg. 1.250). It may be that Philo is simply recalling the biblical text but it is also possible that he did not accept any exceptions. The implication of this is that Philo may not have accepted a priestly concession for burying the dead.

Despite these observations the fact remains that burying the dead and children burying parents was important in the ancient world. However, this should actually make us wary that this saying was to be taken as a rejection of the Torah and common piety because nowhere is there a reaction or opposition to Jesus’ saying which contrasts sharply with other aspects of the Torah such as Sabbath, purity and Jesus’ mission to sinners. Thus, if the duty of respecting parents was so important why do we not hear of any reaction to the shock value such disregard would bring? As will be argued below, there is no evidence that the father was left to rot. This shows how fragile the evidence is for the Hengel/Sanders view. The saying would have to be much more explicit and be given a firm context if Jesus were to contradict biblical law. One very important indication of this is that Matthew does not seem to find any problem with the saying. In contrast when there was a danger of the food laws being challenged Matthew makes it explicit that Jesus was criticising the handwashing tradition (Mt. 15:20; cf. 5:17–20).

The view that the would-be disciple could have had other relatives to bury the father is often caricatured but it is supported be the information given be Matthew, Luke, and the Jewish background concerning burial of parents. The important piece of information given by both evangelists is the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτῶν, functioning as a possessive pronoun. This makes it clear that there are other members of the family, among the figuratively dead, to bury the dead father. Nowhere is there a complaint that the father will not be buried and nowhere is there a complaint that there are no children left to carry out the burial. It can therefore be assumed that ἑαυτῶν includes a reference to members of the family who stay behind to bury the dead, otherwise a response along the lines of Tob. 6:15 would surely be expected, ‘I am the only son my father has, I am afraid that I may die and bring my father’s and mother’s life down to their grave, grieving for me—and they have no other son to bury them.’ The wealth of information given be Hengel, qualified be the work of Bockmuehl, indicates that it may well be outrageous if Jesus required that the man be left unburied yet nowhere is it indicated that Jesus desired this. Given the Jewish context more information would be required be the evangelist if he wanted to portray Jesus opposing biblical law: the passage as it stands gives us enough information to show that he did not. The call to follow Jesus is still urgent and there may still be a strong shock value to the saying as the man is to leave his father to be buried by others but it does not contradict the Torah.

Matthew’s use of Markan passages concerning the Temple system are not developed in any way to show opposition to its ideal functions. It has already been noted that Matthew dropped the subordination of burnt offerings and sacrifices from Mark’s discussion of the Greatest Commandment (Mt. 22:34–40/Mk 12:29–31). It may also be the case that Matthew makes the cleansing of the leper passage (Mt. 8:2–4) be even more explicitly in favour of the purity system by dropping Mk 1:45 and therefore any hint that the leper may have disobeyed Jesus’ command. The healing of the paralytic (Mt. 9:1–8) retains all the significant points from Mk 2:1–12 mentioned above and is in no way portrayed be Matthew as an opposition to the Temple’s role in forgiveness. The blasphemy charge in Mt. 9:1–8 is again reflected in the trial of Jesus where it also appears to be linked with Jesus as Son of Man being granted authority be God (Mt. 26:64–65). Matthew, like Mark, has conflicts over authority, each side accusing the other of doing sinful activities (Mt. 12:22–32). Matthew does not portray Jesus opposing biblical laws associated with the Temple and purity system when he becomes impure. The Matthean version of the story of Levi and the tax-collectors (Mt. 9:9–13; Mk 2:13–17; Lk. 5:27–32) does not make anything of the wholly unremarkable possibility of Jesus becoming impure. Like Mk 2:16, Matthew 9:11 has Jesus accused of associating with tax-collectors and sinners and no mention is made of bypassing the Temple system. The Hosea 6:6 quote (‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’) is almost certainly understood inclusively in Matthew 9:13. The Matthean Jesus may have risked corpse impurity, although the girl is again ‘sleeping’ (9:24), and contracted impurity of an impure woman (Mt. 9:18–26/Mk 5:21–43/Lk. 8:40–56) but this is not against biblical law.

Matthew does not show any indication that the Temple system was rejected or replaced in his use of other Markan passages. Mark 10:45 is retained with no mention that Jesus’ death replaced the Temple nor any hint that Matthew thought so (Mt. 20:28). Likewise in the rending of the Temple veil (27:51/Mk 15:38): Matthew just adds to the dramatic imagery surrounding Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:51–53). Here the earthquake and resurrection of the dead echo cosmic and dramatic imagery used to describe the deaths of great Jews, as shown be Aus, and there is no mention of destruction or the end of the Temple system. The words at the Last Supper are a little different in Matthew from those of Mk 14:25 but there is no substantial change in meaning: ‘this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν)’ (Mt. 26:28). Once again there is no mention of Jesus rendering the Temple system obsolete: Matthew would have to be much more explicit if that was what he thought. The reference to the Temple in the Markan trial scene is toned down be Matthew. Instead of the allegation that the Markan Jesus was claiming to destroy the Temple made with hands and replace it with one not made with hands, the Matthean Jesus is accused of claiming to have the power to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days if he so wished (Mt. 26:61). There is no indication whatsoever that the Matthean Jesus was actually going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days any more than he was actually going to send for an army of angels (Mt. 26:52–54), although according to Matthew he could if he so wished. As was seen in Chapter 3, if someone wants a rebuilt Temple it hardly means this is someone opposed to biblical law. The cleansing of the Temple (Mt. 21:12–13) omits the vessel (σκεῦος) being carried in the Temple and ‘for all the nations’ in the Isaiah quote from Mark but this does not alter the argument that Jesus accepted the Temple and the sacrificial system. The idealistic view of the Temple is contrasted with the perceived economic exploitation, a house of prayer turned into a den of robbers. Just in case there is any doubt Matthew records Jesus quite explicitly endorsing the validity of the Temple: read Mt. 5:23–24 and 23:21.

There is another passage, found only in Matthew, which appears to give some indication of the Matthean Jesus’ attitude towards the Temple: Mt. 17:24–27 has Jesus express his opinion concerning the half-shekel Temple tax (Exod. 30:13ff.; cf. Neh. 10:32ff.). While Jesus appears to pay the Temple tax he is in principle against (at the very least himself and Peter) paying it. Some scholars have seen this passage as an example of Jesus opposing the Temple. For Thompson, the principle of exemption from the Temple tax affirms ‘that the temple is no longer the centre of community and that its sacrifices are no longer necessary to reconcile man with God’.107 This goes beyond the evidence which Matthew presents: there is no mention of the validity of the Temple itself and sacrifices. Thus Bauckham rightly notes that the while the implication is that the Temple tax is illegitimate it is important to notice ‘that this illegitimacy has nothing to do with the religious status of the Temple as such or the legitimacy of its worship’.

There was in fact room for debate concerning the validity of the Temple tax in ancient Judaism and the Matthean Jesus is within its boundaries. The most important biblical basis was Exod. 30:13ff. Here God tells Moses that when he takes a census the Israelites must pay a ransom of half a shekel to God in order that no plague will come on them. The money is to be used for the service of the Tent of Meeting (Exod. 30:16). There is, however, no indication that this was to be an annual tax or one that was to continue after the time of Moses. The payment of Temple tax appears to be found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. According to 2 Chron. 24:4–16 (cf. 2 Kgs 12:4–16 [mt 5–17]) Joash decided to restore the Temple and taxed the people, ‘the tax levied be Moses’ (2 Chron. 24:6), but there is no indication that this should be a permanent fixture. Nehemiah 10:32ff. talks of people laying an obligation upon themselves of an annual one-third shekel charge for the Temple service. With such differing views it is not without reason that some have seen the annual half-shekel Temple tax as a development much later in the Second Temple period. Moreover, the view of an annual half-shekel Temple tax was not universal in the Second Temple period. In 4Q159, or 4QOrdinances, Exod. 30:13ff. is regarded as a Temple tax but significantly it is limited to once in a lifetime (2:6ff.). There is also some evidence of non-payment of the Temple tax. Rabban Johanan be Zakkai contrasted the situation before the fall of the Temple when the Temple tax was not paid with the post-destruction era where fifteen shekels has to be paid to enemies (Mek. Exod. 19.1 [II.193–195]). There is also some evidence of certain exemptions: Johanan be Zakkai also opposed the view associated with Ben Bukri at Javneh that priests were exempt from the tax (m. Sheqal. 1.4). All this evidence strongly suggests that Jesus’ view of the Temple tax would have been within the boundaries of Torah observance in Second Temple Judaism. Material such as Matthew 17:24–27 would have been of no use if Matthew wished to portray Jesus in opposition to the Temple. In fact the very act of avoiding giving offence suggests that Jesus was in favour of the ideal Temple system and did not wish to be seen as opposing it.

Matthew, then, like Mark, except more explicitly, portrays Jesus as a Torah observant Jew but in conflict and contrast with certain expansions of the Torah (cf. Mt. 11:28–30; 23:4). Matthew may well have believed that Jesus was interpreting the Torah and even adding to it in a ‘messianic’ sense or as a new Moses or prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15) but this does not mean dispensing with the biblical Torah. Matthew, without exception, never has Jesus questioning, neglecting, opposing or breaking any biblical commandment.

3. Jesus and the Torah according to Luke

While there has been no shortage of scholars who believe that the Lukan Jesus, to greater or lesser degree, opposes, overrides, or ignores the biblical Torah and/or the Temple, there has been a significant tradition of scholarly interpretation which has the Lukan Jesus upholding biblical law and accepting the validity of, or at least the ideal of, the Temple and the purity system.116 It is the latter sort of approach which in general terms will be followed here (Lk. 6:1–5; 16:18 will be discussed in Chapter 6).

Like Mark and Matthew, Luke has general statements concerning the Torah. For example, in the question concerning eternal life (Lk. 18:18–25/Mk 10:17–27/Mt. 19:16–26) Jesus emphasises the importance of biblical commandments from the Decalogue with the addition of selling possessions and distributing the money to the poor but whereas Mark lists the prohibition of murder first, Luke has adultery followed be murder. Another general statement concerning the Torah, Lk. 10:25–28, is similar to the Markan discussion of the Shema’ and loving the neighbour but, in contrast with Mk 12:28–34, Luke does not place these commandments in order of importance and there is no discussion of the downplaying of sacrifices and burnt offerings in Luke. There is no suggestion that any part of the Torah is of less value than another. Luke 10:25–28, in the context of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29–37), puts loving the neighbour ahead of post-biblical developments of purity law, a passage which will be discussed below.

Luke also has a general statement concerning the Torah from Q which is again used to portray Jesus as a Torah observant Jew (Lk. 16:16–17; cf. 16:31). The very fact that a verse such as Lk. 16:17 shows that the law is still valid at least in the time of Jesus suggests that, since John, the kingdom is an addition to the law and the prophets. As will be argued in Chapter 6, the Lukan divorce passage immediately following (16:18) accepts the validity of biblical divorce law. Although this sort of approach is not always accepted, the best supporting evidence, namely the role of the law throughout Luke, should prove to be conclusive.

Luke has general ethical statements which are again paralleled in Matthew but, unlike Matthew, Luke does not present these in terms of legal debate which has some minor ramifications for the Lukan Jesus’ view of biblical commandments. Luke does not have the structure of the Matthean ‘antitheses’ so there is no contrast established with other teaching, biblical or not. Jesus says to love enemies and persecutors (Lk. 6:27–28) but unlike Mt. 5:43–44 this is not contrasted with a teaching to hate enemies. Jesus says to turn the other cheek (Lk. 6:29) but unlike Mt. 5:38–39 this is not set against the biblical lex talionis (Exod. 21:24). A view such as Lk. 6:29 would be acceptable within Jewish thought: ‘… give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults’ (Lam. 3:30); ‘The good man has not an eye that cannot see; for he shows mercy to all men, sinners though they may be, and though they may plot his ruin’ (T. Ben. 4.2); ‘I will pay no man the reward of evil; I will pursue him with goodness. For judgement of all the living is with God and it is He who will render to man his reward’ (1QS 10.17–18). The lex talionis may be assumed but even this, as was argued in the discussion of Mt. 5:38–39, would not put Luke against biblical teaching, only against a violent interpretation of it. Also in the Sermon on the Plain, the Golden Rule found in Lk. 6:31 does not have the addition of ‘for this is the Law and prophets’ as it does in Mt. 7:12. This does not of course mean that the Lukan Jesus rejects or overrides the Torah in any way, but rather Luke simply does not have the emphasis on Jesus as interpreter of the law as is found in Matthew. For Luke these are more general ethical statements which, incidentally, are all consistent with Jewish teaching and the Torah.

Like Mt. 23:23, Luke attacks the Pharisees for over-emphasising tithing supposedly at the expense of justice and the love of God (Lk. 11:42). Luke is not entirely accurate in his statement, ‘you tithe mint, rue and all kinds of herbs’. Rue (πήγανον/פגם) is a herb exempt from tithing in the Mishnah (Shebi. 9.1) and the generic ‘all kinds of herbs’ (πᾶν λάχανον), if taken literally, may contradict the Mishnah where six herbs exempt from tithing are mentioned (Shebi. 9.1). Despite this, Lk 11:42 makes it clear that even these practices remain valid: ‘it is these [i.e. justice and love of God] you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others’.

Like Mark, Luke includes healing and exorcising on the Sabbath (Lk. 4:31–41/Mk 1:21–34; cf. Mt. 8:14–17) and there is no indication that this was a problem so far as Sabbath observance is concerned (cf. Lk. 4:40). Luke retains the significant legal points raised in Mark concerning the Sabbath healing of the man with the withered hand (Lk. 6:6–11/Mk 3:1–6). Again the issue is to expand the rule of saving life overruling the Sabbath to include the healing ministry, ‘I ask you, is it lawful (εἰ ἔξεστιν) to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life (ψυχὴν σῶσαι) or to destroy it?’ (Lk. 6:9). For Luke, then, this is once more an interpretation of biblical law and not whether such laws should be observed at all.

The two Sabbath disputes particular to (Luke 13:10–17; 14:1–6) show Jesus again accepting that healing people is permissible on the Sabbath, perhaps extending the principle of life overruling the Sabbath to include his healing ministry (Lk. 13:16; 14:3). These two verses clearly show that Jesus did not break biblical Sabbath commandments because nowhere in biblical law is healing people prohibited on the Sabbath. If Luke wanted to portray Jesus abrogating or questioning the Sabbath commandment he would have to be much more explicit, such as have him carrying a burden. Jesus’ replies hardly indicate that the Sabbath is to be abandoned, hence the references to halakic debate to defend his actions in Lk. 13:10–17 and 14:1–6, the untying of an ox or donkey and leading it to water (Lk. 13:15) and the aiding of a child or an ox that has fallen into a well (Lk. 14:5). This is surely within the boundaries of Jewish legal debate. For example, m. Shabbat 5.1–4 mentions that cattle can go out on the Sabbath without burdens despite prohibitions of tying and untying various kinds of knots (m. Shabb. 7.2; 15.1). Provisions were made for cattle to be taken to wells on the Sabbath without exceeding the limits for Sabbath travel (m. ‘Erub. 2.1–4). Similarly at the time of Jesus CD 11.5f. limits the Sabbath distance to 2,000 cubits for a cattle to pasture. Thus the argument of the first Sabbath dispute particular to Luke, Lk. 13:10–17, is that if it is acceptable to untie an animal and lead it to water, as indeed many people did, then surely also to loosen the woman from the bondage of Satan.

The second Sabbath debate particular to Luke, Lk. 14:1–6, again employs an argument based on common agreement in v. 5. This also implies a position opposed to that of CD 11:13–14 where it is forbidden on the Sabbath to help an animal that has fallen into a pit or a well. This suggests that Jesus, the early church or Luke had knowledge of the legal position of the compilers of CD and agreed with the Pharisees against them (cf. m. Betza 3.4) in order to defend the position on the Sabbath. In a way reminiscent of Lk. 13:10–17, Lk. 14:1–6 has an argument which is essentially this: if it is permissible to help an animal (and a child of course) on the Sabbath then it should not be questioned that the Jewish recipients of his healing ministry are to be healed (cf. Mt. 12:11–12). The main conclusion for this study is therefore unavoidable: from the perspective of Luke, Jesus disputed Sabbath halakah with his opponents but without breaking any biblical regulations. That Jesus observed biblical Sabbath law is supported by the behaviour of the female followers of Jesus from Galilee at the tomb of Jesus in Luke 23:56: ‘On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.’

Although there is material particular to Luke (and Thomas) concerning family piety (Lk. 11:27f./Gos. Thom. 79; cf. Lk. 23:29), like Matthew much of Luke’s material was inherited from Mark and is not significantly altered (e.g. Lk. 8:19–21/Mk 3:31–35/Mt. 12:46–50; Lk. 18:29/Mk 10:29–30/Mt. 19:29). Note that in contrast to Mark there is a downplaying of any clash between Jesus and his family (Lk. 8:19–21/Mk 3:20–21, 31–35): there is no indication that Jesus’ family tried to restrain him as found in Mk 3:21. Like Matthew, some of Luke’s material concerning familial piety was inherited from Q. The Lukan version of ‘let the dead bury their own dead’ (Lk. 9:60/Mt. 8:22) is like Matthew in that it also implies that the dead man would be buried, and even if he was not it could still just be a rejection of an outsider as was mentioned in relation to the Matthean version (and a point I owe to Fletcher-Louis). Nowhere does Luke indicate that this saying is in opposition to biblical law. One tradition that looks as if the Torah is being categorically rejected is the Lukan version of a Q passage where a disciple of Jesus must ‘hate’ (μισέω) their close family (Lk. 14:26/Mt. 10:37). However, Manson, followed by Barton, notes, with reference to Gen. 29:31ff. and Deut. 21:15ff., that ‘love’ and ‘hate’ in the biblical literature can stand alongside one another in contexts where it is obvious that ‘hate’ is to be taken in the sense of ‘love-less’. The Deuteronomy and Genesis passages cited be Manson use the Hebrew שנא (the same root as the Aramaic which is probably literally translated in Luke) and are rendered with μισέω in lxx. With such passages in mind and the fact that no controversy is recorded it looks very likely that the Torah is not rejected in Lk. 14:26. Note that Luke strongly emphasises Jesus’ obedience to his parents when Jesus was young (Lk. 2:51). It is also fruitful to recall the hyperbolic sayings of Jesus which would make excellent sense of passages such as Lk. 14:26 (cf. e.g. 5:21–26, 27–30; 7:1–5).

A part of the ‘Great Omission’ of Mk 6:45–8:26 is particularly significant, namely Mk 7:1–23. Although it will be argued that Mk 7:1–23 does not reject the biblical food laws it could be read in such a way and this is most probably the reason it is omitted in Luke. Indeed it is not until Peter has his vision that one of Jesus’ disciples is involved in a situation advocating non-observance of biblical food laws (Acts 10–11:18) and, crucially, it is made explicitly clear that Peter had always observed the food laws (Acts 10:14). It is therefore wholly unlikely that Luke believed Jesus advocated non-observance of the biblical food laws. It is also clear from Acts that it is the gentile mission which makes it necessary for some aspects of the Torah to be set aside for gentiles at least (e.g. Acts 10–11:18; Acts 15). It should be noted though that in Lk. 10:7–8, a part of a Lukan missionary discourse, is a passage which has been used to show a rejection of the food laws. However, this passage could not have involved prohibited foods because the gentile mission is not yet underway and when it is, it is after the death of Jesus, due in part to Peter’s vision which permits the eating of prohibited animals (Acts 10–11:18). There is probably an indication that the Lukan Jesus is prepared to overlook expansions of food and purity laws, such as handwashing before meals or the eating of food which would be deemed impure be some due to contact with unwashed hands, but this is not in opposition to biblical laws.

Jesus comes in for criticism for not immersing before a meal with a Pharisee in Lk. 11:37–41. Immersing before a meal is an expansion of biblical laws and not something commanded in biblical law. Jesus also attacks the Pharisees for cleaning the outside of the cup and the dish while remaining full of greed and wickedness (Lk. 11:39–40). It is, however, the final verse (Lk. 11:41) of this passage that has proven to be most controversial, ‘So give for alms those things that are within: and see, everything will be clean for you (πάντα καθαρὰ ὑμῖν ἐστιν).’ Blomberg claims that here the Lukan Jesus ‘is turning an illustration about ritual purity into a more widely applicable statement about moral purity’ and this would mean ‘v. 41b potentially contains some very radical implications concerning the need for cleanliness laws’. Luke 11:41 is not, however, to be seen as a sweeping rejection of biblical purity laws in any way. The argument is all about motive and development of biblical laws. Jesus uses the emphasis on washing the outside of vessels, a practice echoed in the Mishnah (m. Kelim 25.5–7; cf. m. Ber. 8.2–3; t. Ber. 5.26) but not commanded in biblical law, to contrast with the supposedly corrupt insides of the Pharisees. But God made both the insides and outsides says the Lukan Jesus so if alms are given for that within, all will be clean, the inside and outside. This discussion of inner and outer purity, which uses the example of vessels, is hardly in conflict with biblical law and if it does conflict with anything it is with expansions of biblical laws. To see Lk. 11:41 as a rejection of biblical purity laws runs clean contrary to Luke’s argument. Moreover, if the Lukan Jesus was declaring the purity laws invalid it could only be inferred that the Lukan Peter was utterly lacking in any kind of perception for Luke does not have Peter conflict with any biblical laws until Acts 10!

In fact there is no indication that the Lukan Jesus opposed purity laws or the ideal function of the Temple in his handling of Mark and Q and in material particular to Luke. The Lukan healing of the ‘leper’ retains the significant legal aspects of the Markan version (Lk. 5:12–16/Mk 1:40–45). There is no hint that Luke thinks that Jesus touching the leper puts Jesus against biblical law and it has already been noted that people contracting impurity through contact with a leper was a potential situation known to Jews of the time. Significantly, Luke retains the information where Jesus tells the healed man to go to the priests as Moses commanded and, like Matthew, there is no indication that the healed man went around spreading the word thus avoiding any implication that the healed man did not go to the Temple. Note also in the healing of the ten lepers (Lk. 17:11–19), particular to Luke, Jesus again tells the lepers to go to the priest as Moses commanded. There is no touching between Jesus and a leper in Lk. 17:11–19. Jesus acts unambiguously in accordance with biblical law.

The Lukan version of the healing of the paralytic retains the same conflict situation as Mark (Lk. 5:17–26/Mk 2:1–12) which in no way opposes the Temple or the priesthood. The language is similar at key points. As noted with Mark the conflict here is over the authority to loose sins (which still implies forgiveness, of course), for example v. 24, ‘But so that you know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive/loose sins (ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας)’. That Luke is familiar with such language in Jesus’ healings is confirmed elsewhere in his gospel, most notably in Lk. 13:12 when Jesus heals a woman with a ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα) which prevented her from walking fully upright for eighteen years, ‘Woman, you are set free (ἀπολέλυσαι) from your ailment.’ Moreover, Luke also includes details of a conflict between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees over the authority of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms (11:14–23). Thus like Mark and Matthew, the Lukan healing of the paralytic concerns the authority of Jesus and it should not be understood as Jesus opposing or overriding the Temple system or taking the place of God.

The association of Jesus with Levi and sinners is also found in Luke but here Luke has the complaint aimed at the disciples not Jesus (Lk. 5:29–32/Mk 2:15–17). Jesus does defend the disciples but there is no indication of Jesus condoning the breaking of any biblical purity law, even if those people with whom his disciples were associating were impure: this is not against any biblical law. Luke also adds that he called sinners to ‘repentance’ (μετάνοιαν), which echoes the biblical prophets’ call to return to God and the commandments (e.g. Deut. 30:2–10; 2 Kgs 23:25; Isa. 1:27; 6:10; Jer. 3:7–14; 4:1–2; 5:1ff.; Hos. 6:1–3; 11:5; cf. Lk. 13:1–9; 15:1–32; 16:29–31; 24:47). Luke does not significantly alter other Markan passages where impurity would have been an issue, such as the Gerasene demoniac (8:26–39/Mk 5:1–20), the raising of Jairus’ daughter (8:40–42, 49–56/Mk 5:21–24, 35–43), who, incidentally, is sleeping not dead (Lk. 8:52/Mk 5:39), and the healing of the woman with a blood flow problem (Lk. 8:43–48/Mk 5:25–34). In none of these instances is the issue of impurity highlighted and in none of these situations is Jesus portrayed as doing anything against biblical law. While there is some evidence that the Lukan Jesus may have been particularly sensitive to purity issues, such as in the healing of the centurion’s servant (Lk. 7:1–10/Mt. 8:5–13), there is evidence that he was prepared to contract impurity. For example, in the raising of the widow’s son in Nain (Lk. 7:12–17) Jesus would have become impure (e.g. 7:14). However, as has been stressed throughout this chapter, contracting impurity is not against biblical law. Indeed the reaction in Lk. 7:16 among Jews is entirely positive.

Luke 7:36–50 (cf. Mk 2:1–12; 14:3–9) is a controversy over the forgiveness of sins and possibly purity. Here Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee to eat which surely implies that the Lukan Jesus was observant of biblical law (cf. Lk. 11:37–38; 14:1). In fact it is when a female ‘sinner’ touches Jesus that the problems start. Luke does not mention that impurity was the issue, although this is possible, but rather stresses her ‘sins’. In Luke 7:48 Jesus says to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven (ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι),’ about which the people at the table speak, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins (ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν)?’ Dunn argues that texts such as this indicate that pronouncing forgiveness was a feature of Jesus’ ministry and one which usurped the role of the priest. However, as was noted earlier, Jesus was not the only Jew who could talk of sins being directly forgiven be God, as the passive ἀφέωνταί in Lk. 7:48 implies, without mention of the Temple and without being perceived to be in opposition to biblical law. Unlike similar passages in the synoptic tradition (Lk. 5:17–26/Mk 2:1–12/Mt. 9:1–8), there is no charge of blasphemy.

The majority of scholars note the issue of corpse impurity is important for the study of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29–37) and it is often interpreted as Jesus criticising the priesthood in some way, expecting a transgression of the priestly commandment to avoid corpse impurity except for close relatives. Wright goes so far as to suggest that the implication of this story is that ‘the whole system of Temple and sacrifice would itself be called into question’.133 It will be argued this is incorrect and that Jesus in no way implied that the priest should question or override the biblical Torah. Firstly, though, we will turn to the commandment concerning priests and corpse impurity. The issue of the Levite becoming clean is not controversial (e.g. Num. 19:11ff.) so he could, and for Luke should, have touched the man.

In Lev. 21:1–3 the priests are not to defile themselves except for the closest of kin. In 21:4–8 there are further prohibitions for the priests. There is no punishment stated if the priest does transgress. In contrast, the following verse states that when a priest’s daughter profanes herself through prostitution she profanes her father and is to be put to death. Directly preceding the passage in 20:27 mediums and wizards are to be put to death. Thus it is significant that if the priest contracted corpse impurity he would not be put to death, although this would prevent him from serving in the Temple. Ezekiel 44:25–27 does not allow a priest to contract corpse impurity except for close relatives but, again, there is no punishment if he were to contract corpse impurity. An important passage is Num. 19:16: ‘Whoever in the open field touches one who has been killed be a sword or who has died, or a human bone, or a grave, will be unclean seven days.’ This is important because Lev. 21:1 states that a priest is not to contract corpse impurity when he is ‘among his people’ (בעמיו). This would mean that, be implication, an unattended corpse in the countryside does not come under this law. This is an important point to consider because the priest was hardly among his people in Lk. 10:29–37.

There are practical reasons why a priest would not be put to death for corpse impurity. It could be easily contracted, hence passages such as Lev. 5:3 which concerns contracting uncleanness unwittingly, although attempts were made to avoid accidental pollution in New Testament times (e.g. Mt. 23:27; Lk. 11:44). A useful analogy is in Numbers 6 and the Nazirite vow. The Nazirite vow prohibits corpse impurity even through contact with close relatives. However, there is an exception: if someone nearby falls dead suddenly. If this happens the Nazirite is to shave his head and make offerings (Num. 6:9–12). This was not supposed to happen but it could and it is perhaps inevitable that this problem would have to be discussed. In fact in m. Nazir 7.1 there is a disagreement between late first-century R. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus and his colleagues concerning whether an unattended corpse should exempt the Nazirite and the High Priest from maintaining purity all the time. If they were on a journey, Eliezer suggests, the High Priest may contract uncleanness but the Nazirite may not. The sages say the opposite: the Nazirite may but the High Priest may not (cf. Num. 6:1–12; Lev. 21:11–12; Spec. Leg. 1.113–115, 250). In fact R. Eliezer was prepared to accept a High Priest contracting impurity in the case of an abandoned corpse because he need not bring an offering for his uncleanness. This not only shows the problems abandoned corpses could provide but also that it was probable certain authorities would have found it acceptable for priests, who were allowed to bury relatives, to incur corpse impurity in the case of an abandoned corpse in the first century. This is supported to an extent be the positive value of burying abandoned corpses in Tobit (1:17–18; 2:3–9; 12:13; cf. 2 Macc. 12:39).

The Priest and Levite could perhaps be excused if they were about to serve in the Temple. However, they were not, because Luke gives us a crucial piece of information: κατέβαινεν (10:31). The Priest and the Levite went down ‘on that road’ (ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐκείνῃ), that is the road the man ‘went down from Jerusalem to Jericho’ (κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ). There are important cultural and geographical reasons to support this key piece of information (κατέβαινεν recorded be Luke. There is a 3,330 ft. descent from Jerusalem and the Temple to ‘Jericho’, which is not to be identified with the Jericho of Old Testament but rather one 1½ miles further south (War 4.452–53), and so a priest would have to be going up to Jerusalem to serve in the Temple. Luke records enough information which when applied to a first-century Palestinian setting shows that Jesus was attacking an emphasis on maintaining purity when outside the Temple. Anyone familiar with biblical tradition would know that the Priest and Levite had already served in the Temple because they were going away from it; contracting corpse impurity could not hinder their contribution. There is further evidence that the Lukan Jesus is faithful to the biblical Torah in the use of the Samaritan: Samaritans upheld the biblical Torah, albeit with some technical differences. Therefore, Lk. 10:29–37 should be read as an attack on the expansion of the Torah while at the same time Jesus defends his own interpretation of the Torah centred around loving the neighbour, which be implication, from the perspective of the Lukan Jesus, is contradicted be the expansion of purity law.

Bauckham has published an article on the Good Samaritan, which also has Jesus acting in accordance with biblical law. For Bauckham, the story establishes an unusual halakic situation. Any first-century Jew would recognise this, given that the priest is confronted with a half-dead man. The commandment that a priest should avoid contracting corpse impurity conflicts with the commandment to love the neighbour. Jesus’ emphasis is that the love commandment should override in cases of conflict.139 The Samaritan is chosen for specific reasons, namely that the Samaritan obeys the commandment to love the neighbour like any Jew should and so the Samaritan, like any good Jew, acknowledges the Torah. However, for many in a Jewish audience a Samaritan would have been one of the least likely people to observe the Torah. Bauckham develops this with reference to the Temple because the Temple was a major issue separating Jews from Samaritans, whether it should be on Mt Zion or Mt Gerizim. Therefore, in Jewish eyes the Samaritan disobeys a great deal of the Torah and would be constantly impure because corpse impurity was to be removed in the Jewish Temple. ‘Thus the Samaritan in the parable is the Israelite who, even though he notoriously misinterprets the Torah … nevertheless exemplifies the correct interpretation of the commandment to love one’s neighbour.’141 This makes an implicit assertion of the superiority of the love commandment over purity laws. The purity laws are not dismissed but rather the love commandment takes halakic priority. This is not, therefore, a story about which groups are covered in the term ‘neighbour’.

There are many benefits of Bauckham’s article. His discussion of the legal background clearly shows that the story must be discussed in legal terms; scholars like Nolland are wrong to say that the issue of purity is ‘a misplaced interest’. It is also an important corrective to the views of scholars who believe this is a question of expanding who is to be included in the term ‘neighbour’.144 If the boundaries of Israel were being opened up they were not being opened very far because the Samaritans used a version of the Torah and there is no mention of gentiles. The gentiles were not generally known for acknowledging the Torah; Samaritans were, even if Jews believed they were acting heretically. This is why there is the inclusion of the Samaritan in Lk. 10:29–37.

However, some aspects of Bauckham’s article remain unsatisfactory. Bauckham does not discuss the important fact that Luke recorded the priest going down from the Temple. This means the Priest had served in the Temple. Given this piece of information it can now be seen that the Priest is concerned with maintaining purity outside the Temple. However, as has been argued, the Priest would not in fact be punished for contracting impurity and certain authorities would not have a problem with him contracting corpse impurity in the case of an abandoned corpse. If Bauckham’s view were to be followed it would be expected of Jesus to have said the Priest was going up to the Temple which would set up an unambiguous contrast between two commandments. When set in this context and the context of expanding the purity laws it can be seen that there is no prioritising the biblical laws, which would be most unlike Luke, and so the Samaritan represents a correct interpretation of the Torah and one opposed to Jesus’ rivals.

Other Lukan traditions which concern forgiveness and repentance are at times used to show Jesus in opposition to the Temple system. Wright, for example, believes passages such as Zacchaeus’ actions in Lk. 19:1–10 show that for the historical Jesus repentance ‘did not involve going to the Temple and offering sacrifice‘. Although Wright’s argument concerns the historical Jesus it remains relevant for our present purposes: if he is correct then the same conclusion would apply to the Lukan Jesus. However, his interpretation is quite unusual because in Lk. 19:1–10 Zacchaeus declares that he will give back what he had unjustly acquired, which is beyond what the Torah requires (twenty per cent: Lev. 6:1–7; but cf. Exod. 21:37 [22:1], ‘four sheep for a stolen sheep’). Even if Zacchaeus was going beyond the Torah this in no way contradicts it; on the contrary, he endorses it. However, when Jesus then declared Zacchaeus was a true son of Abraham and that salvation had come to his house, Wright believes this means, ‘what Zacchaeus would normally have obtained through visiting Jerusalem and participating in the sacrificial cult, Jesus gave him on the spot’. But again Wright has overlooked key factors. As noted above, forgiveness could be gained outside the Temple in Judaism. This may not be so relevant because Zacchaeus is prepared to restore those he cheated as mentioned in the Torah and so the use of the Temple system is almost certainly assumed. It must again be emphasised: Jesus is never criticised for bypassing the Temple anywhere in Luke and the synoptic tradition.

One opportunity for Luke to present Jesus in opposition to the Temple system would have been in his rewriting of the Markan Passover and Last Supper episode (Lk. 22:1–23/Mk 14:1–25) but still Luke has Jesus observing the Passover festival. Many good manuscripts include the following addition to ‘This is my body’ in 22:19,

‘… which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’ (Lk. 22:19–20).

Even if this is original to the Lukan text (as it appears to be) there is no indication that the Lukan Jesus believes it to be a direct challenge to the sacrificial system and it is significant that Luke not only portrays Christians active in the Temple in Acts but also did not see breaking bread in opposition to the Temple in Acts (Acts 2:46–47).

Elsewhere it is Lukan omissions which show Luke was wary about portraying Jesus in opposition to the Temple system. Luke omits or alters certain Markan details which could potentially be seen as opposing the Temple system, notably the so-called false witness’ claim that Jesus predicted that the Temple would be destroyed and one not made with hands would be rebuilt (Mk 14:58). It appears that a modified form of this tradition is reserved for Luke’s treatment of Stephen (Acts 6:11–14). Likewise there is no mention of the mocking of Jesus on the cross where, according to Mark, it is alleged that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple and build it in three days (Mk 15:29–30). Luke also omits Mk 10:45, despite having some knowledge of the tradition (cf. Lk. 22:24–27; Mk 10:41–44). The rending of the Temple veil is included be Luke, although curiously placed before Jesus’ death (23:45–46). It is not entirely clear as to why Luke did this, most probably it is another cosmic event surrounding the death of Jesus, but again there is no indication that he implied an opposition to the Temple system.

There is also some indirect evidence from after the death of Jesus which supports the view that the Lukan Jesus did not oppose the ideal function of the Temple. Luke says (24:52–53), after Jesus had left them, his followers, ‘returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the Temple blessing God’. If Jesus was opposed to the Temple system such a positive view would not be associated with his followers after his death. Likewise Luke records the early Christians active in the Temple in the early chapters of Acts (e.g. Acts 2:46–47; 3–4; 5:12ff.; 5:42). Much later in Acts there is indirect evidence suggesting that Jesus accepted the ideal function of the Temple and observed the Torah: Luke even goes to great lengths to make Paul a Torah observant Jew who accepted the importance of the sacrificial system (21:23–29; 24:6, 17–18). Such defences would surely not have been necessary if Luke was portraying Jesus as one opposed to the sacrificial system.

There is also evidence from before the ministry of Jesus which points us in a similar direction: in the birth and infancy narratives Luke portrays different characters, including Jesus, in the Temple and Luke is entirely positive about its function. The birth of Jesus contains details of Jesus’ parents observing biblical laws (Lk. 2:12–24, 27, 39, 41–51). Jesus as a boy teaches in the Temple and, contrary to a great deal of the synoptic material, there is no indication of conflict. The young Jesus in Luke accepted that God dwells in the Temple (Lk. 2:49). The conventional translation of 2:49, ‘my father’s house’, implies that the Temple was the dwelling place of God. Although the Greek ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου can also be translated something like ‘in my father’s interests’ the implication that the Temple was God’s dwelling place is still present. This is supported be other passages in the Lukan birth and infancy narrative. In the literary context of Lk. 2:49 we already know that Jesus’ parents found Jesus ‘in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Lk. 2:46). Significantly Jesus’ parents are portrayed as loyal to the Temple. After Jesus was circumcised, Lk. 2:22–24 discusses the observance of Temple centred laws surrounding birth. Moreover here there is also the implication that God dwells in the Temple (‘they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord …’). Other characters in the birth and infancy narratives also view the Temple in an entirely positive light. For example, in Luke, Zechariah was ‘serving as a priest before God’ and was to ‘enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense’. Here it is clear that the belief that God dwells in the Temple is accepted and that the priesthood is a good thing.

While Luke does not have Jesus opposed to the ideal Temple system it is clear that the Lukan Jesus does have some damning things to say about the Temple. In Lk. 19:41–44, there is a prophecy predicting the destruction of Jerusalem which Luke inserted into his Markan source just before Jesus’ actions in the Temple. In Lk. 21:5–6 the Temple stones will be thrown down and, also in the Lukan eschatological discourse, 21:20–24 predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, which surely includes the Temple. In Lk. 13:31–35 Jesus stresses that he, as a prophet, must die in Jerusalem, ‘the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!’ (Lk. 13:34a). While it is clear that Jesus is sorry about the fate of Jerusalem (13:34b), the Temple will be destroyed, ‘See your house is left to you’ (13:35). Thus, as the addition of ἔρημος in certain manuscripts makes explicit, the Temple will suffer and God will no longer dwell there, no doubt in part as a result of ‘Jerusalem’ killing Jesus and the prophets.

There are further related reasons for the destruction of the Temple in the Lukan cleansing of the Temple (Lk. 19:45–46), an abbreviated account of Mk 11:15–17, even though there is no suggestion of an act of symbolic destruction. Luke says Jesus ‘entered the Temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there’ (19:45) and keeps the Markan scriptural references (Jer. 7:11; Isa. 56:7; Mk 11:17) but, like Matthew, omits any reference to the Temple being a house for all nations. The fact that Luke has summarised Mark be saying that Jesus simply drove out those selling things there and kept the reference to ‘a den of robbers’ suggests he has kept the Markan theme of Jesus attacking a perceived economic exploitation. The fact that it follows on from the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk. 19:41–44) implies that Luke believes the fall is due to economic exploitation, which would be consistent with the Lukan emphasis on corruption of wealth and caring for the poor. There is evidence of the implied judgement in Lk. 19:45–46. Walker notes that the reference to ‘my house’ (ὁ οἰκός μου; Isa. 56:7) picks up 13:35, ‘your house’ (ὁ οἶκος ὑμῶς, suggesting, ‘this is really God’s house, but it has become yours; look what you have made of it!’, a point supported be the reference to Jer. 7:11 in Lk. 19:46, ‘you have made it a den of robbers’. This is surely accurate and in addition to this it should be noted that there is no indication that Luke believed the ideal function of the Temple system was invalid for Jesus, indeed it would be remarkable if he did given that he records the early Christians active in the Temple after the death of Jesus (e.g. Lk. 24:52–53; Acts 2:46–47; 3–4; 5:12ff.; 5:42). However, it remains clear that something catastrophic will happen to the Temple. There is even a possibility that the Lukan Jesus believed the Temple would be physically restored in the future (Lk. 13:35; 21:24, 28), although the lack of firm evidence makes this is far from clear.

Most significantly for our purposes is that the evidence for the Lukan Jesus opposing, overriding or ignoring any of the ideal functions of the Temple system is non-existent in the gospel. This is consistent with Luke’s presentation of Jesus and the Torah. Jesus here observes the Sabbath, although his interpretation conflicts with his opponents (cf. 11:45–46, 52), there is no hint that the food laws are attacked, and there is no direct attack on the family that would have been perceived to be in conflict with biblical law, although the family is subordinate to Jesus’ mission.

4. Conclusions

It can be argued with some justification that in all three synoptic gospels Jesus is portrayed as a Torah observant Jew in conflict with Jews dedicated to expanding and developing the biblical laws. It must also be inferred that this reflects the views of the historical Jesus. The early church would not have had so much internal controversy over the observance of the biblical Torah if Jesus had deliberately challenged it in any way or if he had told others to do so. Moreover, as this chapter has shown, the portrayal of Jesus observing the biblical law is attested right across both the traditions, i.e. Mark, M, L and Q, and forms, i.e. parables, narrative, sayings and so on.156 This argument is made even more powerful when it is remembered that there is no evidence to the contrary. It can be argued with some certainty, then, that the historical Jesus never challenged the biblical Torah nor did he advocate others to do so. What is particularly significant is that both Matthew and Luke show clear signs that traditions concerning the Torah must not be interpreted as challenging it in any way (e.g. Mt. 5:17–21; Lk. 16:16–17), an issue that is not found in Mark. This may suggest, contrary to most modern scholarship, that Luke and Matthew, unlike Mark, were written up in the light of non-observant Christians. This must be discussed in more detail but first it must be established when problems over the observance of biblical law first became an issue in Christianity given that the question of observing biblical law did not arise in Jesus’s ministry. Once this is established we will then be able to discuss the dates of the gospels based on certain legal passages.

Chapter 5

The Torah and Earliest Christianity

If Jesus did not break, or neglect to observe, any biblical law or advocate that anyone should do so, when did Christianity first begin showing signs that certain biblical laws were starting to be rejected, criticised or simply not observed on a noticeable scale? There is indisputable evidence from Paul’s letters that certain Christians were not observing at the very least certain aspects of the biblical Torah, such as food laws and Sabbath, which would bring us to the fifties. According to the methodology outlined at the end of Chapter 3, if Mark really does show no signs of the biblical Torah being challenged then a date for Mark sometime before the fifties could reasonably be suggested, i.e. a date before the challenges to the biblical Torah found, for example, in Paul’s letters. But is it possible to go earlier than this? Acts certainly tells us that there were Christians no longer observing some aspects of the biblical Torah in the forties and some scholars have suggested that this may even be an issue in the thirties in light of the activities of Stephen and the ‘Hellenists’ and also in the light of Paul’s conversion/call. This chapter will evaluate these claims and attempt to establish a possible date as to when the biblical Torah was first challenged, or aspects of it were not being observed, be a significant numbers of people to be of note in Christianity. There will also be greater emphasis on Jewish Christians observing/not observing aspects of biblical law, because if these people were not observing aspects of biblical law then it could not automatically be assumed that Jesus would have been Torah observant. Of course, gentile Christian non-observance cannot be completely ignored, not least because Jewish Christian non-observance appears to be linked to gentile non-observance (e.g. Acts 10–11:18).

1. Stephen and the ‘Hellenists’

For all the conflicts over the interpretation of the Torah in the gospels, it is surprising to find that all the conflicts and problems with the Jewish authorities in the first five chapters of Acts are never claimed to concern the Torah. This does not mean of course that there were no such disputes but there is certainly no hard evidence that there were. The first possible reference to the questioning of the role of the Torah is in Acts 6–7 and the activities of Stephen, which can be dated sometime in the early thirties, shortly before Paul’s conversion. Note especially the following charges against Stephen:

We have heard him speak blasphemous words (ῥήματα βλάσφημα) against Moses and God (Acts 6:11).

This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law (τοῦ τόπου τοῦ ἁγίου τούτου καὶ τοῦ νόμου for we heard him say that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us (τὰ ἕθη ἅ παρέδωκεν ἡμῖν Μωϋσῆς (Acts 6:13–14).

The charges against Stephen concern speaking blasphemous words against the Torah and the Temple but they are made by what Luke calls ‘false witnesses’ (μάρτυρας ψευδεῖς, 6:13; cf. 6:11; Mk 15:47). This obviously suggests that Luke was not impressed by their accusations. This does not help much but there is a lengthy response by Stephen in Acts 7 to shed some light. It is often believed that the first grounds for a genuine charge against Stephen do not fully arise until his discussion of the dwelling place for God,

… David, who found favour with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place (σκήνωμα) for the house of Jacob [variant: God of Jacob]. But/and it was Solomon who built a house for him (Σολομὼν δὲ οἰκοδόμησεν αὐτῷ οἶκον). Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands (χειροποιήτοις); as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me (ποῖον οἶκον οἰκοδομήσετέ μοι), says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ [Isa. 66:1–2] (Acts 7:45c–50).

This at first sight may seem to contradict the validity of a Jerusalem Temple per se with Solomon building the unthinkable. However, there is nothing definite in Stephen’s speech pointing in the direction of a contrast between David and Solomon so far as the validity of building the Temple is concerned. Acts 7:47 is a crucial verse. It is usually translated and/or interpreted in such a way as to contrast it with the tent in the wilderness of the previous verses, e.g. ‘But it was Solomon who built a house for him’ (nrsv). However, the Greek underlying ‘But’ is simply the particle δὲ which does not, of course, have to imply a strong contrast and in this context could (and I think should) be translated ‘and’ or not translated at all. It could (and I think should) therefore be seen as a continuation of Stephen’s history of Israel and is not meant to denote a negative aspect of Israel’s institutions in any way. Indeed, it is significant that Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 absolutely accepts the ideals of biblical Israel. Most notably Moses and the giving of the Torah are both portrayed in a very positive light (e.g. 7:20, 22, 38, 53). Surely in this light the Lukan Stephen would have to be clearer if there was to be a criticism of the validity of the first Temple.

Major problems for Stephen almost certainly arise in 7:48 when he says, ‘Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands’? By itself the concept of God not dwelling in houses does not necessarily equal a rejection of the Temple. It should not be forgotten that this concept is quite explicit in the biblical passage quoted by Stephen and would not necessarily have been read as an anti-Temple polemic (Acts 7:49–50 quoting Isa. 66:1ff.). Other biblical texts, most notably 1 Kgs 8, 2 Chronicles 6 and Psalm 132, also form an important background to Acts 7:47–50 as Doble in particular has shown. For example, Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 contains a repeated emphasis on a house (οἶκος/בית) for God’s name (6:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 18, 20, 22, 24, 29, 32, 33, 34, 38) but alongside this there is another emphasis on heaven being the dwelling place of God (6:13, 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30, 33, 39). The Temple is the place (οἶκος/מקום) where God sets his name, and where people, including foreigners, pray (see e.g. 6:30, 33, 39). Yet Solomon says,

But will God indeed reside with mortals on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house (οἶκος/בית) that I have built! (2 Chron. 6:18/1 Kgs 8:27).

Psalm 132 (lxx 131) also contains some significant information. While God chose Zion as his dwelling place (132:13ff. [131:13ff.]) it is still believed to be his footstool (132:7 [131:7]). On one level, then, it is standard Jewish thought to say that the Temple could not contain God.

But Stephen does get into trouble. He probably would not if he just repeated an uncontroversial piece of Jewish thought. So why is he attacked by the authorities? Well, Stephen does not just say that God does not dwell in houses but houses ‘made with human hands (χειροποιήτοις)’ (Acts 7:48), a derogatory phrase associated with idolatry in the lxx. While it is widely believed that this is an attack on there being a Temple at all, it is more likely to be an attack on Temple abuses.8 This would also be consistent with Jesus’ actions in the Temple, which were likewise not in opposition to the ideal function of the Temple system. The Temple is a good thing but from this perspective it has been abused and so God certainly does not dwell in such a place, suggesting that Luke or Stephen is developing the biblical belief of God not dwelling in houses to the situation of the first-century Temple: we might recall Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (Lk. 13:34) before saying that ‘your house will be left to you’ (Lk. 13:35).

There is good evidence to back up this view. Doble has pointed to another significant feature of the biblical background to God not dwelling in houses noted above, namely that there is a strong emphasis on keeping the commandments (2 Chron. 6:16/1 Kgs 8:25; Ps. 132 [131]:12; Isa. 66:2; cf. Isa. 66:5). Note also the following comments of God given in the context of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple,

But if you (pl.) turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house (τὸν οἶκον τοῦτον/הבית הזה), which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight … And regarding this house (ὁ οἶκος οὗτος/הבית הזה), now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and this house (τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ/לבית הזה)?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord the God of their ancestors …’ (2 Chron. 7:19–22).

Such references are particularly important because they all contain conditional threats based on observing the commandments partly in the context of God’s relationship to the Temple, and it is dedication to this line of thought that is the cause of Stephen’s problems according to Acts. Notice in particular that one such passage, 2 Chron. 6:16 (/1 Kgs 8:25), is delivered at Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, more or less the time when Stephen’s history of Israel finishes in Acts 7, which is immediately before he starts his criticisms of the present Temple authorities, and as soon as Stephen criticises the Temple authorities for not observing the law he is attacked. From Stephen’s perspective the Temple authorities have not observed the law as they should have done and so we are probably meant to understand that there is some truth in the claim of the false witnesses that Stephen believed the Temple would be destroyed, just as Solomon’s Temple was for similar reasons. Stephen is therefore never portrayed as one attacking any biblical law nor the ideal function of the Temple. Again recall that Stephen’s speech fully endorses the ideals of biblical Israel including, crucially, Moses and the giving of the Torah (e.g. 7:20, 22, 38, 53).

Stephen is almost certainly being portrayed as one opposed to the expansion of biblical laws, or at least one Jewish approach to them, ‘for we have heard him say that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place (καταλύσει τὸν τόπον τοῦτον) and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us (ἀλλάξει τὰ ἔθη ἃ παρέδωκεν ἡμῖν Μωϋσῆς)’ (Acts 6:14). There were certainly some Jews attributing their Temple and non-Temple halakoth to Moses in ancient Judaism (e.g. Jub.; 11QTemple; m. Pe’a 2.6; m. ‘Ed. 8.7; m. Yad. 4.3) and this kind of belief is almost certainly linked to the allegations mentioned in Acts. From the Lukan perspective at least, Stephen opposing the biblical law or the ideal function of the Temple is out of the question particularly given the conclusion of Stephen’s speech: it would be sheer hypocrisy if Stephen was not in the habit of observing the biblical commandments to then allege that other Jews were breaking them. The destruction of the Temple by Jesus, if indeed Stephen preached this or if Luke wanted us to believe that he did, would naturally bring an end to the Temple laws but again it must be emphasised that this does not necessarily mean that Stephen believed he was opposing the biblical Torah in any way, nor did Luke portray him in such a way. After all, Jesus would apparently return and change the present Temple laws after destroying the Temple first (although what this fully implies is not altogether clear). In this sense there are certain links with the teaching of Jesus on the Temple outlined in the previous two chapters (the agent of destruction perhaps being a notable exception), in that the Temple authorities are not running the Temple in the way they ought to from a prophetic perspective, therefore the Temple must be destroyed and may even be replaced by some other form of Temple. There are also general parallels with Jesus’ view of the Torah in that they both conflict with certain expansions of biblical law. Both these links might be expected so soon after his death, so in general terms this may well be an important insight into the historical Stephen’s view of the Torah and Temple even if this has been further developed by Luke and tradition. Of course it is possible that Stephen and others such as the ‘Hellenists’ did oppose certain aspects of the Torah but there is simply no firm evidence to make such a claim and Acts 6–7 indeed runs contrary to this sort of view. It is probably fair to say that there would be some genuine evidence somewhere if this were the case.

Numerous scholars have provided a different approach to Stephen and his ‘Hellenist’ circle, namely that Stephen and the ‘Hellenists’ openly opposed the biblical Temple system and biblical Torah in some way, thus supposedly providing a bridge between Jesus and Paul. One of the most important advocates of such a view is Hengel. He believes that Stephen and the ‘Hellenists’, i.e. Greek-speaking Christians as opposed to the Aramaic speakers, the ‘Hebrews’, were guilty of abrogating some aspects of the Torah, particularly the ‘cultic’ aspects.12 Hengel believes that they anticipated Paul’s teaching and translated Jesus’ radical teaching, which apparently opposed the Torah on occasion. For Hengel Jesus’ teaching implies that purity laws are rendered obsolete and the Temple has lost its validity due to the saving death: the Temple is apparently ‘significant in the future only as a house of prayer for all people (Mk 11:17)’. This, we are told, is the sort of interpretation that should be applied to the accusation levelled at Stephen, i.e. the blasphemy against Moses and God. Hengel notes that Luke puts all the emphasis on Stephen but suggests that subsequent persecution of the whole group meant that more than one person was involved (p. 18) and the subsequent persecution affected those who apparently had ‘spiritual freedom towards the temple and the ritual law’.

Hengel’s arguments cannot be fully accepted because they do not provide the necessary evidence. The Jesus tradition did not, as has been and will be argued, contain any opposition to any biblical commandment. It is worth noting that even Paul writes that Jesus was ‘born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law’ (Gal. 4:4–5; cf. Rom. 15:8). Nor does Jesus’ death necessarily render the Temple obsolete for the earliest Christians: as was argued in Chapters 3 and 4, deaths of certain Jews were believed to have an atoning function which did not oppose the Temple in any way. Moreover, Jesus did not say that the Temple should only be a house of prayer, and, as was argued, Mk 11:15–17 can hardly be said to be a rejection of the sacrificial function of the Temple. It should not be claimed, therefore, that the teaching of Stephen and the Hellenists was necessarily opposed to certain aspects of the Torah. There is absolutely no evidence that Stephen actually worked on the Sabbath, believed that the purity laws were invalid or that the Temple should have no role in forgiveness etc., nor is there any evidence that he advocated others to do so. All that can be known with any degree of certainty is that Stephen believed that the Temple was going to be destroyed, something which other Jews, notably Jesus of Nazareth, could also predict without opposing the sacrificial function of the Temple, and that God did not dwell in places made with hands, but even this does not mean that Stephen opposed the Torah or the ideal functions of the Temple.

2. Zeal for the Law

It is, however, often argued that Christians such as Stephen and the Hellenists were persecuted by Paul out of his ‘zeal for the law’ which means, it is argued, that these Christians were critical of the biblical Torah. Donaldson has been particularly critical of approaches to Paul’s conversion that do not take account of Paul’s zeal for the law. The key passages are as follows,

You have heard no doubt of my former life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors (περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων) (Gal. 1:13–14).

… as to zeal, a persecutor of the church (κατὰ ζῆλος διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν) (Phil. 3:6).

Donaldson notes that ‘zeal’ in Jewish texts is found in contexts where there is the use of force in defence both of the Torah and a perceived threat to Jewish boundaries (e.g. Gen. 34; Num. 25:11, 13; 1 Kgs 19:10, 14; Sir. 45:23; 48:2; 1 Macc. 2:26, 54, 58; 4 Macc. 8:12; Spec. Leg. 2.253; 1QS 9.23; m. Sanh. 9.6). Paul came to the Christ-Torah antithesis during his time as a persecutor; in more sociological terms they were ‘mutually exclusive ways of describing the community and sphere of salvation’.18 The offence to Paul was that the Christian community consisted of people on the margins of Judaism and that this meant ‘the claim that the people of the Messiah, the remnant of Israel, was to be found in this marginal movement rather than among the Torah and Temple mainstream’. Paul’s problem with the Christians was that they ‘included in its fellowship those whom the Torah would declare to be unrighteous; therefore the Torah was not necessary’. In addition to this even those who were righteous through the Torah needed to believe in Jesus, ‘therefore the Torah was not sufficient’.20 Donaldson thus accepts the view that the Christian proclamation of Jesus posed a threat to the role of the Torah ‘in defining and maintaining the community of salvation’, in fact Christ and Torah had become, ‘at least potentially, conflicting ways of determining the community of salvation in the pre-parousia period’. For Donaldson, it is for these reasons that Paul defends Jewish boundaries with Phinehas-like zeal and when he converted he inevitably was converted to the opposite opinion and thus would have rejected the Torah as a means of defining the community.

This sort of view is far from certain. Paul’s ‘zeal for the law’ in persecuting Christians need not imply that they were abandoning or criticising any aspect of the biblical Torah. In fact the disputes, like those between Jesus and his opponents, could have been over attacks on the expansion of the biblical law and/or over the way the Temple was being run. There is plenty of evidence that Jews, including Pharisees, could be particularly violent to one another over disputes concerning the correct interpretation of the law. For example, Josephus tells us in Antiquities 13.296 that when Hyrcanus (135–104 bce) left the Pharisees to join the Sadducees he was led ‘to abrogate the regulations which they had established for the people, and punish those who observed them (τά τε ὑπʼ αὐτῶν κατασταθέντα νόμιμα τῷ δήμῳ καταλῦσαι καὶ τοὺς φυλάττοντας αὐτὰ κολάσαι). However, when Alexandra Salome (76–67 bce) rose to power she ordered the masses to obey the Pharisees ‘in accordance with the tradition of their fathers (κατὰ τὴν πατρῴαν παράδοσιν)’ (Ant. 13.408–409) and drove out and executed some of their opponents (Ant. 13.408–411). Bloody disputes over the interpretation of the Torah are evident around the time of the first century CE, which Sanders has wrongly dismissed. In Antiquities 13.297–98 Josephus mentions that ‘the Pharisees had passed on to the people certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Laws of Moses (νόμιμά τινα παρέδοσαν τῷ δήμῳ οἰ Φαρισαῖοι ἐκ πατέρων διαδοχῆς‚ ἅπερ οὐκ ἀναγέγραππαι ἐν τοῖς Μωυσέος νόμοις)’ which are rejected by the Sadducees. So ‘concerning these matters the two parties came to have controversies and serious differences (καὶ περὶ τούτων ζητήσεις αὐτοῖς καὶ διαφορὰς γίνεσθαι συνέβαινε μεγάλας) …’. In the New Testament, Mk 3:6 tells us that the Pharisees teamed with the Herodians to kill Jesus over a Sabbath dispute, which, as was argued in the previous chapter, was an internal Jewish dispute where Jesus did not contradict any biblical law. There are other texts which clearly indicate deadly legal disputes which do not necessarily involve Pharisees. According to Josephus, Herod the Great became involved in the famous dispute over the Golden Eagle with two respected Torah experts called Judas and Matthias. The followers of Judas and Matthias were encouraged to tear down the golden eagle which Herod had erected over the Temple gate, which in effect meant ‘to die for the law of one’s country (ὑπὲρ τοῦ πατρίου νόμου θνήσκειν)’ (War 1.650). When they were taken to Herod, after being caught in the act, they said they were ordered by ‘the laws of our fathers (τοῦ πατρίου νόμου)’ (War 1.653). Herod thought the men were wrong and ordered the deaths of Judas and Matthias and many of their followers (1.654–655). According to Antiquities 17.162–163 Herod defended himself be arguing that his work on the Temple had been for the honour of God and that the action of the men was in fact a ‘sacrilege’ (ἱεροσυλοῦντας). Among the Dead Sea Scrolls there is further evidence of bitter legal disputes. The Habakkuk commentary (1QpHab. 11.2–8) provides evidence of a dispute over the calendar. Here the Wicked Priest appeared on the Day of Atonement according to the sectarian calendar ‘to confuse them, and to cause them to stumble (לבלעם ולכשילם)’ (11:7–8). In 4Q171 4.8–9 the Wicked Priest attempted to put the righteous one to death because of ‘the law which he sent to him (התורה אשר שלח אליו)’. Outside Palestine, Philo (Spec. Leg. 2.253) claimed that perjury was unforgivable in the eyes of God and required the death penalty. Moreover, the potential perjurer ought to be careful ‘for there are thousands who have their eyes upon him full of zeal for the laws, strictest guardians of the ancestral traditions, merciless to those who do anything to subvert them (μυρίοι γὰρ ἔφοροι, ζηλωταὶ νόμων‚ φύλακες τῶν πατρίων ἀκριβέστατοι‚ ἐπὶ καταλύσει τι δρῶσιν ἀμειλίκτες ἔχοντες)’.

This sort of evidence shows that Jews could engage in bloody disputes with one another over the expansion of biblical law and so any persecution of Christians prior to (or indeed after) Paul’s conversion could also have been internal Jewish debates without criticising the biblical Torah itself. It is particularly significant that in Gal. 1:14 Paul emphasises his being ‘far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors’ (περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων μου πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων), because this is strongly reminiscent of other disputes and conflicts over laws expanded and developed from the biblical Torah. For example, Mk 7:1–23 is critical of the ‘tradition of the elders’ (7:5, τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβτέρων), which clearly refers to the expansion of biblical laws, and in Antiquities 13.297 Josephus, as was just seen, mentions the Sadducees’ rejection of the Pharisees’ traditions which are not written in Scripture but come ‘from the tradition of the fathers’ (ἐκ παραγόσεως τῶν πατέρων). As also just seen, Philo says that thousands of people violently uphold traditions, and describes them in terms of ‘zeal’ (ζηλωταὶ νόμων). There is therefore a good possibility that Paul was persecuting Christians over their opposition to such traditions, the expansions of biblical laws. Indeed, if the preceding chapter is correct then it would be unlikely that Christians immediately after the death of Jesus and before Paul’s call/conversion (and note there was no significant gentile mission at this time) were opposing biblical laws given that Jesus was staunchly observant in this respect. All this evidence shows that while those like Donaldson might be correct it hardly follows that they are. If we want to reconstruct this aspect of Christian origins in sociological terms of boundary markers and the like then it is equally possible that Saul the Pharisee felt that Pharisaic boundaries were being threatened or perhaps he felt that opposition to the expansion of the law was potentially damaging.25

3. Paul’s Early Attitude towards the Law

Paul is of course the major figure when it comes to the question of law observance in Christianity. Some of Paul’s letters famously question the role of Torah observance so it is perfectly reasonable to attempt to find out when he first came to his major conclusions concerning the role of the Torah. The ideas surrounding his conversion/call which happened in the early thirties will therefore be investigated.27 It is particularly significant that in the explicit accounts of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1–19; 26:12–18; Gal. 1:15–17) the issue of the Torah is never discussed whereas there is a clear stress on salvation of the gentiles. Of course Paul may have developed his ideas of justification by faith without works of the law immediately after his conversion, after all he must have done something to be forced to escape Damascus (Acts 9:23–25; 2 Cor. 11:30–33). However, neither Acts nor Paul say this concerned the law and, as noted above, Acts 1–5 shows the earliest Christians often in trouble but not over the Torah and so Paul could also have been involved in some kind of controversy that was not Torah centred. Moreover, Paul would have no doubt been perceived as a traitor by his former colleagues and sympathisers (Acts 9:20–23) and/or viewed with great suspicion by his new ones: note especially that Paul was far from popular among certain Christians when he first converted, so much so that the Hellenists wanted to kill him (Acts 9:29; cf. 9:13–14). The evidence from Acts and Paul’s letters simply does not tell us that Paul was giving Christians, Jewish or gentile, the authority to eat whatever they wanted, work on the Sabbath, and so on. Given that it appears that ‘godfearers’ formed an important part of the earliest gentile Christians they may have been quite comfortable with the thought of observing the Sabbath, the food laws and so on. However, once the numbers of gentiles increased dramatically problems of observance were almost bound to occur. It may have been such issues that led Paul to fully develop, or perhaps start preaching openly, the view of justification by faith without works of the Torah. Unfortunately though, for the moment at least, it simply cannot be said exactly when Paul was widely preaching justification by faith without works of the law and when Christians, whether they be Jewish or gentile, started practising this.

It has of course been argued that Paul’s vision on the Damascus road implied the end of the law in some way. A typical representative of this view is Kim. Kim believes that Paul’s views on justification and works of the law (among other aspects of Pauline theology) were a direct development from Paul’s conversion/call. In his discussion of Christ as the end of the law in Rom. 10:2–4 and his autobiographical statements such as Philippians 3:4ff., Paul for Kim,

understands the tragedy of Israel in light of his conversion experience. Just as Paul was zealous for God before the Damascus experience, Israel also has a zeal. For while God through Christ has put an end to the law as a way of obtaining righteousness, Israel is still zealous for the law; while God grants his righteousness to everyone who has faith, Israel seeks its own righteousness on the basis of the works of the law. But in the Christophany on the road to Damascus Paul received the knowledge of Christ as the end of the law. So he surrendered all his righteousness based on the law to receive God’s righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. But Israel at present remains still in the state in which Paul was before his conversion.

Such arguments can of course be made for Paul’s letters but it does not necessarily follow that this was Paul’s view at his conversion given the lack of direct evidence. However, it is sometimes argued that Paul contrasted his own righteousness based on human achievement and the law in his Pharisaic past with righteousness as a free gift from God (Phil. 3:9) and that this was shown explicitly on the Damascus road. Moreover, it is further argued that God now justified the ungodly, emphatically shown in the example of Saul the persecutor,

But at the Damascus Christophany he came to know that he had been opposing God and therefore that it was he who was ungodly, not the Christians. This terrible knowledge was, however, accompanied by the experience of God’s justification as God forgave him and called him to be an apostle (Phil. 3:9). Thus, from the Damascus experience Paul obtained the knowledge that God justifies the ungodly. Only in the light of Paul’s own experience of justification on the Damascus road can we fully appreciate the striking formulation.

This too runs into some serious difficulties. It is quite possible that Paul grounded later views of the law in his Damascus road experience, the convert interpreting the past through events of the present. Also, just because God forgave Paul on the Damascus road it does not necessarily follow that Paul believed in the end of the law. Sins could be forgiven in Judaism even outside the Temple, as was argued in the previous chapter, and this view went hand in hand with law observance (e.g. Pss. 32; 51; Sir. 3:30; Ps. Sol. 9.6). In addition to this, even if Paul had come to the conclusion that humans were unable to achieve salvation through works of the law it does not necessarily follow that he was actively preaching it in the years immediately following his call/conversion. If Christians were largely law observant at this time and were open to gentiles and a gentile mission then it is not inconceivable that Paul could have accepted this state of affairs. It is worth noting that this would be consistent with Gal. 1:15–16 which mentions grace but does not mention righteousness through works of the law, ‘But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me, so that I may proclaim him among the gentiles …’

Kim, naturally, also discusses evidence of Paul’s earlier preaching recorded in Galatians,

In fact, for Paul’s defence of his law-free gospel in Gal 1–2 it is essential that he maintained basically the same gospel throughout from the beginning. Had he ever preached a gospel with the Torah and circumcision among the Gentiles in Arabia, Damascus, Syria and Cilicia, or elsewhere, his argument in Gal 1–2 would fall to ground completely. For, then, his opponents could easily expose the falsehood of Paul’s claim in Gal 1 that the gospel which he preached in Galatia, i.e., the law-free gospel, he received through the revelation of Jesus Christ at his apostolic call.

This is not as persuasive as Kim believes. Again it should be stressed that initially Paul may not have had a problem with gentiles observing the Torah so long as it was not a problem for the Christian communities and no one was excluded. Paul’s initial focus may have been on a gentile mission, as the records of his vision indicate, which does not necessarily imply a strong emphasis on the issue of law observance, particularly if this could be assumed for the first gentile godfearing converts. Once law observance started to become a problem then Paul could have begun preaching justification without works of the law, which would no doubt require some form of endorsement (Gal. 2:1–10). This does not contradict Gal. 1–2 and it certainly does not necessarily follow that Paul’s argument in this chapter falls to ground. Also it should not be forgotten that in Paul’s chronological outline it is only around the time of the Jerusalem council in Gal. 2:1–10, some 14–17 years after his conversion, that there are the first definite claims of a gospel without some of the law imposed on gentiles. Galatians 2:2 may imply that Paul had been preaching a gospel without works of the law prior to the Jerusalem conference (‘I went up [to Jerusalem] in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them, though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders, the gospel that I proclaim among the gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running in vain.’) but even this need not be the case. It may refer to some of the communities which Paul established that eventually neglected full law observance, something not too difficult to imagine if more and more ‘godfearers’ and pagans were joining the movement. In other words Paul may have established communities which were initially law observant but when people were not fully law observant and consequently observance was imposed or non-observance was criticised (which would thus lead to internal conflicts) Paul may have felt that his preaching was in vain. Dunn suspects ‘that the antithesis, either Jesus or the law, was indeed a later development, at least in the sharpness with which Paul poses it explicitly or implicitly in Gal. 3, Rom. 10 and Phil. 3; moreover that the antithesis as antithesis was more the corollary of “therefore to the gentiles” than vice-versa’. Dunn may or may not be correct but on the basis of the evidence we have concerning Paul’s conversion it is at least as plausible as the view that Paul believed that Jesus was ‘the end of the law’ immediately after his vision, or that Paul openly preached such a view at this time. Moreover, as Dunn implies, there would surely have been more conflicts such as the Antioch incident (Gal. 2:11ff.) if Paul openly preached Christ as the end of the law from the beginning, a point which deserves to be taken seriously.

It is often argued that when the pre-Christian Paul persecuted the early church he was inspired by texts such as Deut. 21:23, ‘for anyone hanging from a tree is under God’s curse’. Paul, it is commonly argued, not only persecuted Christians because of this passage, but also used this passage to question the role of the Torah in Gal. 3:13 and that this was indeed an inevitable consequence of his radical change of position concerning Christ immediately after the Damascus road experience. Compare Hengel and Schwemer,

… presumably from the start the Jewish Christians who proclaimed the crucified and risen Jesus as the Messiah of Israel were presented with a text like Deut. 21:23 to show the absurdity of their argument, they could have turned the argument round—as Paul certainly did—and emphasized that on the cross the Messiah Jesus had representatively borne the cross which according to Deut. 27:26 is threatened against all those who transgress the law … they could have claimed that through his death Jesus reconciled disobedient Israel, indeed all sinners, with God. It was probably above all this soteriological interpretation of the death of Jesus on the accursed tree, which put in question the atoning effect of temple worship and thus essential parts of the Torah, that embittered the young Pharisaic scribe and made him a persecutor.

It is not clear, however, that Paul, even in the first 10 or so years after his call/conversion, was employing texts such as Deut. 21:23 to question the validity of the Torah. It is significant that Deut. 21:23 and sentiments such as Gal. 3:10–14 are absent from all the versions of Paul’s Damascus road experience. Similarly it does not necessarily follow that the Christians Paul persecuted had questioned the role of the Torah partly on the basis of Deut. 21:23. It is significant that certain Jewish Christians were happy to accept a crucified Jesus without condemning or opposing the Torah. Texts such as Deut. 21:23 were no doubt used against the earliest Christians but this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that they stopped observing biblical laws: it is not known how they initially responded in this respect. Lest we forget, Jesus was not the first, and would not be the last, law observant Jew to be crucified (Ant. 13.380; 17.295; on Deut. 21:23 being applied to crucifixion see 4Q169 frags. 1–4, Col. 1:6–9; cf. 11QT LXIV. 6–13).

Similar points also apply to other aspects of Paul’s early life as a Christian and Christianity in the first 10 to 15 years after Jesus’ death. It is not known what Paul discussed with Peter and James in Jerusalem a few years after Paul’s conversion (Gal. 1:18–19) but it probably was not just the weather as Dodd famously remarked. There is no evidence that Paul discussed even a gentile mission free of at least some aspects of the biblical Torah. Nor is it known what, if anything, Philip was saying about the Torah when he was active in Samaria (Acts 8:5–13). In fact we are told that Philip was proclaiming the Messiah (Acts 8:5), healing the sick and casting out unclean spirits (8:6–8), and preaching the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus (8:12). Not one mention of the Torah. Similarly there is no mention of the Torah in his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch or in his activities in Azotus and onward to Caesarea (Acts 8:26–40). The Christians driven out during the persecutions described in Acts 8:1–4 and scattered as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19) may have been vocally predicting the end of the Temple and/or vocally critical of certain interpretations of the Torah without opposing any biblical law, even when they started preaching to gentiles (Ἑλληνας) as one textual tradition of Acts 11:20 indicates. We have no indication of Agrippa’s reasons for persecuting the Jerusalem church other than the vague comment by Luke that Agrippa saw it ‘pleased the Jews’ (Acts 12:3) which could mean almost anything. It may well be that the early Jerusalem community described themselves in the language of the Temple (cf. Gal. 2:6), but this does not mean that the Temple system was redundant (cf. Acts 2:46–47; 3–4; 5:12ff.; 5:42), indeed it may well be implicitly acknowledging its importance as is found with some Jewish movements expanding Temple and purity laws to in some way emulate the system (see Chapter 4). However, despite all these comments it cannot be automatically assumed based only on the evidence so far that Paul, and indeed other Christians, did not believe in the ‘end of the law’ or were in some way critical of it or were simply not observing aspects of it or advocated a largely law-free gentile mission in the thirties and early forties. (Although at the end of this chapter and in the conclusion to this study I will attempt to show that the Christians around this period were largely law observant.)

4. Peter’s Vision (Acts 10–11:18)

The first non-ambiguous reference to the possibility of accepting non-observance of Torah is Acts 10–11:18, namely Peter’s vision at Joppa (esp. 10:9–16; 11:4–18). Here the food laws are no longer valid and Peter is told to eat food prohibited in the Torah, something which Peter claimed he had never before done. As this constitutes the first proper evidence for acceptability of non-observance of biblical laws in a significant way, questions of historical accuracy must now be asked, and in particular this: does this vision accurately reflect an event from the life of the historical Peter? There is good reason to believe that there was a pre-Lukan tradition at the very least. This is because, as is widely recognised, the vision primarily deals with the issue of clean and unclean foods yet the wider implication given in Acts 10–11:18 is that God shows no partiality and accepts gentiles. In fact the vision itself in Acts 10:9–16 never refers explicitly to the gentiles (contrast Acts 10:27–28), although some connection would obviously have been assumed, and it concentrates primarily on the acceptability of eating unclean foods. In contrast the conversion of Cornelius and Peter’s explanation in 11:4–18 focus predominantly on the issue of accepting gentiles. It is quite clear from reading Acts as a whole that the issue of the gentile mission is of great importance for Luke whereas the specific issue of food is not. This suggests at the very least that this is an earlier tradition of Peter’s vision that has been developed, possibly by Luke, for the purpose of the gentile mission at the expense of the emphasis on food laws. It has been argued that the issues of food and the acceptability of gentiles are both intimately related and this is of course true. Jewish food observance marked them out in the ancient world and we will see in this chapter that it was a major issue for Jewish table fellowship with gentiles. The gentile mission would certainly have been the general context of the earliest form of Peter’s vision, perhaps even originally linked with an event involving Cornelius. However, as the acceptability of the gentile mission has been most developed in this story at the expense of the issue of food laws which are central in the vision itself, it should be concluded that the issue of the food laws is pre-Lukan, even if the two stories existed together in pre-Lukan tradition.

This does not necessarily mean, of course, that Peter’s vision comes directly from the historical Peter, although other factors suggest that it is at least plausible. It should be clear from this study as a whole that Jesus in no way opposed the biblical food laws, so we can safely assume that Peter, like other Jews did not either. So it is not surprising that Peter claims that he had never eaten anything unclean or profane in Acts 10:14. It would take something highly significant to instigate such a monumental change. Scripture is one means but this would be extremely problematical given that the food laws are scriptural. A natural alternative in Judaism would be a vision and this is precisely what we get. In early Christianity there was a tradition of visionary experiences (e.g. Mk 9:2–8 and pars.; Mt. 1:20–24; 2:19–21; Lk. 1:8–23, 26–38; Acts 1:3; 7:54–56; 9:1–9, 10–16; 1 Cor. 15:3–11; Gal. 2:2; cf. Mk 16:5–7; Mt. 28:2–10; Lk. 24:13–53;), probably even including Jesus himself (e.g. Mk 1:10–11, ‘he saw the heavens torn apart …’). Fortunately there are reliable reports of visionary experiences in Paul’s letters (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:3–11; Gal. 2:2). In both the synoptic tradition and in Paul there is also evidence of Peter as someone who has experienced visions (e.g. Mk 9:2–8; 1 Cor. 15:3–11). This suggests that Peter’s vision is at least plausible.

However, the most unfortunate thing about Peter’s vision from the perspective of New Testament chronology is that it does not appear Luke knows when it happened, particularly as Luke often gives us plenty of historical references throughout Luke-Acts. Luke provides us no real chronological information in Acts 10–11:18 and the general context does not help us very much. The narrative links introducing a new episode in the preceding chapters are frustratingly vague. After Paul’s vision and his adventures in Damascus, Jerusalem and Caesarea (Acts 9:1–31), where we get no chronological references, we learn, ‘ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐκκλησία throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria’ was increasing (9:31) and Peter went to various places, including a stay at Lydda (9:32–35), presumably after coming from Jerusalem (8:25). After this we learn simply that ἐν Ἰόππῃ δέ there was an episode involving Tabitha and Peter (9:36–42) and that after this Peter ἐγένετο δὲ ἡμέρας ἱκανὰς μεῖναι ἐν Ἰόππῃ (9:43). After Peter’s vision and the conversion of Cornelius we learn, οἱ μὲν οὖν concerning those who had been scattered because of the tribulations that had come upon Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch speaking only to Jews (11:19). During this episode we are told that Barnabas was sent to Antioch (11:22–24) before he went on to Tarsus to find Saul to bring him back to Antioch (11:25). At Antioch they met with the church for a year (11:26). We are then told that, ἐν ταύταις δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις (!) prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch (11:27). After this remarkably vague comment we then learn that a prophet named Agabus predicted a severe famine that took place during the reign of Claudius (41–54 ce). At last a chronological reference! This may imply that the prediction was before Claudius came to power, which would mean that that the prediction was prior to 41 ce. We get yet another chronological reference in the immediately following verses when we learn, κατʼ ἐκεῖνον δὲ τὸν καιρὸν Agrippa I persecuted the Church, which included the arrest of Peter at the festival of unleavened bread (12:1–5). It seems on the basis of the evidence in Acts (11:27–30; 12:20–23) that this took place sometime after Claudius’ rise to power and sometime before Agrippa’s death, i.e. between 41 and 44 ce. Even so there is still some degree of uncertainty concerning the date of Peter’s vision because either Luke does not know precisely when these events took place or he has deliberately arranged his sources in order to heighten the importance chronologically of Peter’s role in the mission to the gentiles. It can be argued that Luke believes that Peter’s vision occurred a long time before the Jerusalem council in the late forties or the early fifties but that does not get us very far. If it is assumed for one moment that Luke’s ordering of material is roughly accurate in chronological terms and that Peter’s vision is historically accurate, the best we can say, and this remains speculative, is that Peter’s vision was before the Jerusalem council and around the time of Agrippa’s persecution, c. 41–44 ce.

Unfortunately, this assumes too much to be certain and it is quite possible given the chronological vagueness of Acts that Luke has inserted Peter’s vision into his narrative and removed it from its original historical context. If it did take place in another context, when? From external evidence the best that can be said is it was probably before the Antioch controversy, hence Paul’s attack on Peter’s ‘hypocrisy’, which, it will be argued, involves Peter’s change of heart concerning the food laws (Gal. 2:11–14). This is disappointing but it is not all gloom. In Peter’s vision there is a reference to the food laws being questioned which takes on greater importance when combined with other evidence of food laws being challenged from elsewhere in the empire, roughly around the same period (Gal. 2:11–14; Rom. 14:1–6; ?1 Cor. 8:13). It is surely probable that most Christians would have been aware of such developments by c. 50 at the very latest.

5. The Antioch Controversy (Gal. 2:11–14)

Some scholars have not been persuaded that what has traditionally been seen as one of the most important and historically verifiable disputes over the food laws, namely Gal. 2:11–14, does actually challenge the food laws or indeed any major biblical law and this would contradict some of the statements made above. This passage must therefore be discussed in some detail before further possibilities in Acts are discussed. Traditionally it was widely accepted that the food laws were clearly the issue in the encounter between Peter and Paul at Antioch. Recently Bonnington has also given a detailed approach to the Antioch episode, coming to a similar conclusion, namely the food laws were not being observed by some Jews, Peter included, and some gentiles. The opposition came from Jews and Jewish Christians who wanted the major practices of the biblical Torah observed, but did not go so far as requiring circumcision. There have, however, been some recent alternative suggestions, in particular those of Dunn, Esler, Sanders and Tomson, which require discussion. Each alternative raises useful points but each is not without its difficulties.

Dunn has argued that the issue at Antioch was one of the expansion of biblical laws, most notably those involving purity and tithing, and no major biblical law was broken. Although there are significant problems with Dunn’s work on the Antioch incident he has made some important points.46 He is surely right to stress that circumcision was not the issue in the ‘Judaising’ allegation at Antioch (cf. War 7.45) as it is clear from the texts he cites that circumcision is distinguished from Ἰουδαΐζω (e.g. lxx Esth. 8:17; War 2.454, 462–463). There are, however, major problems with Dunn’s approach. There is no evidence whatsoever that first-century Christians were running into problems because they did not tithe or that certain Christians were pushing for observance of expanded purity laws: specific problems concerning the Torah occur over things like Sabbath, circumcision, and food laws. Dunn’s argument that Jews were applying pressure on Christians to observe halakic practices and certain Christians such as Peter were accepting this in some way is most unlikely.49 The synoptic material showing Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah consistently indicates that Jesus was explicitly opposed to detailed expansion of the biblical laws, and notably on issues surrounding food and purity, as Dunn himself has argued. Other New Testament attitudes towards the Torah believe that certain biblical commandments at the very least are not binding on gentiles and probably not even Jewish Christians in some instances (Acts 10–11:18; Gal. 4:10; Rom. 14:1–6; Col. 2:16; Jn 5:1–18; cf. Jn 9:13–17).

Moreover, against Dunn, nowhere in the New Testament are there Christians accepting the approaches to the Torah as is found with, say, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pharisees or the later rabbis. Dunn points to Mt. 5:19 and 23:3, 23 but these texts do not support his argument. Matthew 5:19 simply says that the one who breaks the least of ‘these’ (τούτων) commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom. This tells us nothing about observing strict halakah. Given the fact that there was non-observance of certain laws in earliest Christianity and Paul could be perceived as teaching people this, it is not difficult to see how such a passage could arise in early Christianity. It is however possible that Dunn meant the following verse which would seem to be better support for Dunn’s argument but even that ultimately rejects a Pharisaic and scribal approach to the Torah because they will not enter the kingdom. The force of Mt. 23:3 has traditionally been over-exaggerated: it merely says that people should do whatever the Pharisees say to you (πάνια οὖν ὅσα ἐὰν εἰπωσιν ὑμῖν ποιήσατε καὶ τηρεῖτε), which should be taken as the scriptures, but do not do their works (κατὰ δὲ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν μὴ ποιεῖτε), which should be taken as their particular practices. The Pharisees, from this perspective, say but do not do [Torah] (λέγουσιν γὰρ καὶ οὐ ποιοῦσιν). This view is enhanced when the passage is read in its narrative context because Matthew 23 consistently attacks Pharisaic expansions of the law at the expense of core biblical teachings. So Mt. 23:23, another passage cited by Dunn, which explicitly attacks tithing mint, dill and cumin at the expense of justice, mercy, and faith. Tithing is of course still valid, but this is what should be expected from any synoptic portrayal of Jesus and the Torah because general tithing is explicitly mentioned in biblical law (Deut. 14:22–23; Lev. 27:30–31). This is not an example of respect for Pharisaic halakah and so this leaves no examples of a Christian tradition respecting the Pharisaic practice to the extent that there would be Christian support. This lack of evidence seriously undermines Dunn’s argument of pressure being applied on the Christians in Antioch to observe expanded biblical laws.

Furthermore, there is a major tradition of Jesus being concerned with people who could have been impure (e.g. Mk 1:40–45; 2:16; 5:1–43; Mt. 11:19/Lk. 7:34; Lk. 15:2; 19:7) and his actions and teachings must have had a profound influence on his followers. In fact it is possible to go one stage further and argue that Jesus’ association with impure people and Jewish law breakers was one of the most important factors in the rise of the gentile mission. Jesus’ association and table fellowship with such people provides an important precedent for associating with unclean gentile ‘sinners’. In the light of Jesus’ major mission to ‘sinners’ and the early church’s major mission to gentiles it seems incredible that the issue at Antioch could have concerned purity. If any Christian was concerned about purity when eating with an impure Christian then they could either purify themselves almost immediately or purify themselves before they entered the Temple, depending on how they interpreted purity laws. It seems that Dunn assumes that Jews dedicated to purity and halakah were more vigorous upholders of Jewish identity than those who were not. Jews could also be dedicated to the biblical laws and vigorous upholders of Jewish identity without dedication to, for example, Pharisaic halakoth. Jesus is an excellent example of this. Moreover, as Dunn notes, it is known that, in general, it was the practices such as resting on the Sabbath and avoidance of pork which were particularly noteworthy Jewish behaviour according to gentiles (Apion 2.282; Juvenal, Satires 14.96–106; cf. Ant. 20.38–48; Seneca, Letters 108.22), and they are both major biblical prohibitions. This means that pressure on Jews and gentiles to ‘Judaise’ at Antioch could quite plausibly refer to major biblical laws with little or no reference to expanded halakah in an attempt to uphold some form of Jewish identity.

It will not do to argue, as Dunn does, that terms such as Ἰουδαΐζω and ἁμαρτωλοί found in Gal. 2:4–15 were also used in ‘factional’ Judaism because there is firm evidence, noted by Dunn himself, that they can be used in a wider sense to distinguish between Jew and gentile behaviour in general terms (cf. Ps. 9:17; Tobit 13:8 [6]; Pss. Sol. 1:1; 2:1–2; Lk. 6:33/Mt. 5:47; Mk 14:41). This is surely the use of ἁμαρτωλοί in Gal. 2:15, ἡμεῖζ φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ οὐκ ἐξθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί. It is therefore most unlikely that living like a gentile and not like a Jew (Gal. 2:14) just refers to avoiding halakic practices, not least because this is the Christian community that so vigorously opposed the expansions of biblical laws from the beginning. Nor is Dunn’s argument concerning the related issue of God-fearers being present at Antioch (War 7.45 so decisive. Against Dunn, there is no evidence that says God-fearers at Antioch were dedicated to expanding biblical commandments so some caution needs to be exercised in accepting this to be the state of affairs. Although Dunn has rightly selected evidence to show that certain God-fearers were prepared to observe the food laws (Apion 2.282; Juvenal, Satires 14:96–106), he is wrong to apply this fully to the Antioch episode because at this stage of Christian history it may well have been a time when food laws had been abandoned by certain Christians just as they were not long after in the fifties (Rom. 14). Moreover, it is possible that there were pagans converted with little previous sympathy towards or knowledge of Judaism, as there appear to have been elsewhere such as Galatia (e.g. Gal. 4:8–10; cf. 1 Jn 5:21). Peter’s vision in Acts 10–11:18 should also be recalled as it permits non-observance of food laws and is set in the context of the conversion of the ‘God-fearer’ Cornelius. Regardless of whether this passage has been heavily edited or is a more or less historically accurate account it still shows that someone thought there was a necessary link between Peter’s vision that permitted non-observance of food laws and Cornelius’ conversion. Indeed the very idea of a Christian message to gentiles that did not require observance of certain laws may well account for the speedy rise of gentile converts from the forties and onward (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19–23).

It can be concluded that although Dunn has drawn attention to some important issues and shown that the Antioch episode did not involve circumcision his argument that the problem was over issues surrounding the expansion of biblical laws and how this related to table-fellowship cannot stand due to weighty evidence to the contrary. We may now turn to another major approach to the Antioch episode which in many ways is significantly different to Dunn’s, namely that of Esler.

Esler believes that ancient evidence establishes a general rule: ‘Jews did refrain from eating with Gentiles and that this was a feature which was perceived to characterize their life-style from as early as the late fourth century bce until as far as the classical period …’ For Esler this is the sort of problem underlying the Antioch incident and from reading it in the context of Galatians circumcision was also an issue: i.e. the men from James believed that gentiles had to convert fully to Judaism for table-fellowship to be possible. While Esler is largely wrong, he has raised some important issues. For example, he has rightly emphasised the reading of the Antioch episode in the context of Galatians as a whole, which is particularly significant as scholars such as Dunn and Sanders barely touch upon the issue. Although such general points are useful, there are more detailed problems with his analysis of both ancient Judaism in general and the Antioch episode. The pagan sources Esler cites for evidence that Jews would not eat with gentiles do not fully back up his argument.61 Hecataeus of Abdera claimed that Jews were antisocial and intolerant, but, as Esler himself notes, he does not discuss the issue of Jews eating with gentiles. Apollonius Molon claimed that Jews were ‘atheists and misanthropes’ (ἀθέουζ καὶ μισανθρώπουζ) and unwilling to associate (κοινωνεῖν) with those of different life-style, but does not mention the issue of eating. Pompeius Trogus claims that Jews do not live with strangers but there is no explicit mention of Jews not dining with gentiles.64 This leaves us with three pieces of Esler’s evidence for gentile writers claiming that Jews would not eat with gentiles: Diodorus recorded that Jews looked on all peoples as enemies and did not engage in table-fellowship with any other nation (τὸ μηδενὶ ἄλλῳ ἔθνει τραπέζης κοινωνεῖν); Tacitus’ excursus on Jews at the start of Histories V tells us that Jews are loyal and compassionate to one another yet to everyone else they are hostile and, among other things, they have their meals separately; and Philostratus attributed to Vespasian a view claiming that the Jews lived apart and would not share with the rest of humanity the pleasures of table-fellowship (οἶς μήτε κοινή πρὸς ἀνθρώπους τράπεζα) nor would they join in libations, prayers, or sacrifices. Of course it may well be that if asked the other writers would have agreed with the comments recorded by Diodorus, Tacitus and Philostratus: they may have known that Jews were very reluctant to eat with gentiles without knowing specific reasons. It is, however, worth noting that these authors, quite naturally, never discuss the question of table-fellowship between Jews and gentiles on Jewish terms. One clue as to why Jews did not eat with gentiles, according to pagan sources, is given by Philostratus: Jews do not ‘join in their libations or prayers or sacrifices’ (μήτε σπονδαὶ μήτε εὐχαὶ μήτε θυαίαι [Life of Apollonius 5.33]). It is hardly surprising that Jews did not join in with such practices and this sort of reasoning is found consistently in the Jewish sources. Far from giving us a blanket ban on table-fellowship with gentiles in the Jewish sources the reasons that make table-fellowship possible or impossible are found.

Esler knows of course that food is a major issue but this must be emphasised even further because if the same food could be eaten by Jews and gentiles then there becomes a greater possibility of table-fellowship. Dan. 1:3–17 tells us that Daniel would not defile himself with the royal food so Daniel and his companions ate ‘seeds’ (זרעיס) and water. Gentile food is clearly the problem here. Judith also ate different food from gentiles and so still managed to participate in a degree of table-fellowship (Jdt. 12:17–19). Even if her bathing before her evening food (12:7–9) is due to contact with gentiles this still does not stop such contact. Note that she does bathe which is significant because it shows that if impurity is contracted then steps can be made to purify the body. Esther, it was to be claimed, abstained from eating at the royal table, which may have been due to foods prohibited in the Torah, and, very significantly, avoided the wine of libation, and so avoided idolatry (Add. Esth. C, 14:17). This again gives us specific circumstances that lead to Jews avoiding table-fellowship. When Tobit was carried off to Nineveh he did not eat the food of the gentiles but instead observed the dietary laws (1:11). This is hardly surprising given that the Torah is absolutely clear that certain foods could not be eaten which, it should be remembered, is not evidence of avoidance of table-fellowship at all times. Esler’s view of the evidence given in Aristeas, a text clearly showing table-fellowship between Jew and gentile, is inaccurate.68 Although Esler rightly notes that the banquet is given in accordance with the Jewish food laws, he is wrong to suggest that Aristeas implies that the Egyptian king ate his own food and the Jews ate theirs. Aristeas tells us quite the opposite:

‘Everything of which you partake,’ he said, ‘will be served in compliance with your habits; it will be served to me as well as to you.’ They expressed their pleasure and the king ordered the finest apartments to be given to them near the citadel, and the preparations for the banquet were made (181).

Jubilees (22.16) does have strict views on eating with gentiles but, as Esler himself notes, it has close links to Qumran. Against Esler, most scholars should be followed in that Jubilees surely reflects a minority view. However, even here it should be noted that the context of idolatry and food is evident and so there is a warning not to eat with them and Jews are warned not to do their deeds because they are abominable. Gentiles, after all, make sacrifices to the dead and eat in tombs (Jub. 22.16–17). This extreme view was obviously grounded in gentiles being idolaters and lawless. The very existence of this polemic may also imply that certain Jews did in fact eat with gentiles. Joseph and Aseneth (7.6–7) does not support fully Esler’s general rule either and it implies that table-fellowship would be possible if the circumstances were right. Jacob told Joseph to avoid foreign women, something not too dramatic because from a certain Jewish perspective they were idolaters and law breakers. Thus Aseneth has to convert for the marriage to take place. Joseph would not eat with (συνήσθιε) the Egyptians and sat separately. To eat with the Egyptians was an abomination (βδέλυγμα) for Joseph. Βδέλυγμα is a term often connected with idolatry and given the general thrust of the book it is probable that some form of idolatry was involved, for example with the wine. Βδέλυγμα is also used in lxx to describe banned food (Lev. 11; Deut. 14:3) and although banned foods do not play an explicit role in Joseph and Aseneth it remains a possibility. Idolatry and possibly banned food being the reason for Joseph avoiding direct table-fellowship with the Egyptians is enhanced by the fact that Aseneth’s father’s household did not convert to Judaism and therefore it could reasonably be assumed that they were involved in lawless activities, hence Joseph’s assessment of the pagan woman:

It is not right for a man who worships God, who with his mouth blesses the living God, and eats the blessed bread of life … to kiss a strange woman, who with her mouth blesses dead and dumb idols, and eats of their table bread of strangulation (ἄρτον ἀγχόνης) and drinks of their libations … (8:5).

This evidence is quite consistent. Jews did not engage in table-fellowship with gentiles if the circumstances were not right and this consistently involves idolatry and the food laws. Aristeas is an excellent piece of evidence because it shows that table-fellowship could occur if the circumstances were right. This is important for our analysis of the Antioch episode. Table-fellowship between Jewish and gentile Christians was, obviously, a problem for some reason and the reasons given in the Jewish sources are those of idolatry and the food laws. It can be assumed that the problem at Antioch was not idolatry. For example it is most unlikely that gentile converts would continue to pour libations to gods.72 It is difficult to know precisely why certain Jews did not like gentile wine before libations were poured. In m. ‘Abodah Zarah 2.3, 6 and the gemara it is clear that the general reason for avoiding gentile wine is idolatry. It may well be a general dislike of gentile wine was due to association with idolatry, possibly even a misunderstanding in much the same way as we get gentiles misunderstanding Jewish practices (e.g. Sabbath as a fast day, Jews as misanthropes and so on). If the problem with gentile wine involved the impurity of their containers or wine, a liquid that can conduct impurity (m. Maksh. 6.4), then, as will be argued in Chapter 7, it would not have been a major issue for Jewish Christian association with gentiles at Antioch because this is not the sort of thing that would have been any great concern. It is therefore difficult to see how wine would have been a problem for the first Christians. It should be quite clear, then, that banned food must have been the issue, although it is most unlikely that food, like wine, offered to idols would have been a problem in the light of the later problem arising at Corinth (1 Cor. 8, 10). Precisely what is difficult to say. It is possible that eating bloody meat improperly slaughtered may have been included in the problem. Even so it is most probable that forbidden animals were the issue given that this is precisely the sort of problem that arises in the New Testament (Acts 10–11:18; Rom. 14:1–6). Even if Jewish and gentile Christians did continue the observance of the biblical food laws there must have been gentiles (and probably Jews) who did not. Let us assume for the moment that it was only gentile Christians eating forbidden food. Once this starts happening on a major scale the Christian community starts looking like a gentile community and it is quite reasonable to infer that James and others would have been disturbed by this and wanted to change things. This is not a contradiction of James’ and Peter’s earlier acceptance of the gentile mission and Paul’s gospel. It is quite plausible to expect a change of mind once the community starts giving the impression to others, especially Jews, that the community as a whole eats food forbidden by Jewish law. This would have caused even more problems: after all Paul’s mission was accepted but without necessarily implying that Jews stop observing the Torah.

Esler’s argument that impurity and gentile impurity would have made table-fellowship between Jew and gentile near impossible is also problematic. After all, if anyone was concerned with impurity in general then it would not be too difficult to deal with this, just as Judith did. Thus, in a text cited by Esler, the Essenes were required to immerse after contact with a gentile, which significantly implies the possibility of contact (War 2.150). Alternatively Jews would not have been allowed access to the Temple if they were impure and this was hardly an issue in Antioch. The texts concerning gentile impurity cited by Esler also show that there is a particular emphasis on the Temple. Hyrcanus may have urged Herod not to let his gentile soldiers into Jerusalem because people were purifying themselves for the festival of weeks, as Esler notes, but this clearly implies the non-controversial point that gentile soldiers were allowed in during non-festival times (Ant. 14.285). The vestments may have been purified due to gentile impurity when in Roman custody, as Esler notes, but they were purified after all, not least because they had to be used in Temple service and so the issue could be resolved (Ant. 18.94). Again, in John’s gospel, the Jewish people would not enter the praetorium, as Esler notes, but, as John tells us, this is because it was Passover (18:28), a point not mentioned by Esler. None of this involves table-fellowship but it does concern Temple purity. It could be argued, as Esler implies, that Jews were concerned to eat ordinary food in a state of purity and in this sense it is possible that the evidence of Jews believing gentiles to be impure would cause great problems for table-fellowship. This is, however, most unlikely because many of the criticisms of Dunn also apply to Esler in this case. Not all Jews ate ordinary food in a state of purity, as the gospel ‘sinners’ and the rabbinical ‘people of the land’ suggest and these sorts of people were important for the rise of Christianity. This is a significant point because the Antioch episode involves gentiles and if a substantial Christian movement wanted to have food observed in purity there would almost certainly be some evidence for this, not least from Paul himself. This never occurs in the New Testament. On the contrary the problems for Jewish Christians concern observing the biblical food laws themselves (Acts 10–11:18; Rom. 14:1–6). Moreover, there is a well-attested tradition of Jesus and his disciples eating with sinners, becoming impure, and rejecting the observance of eating in a state of purity (e.g. Mk 2:16; Mk 7:1–23; Mt. 11:19/Lk. 7:34; Lk. 15:2; 19:7) which is almost certainly representative of the historical Jesus’ ministry. If certain Christians wanted to become pure aside from the Temple then steps could be taken. If any Jewish Christian wanted to enter the Temple then it would be made sure they were purified. It can only be inferred that eating meals in a state of purity was not an issue at Antioch.

Esler stresses that gentile believers were being pushed to observe biblical laws in Antioch. This is most probable although to what degree is difficult to determine. Esler discusses the Antioch episode in the context of Galatians as a whole, combined with research into ancient rhetoric, to establish that there must be some connection between the narrated events of the past, such as the Antioch episode, and the current situation in Galatia.76 In Galatians Paul is quite explicitly attempting to dissuade the believers from observing the Jewish law and being circumcised, which ‘would probably have been the only solution from the point of view of the Jewish Christians in Antioch’. Thus Esler believes that we must presume that by ‘Judaise’ in Gal. 2:14 Paul means to become Jews through circumcision, as ‘works of the law’ (Gal. 2:15–16) would imply. However, that gentile believers were being pushed so far as to be circumcised and that this is what Paul meant by ‘Judaise’ in Gal. 2:14 is not likely. It has already been noted that ‘Judaise’ is distinguished from circumcision. Even though circumcision was an issue in Galatians it does not follow that the example from Antioch was: the Antioch incident would remain a highly relevant example concerning the question of observing works of the law even if circumcision were not an issue. After all, Torah observance without reference to circumcision was still an issue in Galatia (4:10).

It can be concluded from our analysis of Esler’s approach to the Antioch episode that Jewish table-fellowship with gentiles caused problems for Jews because of issues involving food laws and idolatry. The disputes involved in the Antioch episode would not have been idolatry however but rather biblical food laws. The problem for Peter and James was that the community was now in danger of being perceived as a gentile community, particularly when believers started abrogating the food laws, something that famously marked Jews out in the ancient world. This did not necessarily mean that gentiles were to be circumcised according to Peter and James: this is not known because no source ever mentions it. These conclusions can be developed further through the work of Sanders and it is to this we now turn.

Sanders has offered a subtle and useful addition to the understanding of the Antioch episode. His arguments complement to some degree the one put forward in this study. James would not have insisted on circumcision particularly in the light of Gal. 2:3 and 6:12. He rejects the view that it was impossible for a Jew to associate with gentiles due to issues of impurity. He rightly notes that throughout those primary sources concerned with the food laws and table-fellowship is a consistent fear of idolatry and banned foods. As Sanders puts it, ‘The point of all these exemplary stories of how to eat with Gentiles is that Jews should sit and eat their own food or only vegetables.’82 This has direct relevance for the Antioch episode and yet it is here that Sanders’ argument is weakest (but not necessarily wrong). He believes that it is most unlikely that Paul and other Jewish Christians ‘sat down to eat undrained and unsalted pork from pigs sacrificed before a pagan deity’. Paul himself is squeamish over food offered to idols (1 Cor. 8; 10) so he, Barnabas and other Jews would have been put off by prohibited food and the like. Sanders suggests the ‘most likely’ possibility for the controversy is that James was reluctant to accept too much association with gentiles because close association with gentiles may lead to contact with idolatry or a transgression of one of the biblical food laws. Peter’s mission would have been discredited if he were known to engage in too much gentile table-fellowship. Sanders also raises the possibility that James may generally have disapproved of gentile food, which led him to believe that Peter did not exercise enough caution. This would mean that Paul’s statement ‘living like a gentile’ (Gal. 2:14) was exaggerated because Peter had probably not done anything as drastic as eating unclean food and Paul was probably also exaggerating the charge of forcing gentiles to live like Jews.

Sanders, however, ignores the New Testament evidence of Peter’s vision (Acts 10–11:18) which certainly implies that he can eat forbidden food. Paul’s statement 1 Cor. 8:13 may also imply that he ate unclean food. Sanders’ reference to Paul’s attitude to food offered to idols does not necessarily imply that he was squeamish about such food. Paul may not have wanted to offend any Christian who did not want to eat food offered to idols (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31) but it still remains that Paul could have been prepared to eat food offered to an idol in certain situations with others prepared to do the same. If Peter and Paul were prepared not to observe biblical food laws then so other Jewish Christians could have done likewise. In the light of this it is probable that Gal. 2:14 is not as hyperbolic as Sanders would have us believe. It remains, however, that there is no direct evidence for any Jewish Christians eating forbidden food but the fact that we have passages such as Acts 10–11:18 and 1 Cor. 8:13 means it is a possibility. It therefore remains that Sanders may still be correct: the problem may have been more subtle than Peter simply eating banned food. This can be developed for our study. If the fear was there that Peter was associating too much with gentiles then the problem could only realistically involve the food laws in some way. It is difficult to be specific but if gentiles were eating, say, undrained meat then there would be no difficulty in accepting banned food, particularly in the light of Gen. 9, or at the very least this would no doubt be a perception of a Jew observant of the biblical commandments in general. Again it is unlikely that food sacrificed to idols was the issue, given that the problem was later to arise at Corinth (1 Cor. 8; 10). Moreover, Peter’s vision certainly indicates that it was possible to eat unclean food and there must have been good reason for such a vision. This indicates that at least some gentile converts were eating unclean food and that at least certain Jewish Christians were also involved in some way. With this in mind the common perception that some Christians, both Jewish and gentile, would have been eating unclean food would almost certainly have been present. Moreover, Sanders may well be right to suggest that James probably thought Peter’s mission to Jews would have been discredited if he ate with people eating unclean food.

Tomson has developed an approach to the Antioch incident which focuses on two views present in Judaism concerning association between Jews and gentiles and sees these represented by Paul and the men from James respectively. One significant ramification of his approach is that there is the implication that the Jewish Christians remained law observant like most Jews while the gentiles were not fully law observant like most gentiles. This is significant because, if accurate, it would suggest that this was a fairly standard Jewish view of the world. This in turn would mean the approach of this study is undermined because the assumption that Jews were law observant would have been applied to Jesus and thus render this investigation into non-observance in early Christianity redundant, at least in the case of the Antioch incident. Tomson notes that in Gal. 2:7–10, ‘Paul implies here that his “Law-free gospel” for Galatian gentiles was founded on his respect for Law-observance by Jewish Christians’. Everything would be fine so long as there remained two separate entities. However, problems might arise if these two entities overlapped, i.e. ‘where Jews and gentiles were living and eating together, as at Antioch’. Thus the question was, ‘can Jews and gentiles eat together without endangering either the Law-observance of the former or the freedom from the Law of the latter’. On the one hand it appears that James’ representatives apparently thought they could not; on the other hand Jews such as Paul, Barnabas, and Peter ‘thought it possible for Jews and gentiles to eat together without transgressing the Jewish Law’. Tomson believes that not only did the Jewish Apostles, such as James and Peter, keep the law, but ‘it is also implied for Paul’. This, it is argued, provides a ‘far reaching conclusion’: ‘when Paul ate with gentiles at Antioch, he would not be violating the Law in the eyes of the majority of Jews there’. Thus the question is now, ‘what was it at table that endangered the Law in the eyes of James’ emissaries, though not of Paul and most of the other Jews?’ Tomson rejects the popular opinion that the law had been rendered invalid with the coming of Christ and that Peter and Paul had both done away with the food laws. This cannot be the case, he argues, because it ignores the agreement of the Jerusalem council. Tomson also rejects the view that purity laws were the issue because they would have been impossible to keep in Antioch anyway. Thus the ‘danger James’ representatives perceived in eating together with gentile Christians at Antioch must apparently have had some other cause’.89

For Tomson, this disagreement was due to association with gentiles per se. The key phrases, Ἰουδαΐζω and ἐθνικῶς ζῆν, reflect ‘the central concern of the letter: the pressure exerted on Galatian gentiles to become Jewish proselytes’. These considerations, it is argued, imply that Jews like Peter were not abandoning the food laws. The key phrases are ‘charged with rhetoric’ and function powerfully for ‘Paul’s argument against forced circumcision in Galatia. It does not describe Peter’s diet but the liberal attitude towards gentile brethren in which he used to be at one with Paul.’ At this point the representatives of James disagreed, and Paul apparently rhetorically adopts their speech, ‘live like a gentile’. Thus Galatians 2:14 can be paraphrased: ‘Before, you agreed to live and eat as a Jew together with the gentiles, and although some call that “living like a gentile”, why do you now separate and wish to eat with them only if they become Jews?’ Paul is not urging Peter to join him again in a ‘non-Jewish way of life’ but rather he urges ‘for a Jewish life which does not force gentiles to judaize …’. These two differing opinions are echoed in Judaism from at least the Second Temple period through rabbinical literature. On the one side there are representatives of the view which would have strict segregation of Jews and gentiles based on gentile association with idolatry, e.g. Jubilees and R. Shimon ben Elazar (t. ‘Abod. Zar. 4.6; ‘Abot R. Nat. a 26 [41b]; b. ‘Abod. Zar. 8a); on the other there is an emphasis on openness and coexistence, e.g. Aristeas, the majority of Sages in post-Temple times, and apparently most first-century Jews in Antioch. Tomson believes that the existence of these two views explains the ‘Jacobine’ side of the conflict in Antioch. This position believed that gentile Christians remain associated with idolatry. Unlike the uncertainty of Peter and Barnabas, Paul represents the more ‘liberal’ position and accepted that table-fellowship with gentiles could continue without threatening Jewish observance.92

Tomson’s argument is a useful addition to the debate and he has provided much important information concerning table-fellowship between Jews and gentiles in rabbinical literature. He is also correct to dismiss the argument that purity was the issue. However, he does not show that there was proper observance of the food laws by the Jewish Christians. The Jerusalem council does appear to accept the validity of Paul’s mission and the continuing validity of law observant Jewish Christianity (although this is not said explicitly). Yet it must also be acknowledged that there is evidence that a Jew such as Peter, in the context of accepting gentiles, was prepared to accept the possibility that he could eat food prohibited in the Torah (Acts 10–11:18) and a Jew such as Paul implies that he behaved differently when among gentiles (1 Cor. 9:19–23). That said, as emphasised above, it remains that there is no direct evidence of Jewish Christians openly eating food such as pork when among gentiles. The problem may be more subtle. As mentioned, if large numbers of gentiles were eating food prohibited in the Torah, many people would identify the Christians at Antioch as a gentile movement. Jewish Christians involved in table-fellowship at Antioch would have been associated with such practices and this would have disturbed the men from James. Thus, even if Jews were not eating pork (although they may well have been), at the very least the perception was present. This does not contradict Gal. 2:1–10 because it could have been perceived that Paul was going back on his agreement, which would motivate the men from James to intervene in Antioch, and/or, as Sanders suggested, that Peter was undermining his role as missionary to the Jews.

It is unlikely that the men from James would have had a problem with table-fellowship with gentiles supposedly representing a view which dismissed such association. Gentile Christians were a part of the same overall movement as Jewish Christians, and not something distinct as gentiles were for other non-Christian Jews. As Paul puts it, James, Peter and John, ‘the ‘pillars’, gave Paul the right hand of fellowship and recognised Paul’s mission (Gal. 2:9). Such a sharp division due to gentiles being gentiles would have been unlikely because there is no compelling evidence that such a view was present in first-century Christianity. The closest is in a description of Jesus’ commissioning of the Twelve in Mt. 10:5–6 but there is nothing which explicitly describes such a view in the Church after the death of Jesus. The men from James would no doubt have disapproved of gentile association with idols but the fact that gentiles had converted to Christianity suggests that the gentile Christians at Antioch would not have been associating with idolatry and so they would have a different status vis-à-vis idolatry compared to most other gentiles. Moreover, Tomson’s view does not explain why Paul says in Gal. 2:16 that people are not justified by works of the law and that ‘we‘ (ἡμεῖς) are justified by faith in Christ and not works of the law because no one is to be justified by works of the law. Galatians 2:16 implies that at the very least some Jewish Christians were not observing the law as many Jews would have expected. This would in turn suggest that there was a problem with Jewish Christians being involved in some kind of non-observance of biblical laws at Antioch.

It was necessary to discuss the works of Dunn, Esler, Sanders and Tomson in detail because the Antioch episode is one of the most important pieces of evidence for a dispute over the biblical Torah in earliest Christianity, not least because it is known for certain that it really happened. There is good reason to believe that the Antioch episode is another example of food laws being broken, by Jews and gentiles, or at the very least this would have been a common perception. It appears from Gal. 2:7–10 (cf. Acts 15) that Paul’s mission, which would have no doubt included permission for gentiles to eat banned food if they wished, was accepted, and judging by Paul’s reaction to Peter in Gal. 2:11ff. it seems that there was a change of mind by some. The discussion here shows that this was due to the Christian community looking too gentile for certain Christians. If food laws are not observed by enough people then outsiders would stop identifying that group as Jewish. People such as Peter and James would have also thought that Jewish identity was now being seriously threatened due to non-observance of the food laws and this would have been understandably worrying for many Jewish Christians.

6. The Jerusalem Conference

The Antioch controversy is a major piece of evidence for non-observance of a major biblical law in early Christianity and importantly it is one which can be dated with a reasonable degree of certainty to the mid to late forties or even the very early fifties, particularly based on the information given in Gal. 1–2, especially 2:1–10. Galatians 2:1–10 also indicates that Paul had already gained permission for a gentile mission which at the very least did not require observance of the food laws prior to the Antioch controversy (Gal. 2:7–10) and this may have implied that certain Jewish Christians like Paul would not observe them all the time. Most scholars believe that Gal. 2:1–10 parallels Acts 15, although other suggestions include Acts 11:29–30 and Acts 12:25. Acts 15 may or may not parallel Gal. 2:1–10 (for what it is worth, I think it does) but this does not affect the chronological aims of this chapter in any major way, other than making the Jerusalem conference and the incident at Antioch a couple of years earlier, sometime around the mid-forties. However, as Acts 15 is another witness to non-observance of aspects of biblical Torah in Christianity during the first twenty or so years after the death of Jesus then it is worth discussing. It may only be a question of gentile Torah observance but, as mentioned, this cannot be entirely disassociated from Jewish Torah observance.

It is widely believed that Acts 15 (especially vv. 20, 29) contradicts Gal. 2:1–10 and Paul’s letters in general over the role of the Torah. Is this entirely fair? To begin, there are important similarities. Circumcision was certainly not required of gentiles and nor it would seem much of the Torah (15:6–11, 19–21). While there appear to be certain restrictions in Acts 15:20, 29 none of these ever mentions the food laws concerning prohibited animals. It seems likely that Acts 15:20, 29 include a prohibition of food not properly slaughtered but does this automatically mean a prohibition of eating animals forbidden in the Torah? Not necessarily. Sanders has argued that meat drained of blood was common in the gentile world and that it is possible that there was meat available that had not been sacrificed to idols, although he raises the possibility that some Jews may have eaten food offered to idols, rationalising in much the same way as Paul (1 Cor. 8, 10) just as some were prepared to go to theatres, baths and the gymnasium. If this were the case then it would be possible to eat bloodless pork, perhaps not offered to idols. It is known that blood was abhorrent to certain Jews (e.g. Gen. 9:4–14; CD 12; cf. Jos.
and Asen. 8.5) so it is quite plausible that it could have been prohibited by the Jerusalem council even if they accepted that gentiles could continue to eat pork, not dissimilar to the Noachide laws (cf. Gen. 9:3ff.). There may have been gentile Christian butchers who would have continued to eat pork and we even get stories in rabbinical literature of Jews being in places where people sold pork usually to gentiles (with some disastrous exceptions: b. Hul. 106a; Num. Rab. 20.21). In fact a case could now be made for Acts 15 complementing Gal. 2:1–10 on the issue of accepting a mission which conceded that the prohibited animals of the Torah could now be eaten, so long as blood is drained. The major stumbling block to the historicity of Acts 15:20, 29 in its context in Acts is the prohibition of food offered to idols, because Paul accepts this in Acts 15 yet clearly does not in 1 Cor. 8, 10. Yet even this is not irreconcilable. Paul may have initially accepted the so-called ‘decree’ because he did not think it was problematic but when the problems arose in Corinth Paul simply rejected it because it could have seriously harmed the gentile mission so crucial to Paul’s thought. This does not of course show that Acts 15:20, 29 was a part of the Jerusalem council but it is not as problematic as is so often thought. It therefore remains an intriguing possibility that the Jerusalem council accepted gentiles eating forbidden food according to Acts 15 and is bolstered by the fact that Peter refers back to his vision (15:7ff.). Note also that the reference to Peter’s vision may imply the non-observance of certain laws by certain Jewish Christians.

7. Christianity and the Law in the Forties

Thus in Acts 15 (and Gal. 2:1–10) there is an assumption that certain gentiles were no longer observing aspects of the Torah in some way prior to the conference (Acts 15:1ff.). Indeed, it appears that Paul was preaching something not wholly dissimilar in the final piece of evidence, namely Acts 13:38–39,

Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins (ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν) is proclaimed to you; by this (Jesus) everyone who believes is set free from all (those sins) from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

As has often been suggested, in the Lukan text a case can be made for the Torah justifying some things but where it could not faith in Jesus becomes necessary. This however does not seem particularly Pauline and so it is quite possible that Luke has misunderstood what Paul said. If Paul was preaching justification by faith in Antioch in Pisidia it can reasonably be assumed that, at the very least, there was a perception that the Torah did not have to be observed by at least some (and note also that Paul is preaching this message to both Jews and ‘god-fearers’—Acts 13:26), as suggested in Acts by the Jewish reaction on the following Sabbath (13:44ff.). It is very difficult to judge the historicity of such a passage but Paul no doubt preached on justification apart from the Torah so it is perfectly possible that Paul was saying something along these lines at this time, not least because it is implied in Galatians 2. Paul’s activities here in Antioch in Pisidia are part of his first major missionary journey which, if the Lukan chronology is followed, would bring us to the second half of the forties but before the Jerusalem conference. This is particularly significant because now there are a cluster of passages suggesting that at least some aspects of the Torah were not being observed around this period.

What is particularly significant about the evidence concerning non-observance of certain biblical laws is that it concerns both Jews and gentiles. If it was the case in first-century Christianity that Jewish Christians continued to fully observe the biblical commandments and that it was gentile Christians who did not, perhaps observing something like the Noachide laws, then this may not be so relevant for the purposes of this study.100 In other words, if this is so then Jewish and gentile Christians would assume a law observant Jesus and consequently this would prove problematic for my argument. However, it is clear from some of the evidence discussed that there was at the very least a perception that certain Jewish Christians were not observing major biblical commandments or that they did not have to (Acts 10–11:18; Acts 13:38–39; Gal. 2:11ff.) and hence people would not be able to automatically assume a law observant Jesus from the mid-forties onwards. It is also worth noting that something like the Noachide commandments alone do not appear to have been imposed on gentile Christians from the start. This sort of issue only first appears to have become a serious concern around the time of the Jerusalem conference and there is no evidence that such rulings were imposed earlier (see Acts 15:19–20; 28–29). It seems that the most likely explanation for the need to deal with the problem of gentile law observance is as follows: the earliest Christians, Jewish and gentile, were largely law observant but when more and more gentiles converted law observance would have inevitably become a pressing issue and so the Jerusalem conference attempted to resolve this by saying that gentiles should observe those laws described in Acts 15:20, 29. Jewish Christians such as Paul, Barnabas and Peter would also have neglected to observe biblical laws on occasion, possibly for missionary purposes (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19–23) and thus presumably after it became clear that a significant number of gentile Christians were not doing so.

8. Conclusions

It can therefore be argued that by the second half of the forties CE at the very latest there were certain Christians, both Jew and gentile, prepared not to observe certain parts of the biblical Torah, most notably the food laws. It is of course possible that Christians were doing similar things earlier but this is far from certain. Stephen was certainly accused of doing so but this appears to be a dispute over the validity of the present Temple and development of the biblical Torah, not the biblical Torah itself. It may well be that Stephen was only predicting the destruction of the Temple, developing the predictions of Jesus. It is particularly striking that nowhere does Stephen ever criticise any of the biblical laws, so striking in fact that the texts cannot be used as evidence for Stephen or the ‘Hellenists’ being opposed to the biblical Torah. Paul may have accepted that the Torah was no longer valid soon after his vision but the complete lack of firm evidence means that it is far from certain. The story of Peter’s vision, which may well contain a degree of historical accuracy, certainly does accept that the biblical food laws do not have to be observed but it is exceptionally difficult to date with any certainty and a date sometime in the forties before the Antioch incident is most satisfactory. The Antioch incident also implies that certain Christians, gentile and probably Jewish, were not observing food laws and, as just mentioned, a date in the late forties or even early fifties is the most likely time for this event. The Antioch incident shortly followed the Jerusalem conference, which is therefore also to be dated in the second half of the forties. Here it appears that only certain aspects of the Torah were to be observed by gentiles and it should also be noted that non-observance of Jewish Christians would have been tied up with non-observance among gentile Christians. Although it is difficult to be precise it can be argued with a reasonable degree of certainty that the council accepted that food laws did not have to be observed by gentiles. Moreover, the fact that both Acts and Paul independently start mentioning non-observance of some aspects of the Torah in the forties strongly suggests that this was the first time it started happening and so casts strong doubts that Stephen and the Hellenists were doing so prior to this. This even suggests that Paul in the first ten years or so after his conversion was probably not openly preaching justification by faith without works of the law. In fact it also strongly suggests that Christianity was largely law observant for at least the first 10 to 15 years after the death of Jesus. These results are extremely important for the dating of the gospels. If, as suggested at the end of Chapter 3, Mark, unlike Matthew and Luke, shows no knowledge concerning the questions surrounding the observance of the biblical law it can be argued with a strong degree of probability that the gospel was written extremely early, earlier than the second half of the forties. The following two chapters will attempt to show this in some detail.

Chapter 6

Dating Mark Legally (I): 2 Test Cases (Mark 2:23–28; Mark 10:2–12)

So far it has been established that there is no evidence of the historical Jesus abrogating, opposing, or neglecting the Torah in any way and that this tradition was so powerful that the synoptic writers agree. It has also been established that certain Christians, gentile and Jewish, were perceived as no longer observing some parts of the biblical Torah by at least the second half of the forties. This may have been the case earlier but there is no firm evidence. Thus if a gospel passage shows signs of these extremely important debates in early Christianity it may be argued that the given gospel was written in the light of such disputes, although precision on this basis alone is near impossible. Hints of this are present in Matthew and Luke (Mt. 5:17–21; Lk. 16:16–17). The other side of this kind of argument is that if a gospel does not show such signs then it is possible that it was written before such disputes. The fact that Mark does not contain such general defences of the Torah may already suggest an early date. This is not a weighty enough argument of course so it is the purpose of this chapter to provide a detailed discussion of two Markan passages which assume what Matthew and Luke could not, so that Matthew and Luke required later editing in the light of the gentile mission. These two ‘test cases’ concern plucking grain on the Sabbath (Mk 2:23–28/Mt. 12:1–8/Lk. 6:1–5) and divorce (Mk 10:2–12/Mt. 19:3–10; Mt. 5:31–33/Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10–16).

These two test cases are not as unrelated as it might seem. They both show signs that Matthew and Luke found it necessary to make it explicit that Jesus accepted biblical law on both issues and they can both be compared with New Testament texts that discuss these very issues and which are to be dated at more or less the same time, the fifties ce. A dating of Mark based on Sabbath and divorce controversies will therefore be given in relation to Sabbath and divorce controversies in earliest Christianity. As will hopefully be shown by the end of this chapter, the issues of Sabbath and divorce are deliberately discussed together here because together they provide an argument of collective weight for c. 50 CE as the latest possible date for Mark’s gospel and this collective argument will also form the basis of the final chapter which will push this date even earlier. It should be noted that these two Markan texts do not demand a date before the mid-forties as suggested at times in this study, although, as will be seen, they are hardly incompatible with such a date. This is because disputes concerning the validity of the Torah in Christianity in the forties were about circumcision and food laws or otherwise involved general statements. Theoretically it is not impossible that many Christians accepted that food and other laws did not need to be observed but that Sabbath and divorce rulings remained valid. After all, there appear to have been gentiles impressed by a day of rest (Apion 2.282; Juvenal, Satires 14.96–106), some Christians naturally continuing to observe the Sabbath (cf. Rom. 14:5–6), and divorce rulings were always going to be important. The discussion of the divorce passages also provides another, slightly different argument, thereby further adding to the argument of collective weight, because, as will be seen, the Markan ruling is strict and caused datable problems in earliest Christianity over observance, which in turn led to the addition of significant qualifications in the Pauline and other non-Markan versions. The implication is that Mark is to be dated earlier than these. This will be discussed later but first we will turn to the issue of Sabbath observance and the date of Mark.

1. Sabbath: Dating Mark through Mark 2:23–28 and Parallels

Mark 2:23–28 makes several assumptions that would have to be made explicit by later writers. Most importantly for this study is that Mark in no way portrays Jesus condoning non-observance or an abrogation of the Sabbath. This view is not accepted by some scholars. For example, Gundry notes ‘the Sabbath prohibition of harvesting (as the disciples are doing by plucking ears of grain)’ and refers to Exod. 34:21, and also Jubilees 2.29–30, 50.6–13, CD 10.14–11.18, m. Shabbat 7.2. This, however, is misleading so far as biblical law is concerned because Mark quite clearly tells us that the disciples were ‘plucking’ (τίλλοντες) and not ‘harvesting’ or ‘reaping’. This is not against biblical law, a point particularly enhanced when the language involved is highlighted. The biblical law (Exod. 34:21) prohibits ploughing and harvesting on the Sabbath:

but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest (בחריש ובקציר תשבת / τῷ σπόρῷ καὶ τῷ ἀμήτῳ καταπαύσεις).

The Hebrew noun קציר used in Exod. 34:21, meaning something like ‘harvest[ing]’, from biblical through rabbinical literature, is never translated with τίλλω or derivatives. This קציר is a particularly important point given that is translated with about nine different words (although twice there are words from the same root: θερίζω [e.g. Job 5:5], θερισμός [e.g. Gen. 8:22; Exod. 23:16; Lev. 19:9]; and τρυγᾶν [Hos. 6:12 (11)], τρύγητος/τρυγητός [Amos 4:7; Mic. 7:1; 1 Sam. 8:12; Joel 1:11; 3 [4]:13; Isa. 16:9]). The verb form of קצר, meaning something like ‘reap’, ‘harvest’, ‘cut’, from biblical through rabbinical literature, is translated in lxx with about twice as many words as its noun form and again τίλλω does not occur. קצר, incidentally, is one of the forbidden Sabbath practices in m. Shabbat 7.2. Τίλλω itself occurs only three times in lxx and translates the Hebrew and Aramaic root מרט (Ezra 9:3; Isa. 18:7; Dan. 7:4) and never in the sense of harvesting, מרט is translated by several Greek words, often in the sense of plucking out hair or the like (e.g. 8:71; Neh. 13:25; Isa. 50:6; Ezra 9:3; Lev. 13:40, 41; cf. Philo, Jos. 16), a meaning also found in rabbinical literature (e.g. m. Hul. 3.4; b. Nazir 39b; Shabb. 74b; Yoma 61b). It is significant that מרט is not present in the 39 forbidden acts on the Sabbath in the Mishnah (Shabb. 7.2). This evidence is important because even if the Pharisees believed that Jesus’ disciples were breaking Sabbath laws based on reaping and harvesting it hardly follows that Mark did in 2:23–28 and it is hardly obvious that anyone would have automatically perceived this to be the case based on Mark using τίλλω.

Mark does, however, clearly portray Jesus conflicting with the Pharisees over what is lawful/permitted (ἔξεστιν) on the Sabbath. Although there is no direct evidence from around the New Testament period that Pharisees believed plucking grain was illegal on the Sabbath it probably was assumed by certain groups. For example, in CD 10.22–23 (cf. Jub. 2.29f.; 50.9),

No one is to eat on the Sabbath day except what has been prepared; and from what is lost in the field [Blank] he should not eat, nor should he drink except of what there is in the camp.

As only food which has been previously prepared or instantly available to eat is mentioned this must surely imply a prohibition of plucking. Similarly Philo includes a prohibition of plucking (δρέψασθαι) fruit on the Sabbath based on the unusual principle that ‘no one shall touch (μηδενὸς ἐπιψαύοντος)’ (Mos. 2.22). This shows that it was possible for strict Jews not to accept plucking grain on the Sabbath. The closest indications of Pharisaic laws are the rabbinical prohibitions of something like plucking but here we have to wait a few centuries. Later rabbis recorded such views in y. Shabbat 7.2, where תלש (‘picking’/’plucking’) is prohibited on the Sabbath. Similarly to Shabbat 9.17, where תלש is also prohibited (although not necessarily plucking grain; cf. b. Shabb. 103a). As there is not a precise first-century or early rabbinical parallel which could be directly linked to a Pharisaic prohibition of plucking it can be seen how this could potentially cause problems for Jesus’ opponents particularly as around the same time the evidence from Qumran and Philo shows the plausibility of strict Jews being offended at other Jews plucking grain on the Sabbath. Such evidence makes it quite clear that while Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ attitude towards the Sabbath is not opposed to any biblical law, it does conflict with that of stricter Jews such as Pharisees even if they had not laid down a ruling in the first century. It is on this level that the Pharisees and Jesus debate, i.e. whether the actions of the disciples are lawful or permitted in the light of the expansion of biblical law.

The dispute recorded in Mk 2:23–24 is very intra-Jewish. A dispute over plucking grain on the Sabbath would have been highly plausible within early Judaism. Numerous Sabbath disputes are recorded in rabbinical literature. Shammai, for example, did not permit nets spread to catch animals, birds, or fish unless there was time for them to be caught before the Sabbath whereas Hillel permitted it. It was apparently forbidden for honey to be taken on the Sabbath if honeycombs were broken on the eve of the Sabbath; R. Eliezer, on the other hand, permitted it (m. Shabb. 22.1). R. Eliezer said that if someone scraped honey from a beehive on the Sabbath he is culpable; the sages disagree (m. Shebi. 10.7/m. ‘Uq. 3.10). Certain rabbis also had problems with the men of Jericho who ‘ate Sabbath fruit that had fallen under the tree’ (m. Pesah. 4.8). There is therefore nothing implausible about the dispute recorded in Mk 2:23–24, and it is well within the boundaries of Jewish halakah. Combined with the fact that a prohibition of plucking on the Sabbath is not found in Scripture it can now be argued that for the Markan Jesus plucking grain was not in any way to be regarded as work. Moreover Jesus’ disciples are acting in accordance with biblical law because it was acceptable for poor people, which the disciples almost certainly were according to the synoptics (cf. e.g. Mk 1:16–20; Mt. 8:19–20/Lk. 9:57–58), to pluck from the edges of fields: ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest … You shall leave them for the poor and the alien’ (Lev. 19:9–10; cf. Lev. 23:22). Nowhere in biblical law does it prohibit this on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ reference to David’s action should be seen in light of Jesus’ halakic decision to permit plucking grain on the Sabbath. At this point numerous scholars have claimed that Jesus’ arguments are irrelevant and/or inadequate. Dunn, for example, argues that the precedent of David ‘has nothing to do with the Sabbath’ and the point of connection was probably to justify the disciples’ hunger. Both the need and the justification are ‘out of proportion in the incidents held up for comparison’. The needs of Jesus’ disciples seem ‘much less weighty’ and ‘remarkably casual in comparison’. This misses the point. Casey has highlighted the important background evidence showing that Jesus’ argument here does concern the Sabbath, that it is entirely coherent, and that the issue of hunger was not the point of comparison. Casey argues that the Markan passage, or perhaps more accurately in his case an Aramaic reconstruction, assumes that David’s actions are set on the Sabbath (1 Sam. 21; Mk 2:25–26). In 1 Sam. 21 David and his companions are allowed to eat the bread on condition that they have kept themselves from women. Jesus says that it is only lawful for the priests to eat the shewbread. This requires familiarity with shewbread law. Shewbread law is grounded in Scripture and the shewbread itself is to be changed on the Sabbath and eaten only by priests: ‘Every Sabbath day he will arrange it before the Lord continually on behalf of the children of Israel as an eternal covenant. And it will be for Aaron and for his sons and they will eat it in a holy place’ (Lev. 24:8–9). Josephus describes the Temple law concerning the shewbread. Early on the Sabbath morning they are ‘brought in and placed on the holy table’ and they remain there until the following Sabbath. Then ‘others are brought in, in place of them, while the original ones are given to the priests as food’ (Ant. 3.255–256). The changing of the shewbread on the Sabbath is indicated elsewhere (m. Menah. 11.7; b. Pesah. 47a). In this context, and from a first-century Jewish perspective, 1 Sam. 21 must be dated on the Sabbath because it is the Sabbath when the shewbread would have been available for David and his companions: David ‘entered the house of God … and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat’ (Mk 2:26). David’s actions are against biblical law (but not Sabbath law) and the later rabbis had to deal with this, often with reference to extreme hunger on the Sabbath (e.g. Yalqut Shim’oni 2.130; b. Menah. 95b). Thus Casey can argue that in ancient Judaism ‘a strict classification of laws into sabbath and non-sabbath laws was not followed in interpreting David’s actions, for such a division of application would be contrary to Jewish halakah’. The implication of this sort of approach is that by using the example of David the scene is set for Jesus to make a halakic decision concerning the Sabbath. From the perspective of the Markan Jesus, if the Pharisees accept that David broke a biblical law then they should find acceptable the actions of Jesus’ disciples, even if they are in opposition to a certain interpretation of biblical law. This may also imply that the Markan Jesus implicitly accepted, to an extent, the validity of the Pharisees’ avoiding plucking grain on the Sabbath but if someone needed to do so, particularly if they were poor, they should not be criticised. This is because the debate is working on the level of Pharisaic interpretation of the Law. The Markan Jesus is condoning that which is not permitted from a Pharisaic perspective.

Mark 2:27 reinforces the point that Jesus was not neglecting the Sabbath. There is a well-known parallel to this in rabbinical literature attributed to R. Simeon ben Menasya defending the idea that saving life overrides the Sabbath, ‘The Sabbath is delivered to you and you are not delivered to the Sabbath’ (Mek. Exod. 31.12–17; cf. b. Yoma 85b). It does not matter that Jesus is not portrayed as arguing that saving life overrules the Sabbath because the idea of the Sabbath being made for people is clearly rooted in Scripture (‘See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath’, Exod. 16:29; cf. Jub. 2.17) so alone something like Mk 2:27–28 is a thoroughly uncontroversial statement. In the Markan context, though, it is being used to defend Jesus’ halakic decision to allow plucking of grain on the Sabbath. The same line of thought is to be found in the next verse, Mk 2:28, ‘so the son of man is lord even of the Sabbath’ (ὥστε κύριός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου καὶ τοῦ σαββάτου). This verse retains the generic sense of the underlying Aramaic בר (א)נש(א), and it has also been argued that this idiom can also include a reference to the speaker, in this case by Jesus to defend his argument. In other words the Markan text is a literal translation of an Aramaic source. This is confirmed by the fact that Luke and Matthew do not include Mk 2:27, which clearly has a general level of meaning, in order to heighten the reference to Jesus alone. Mark 2:28 also builds on 2:27 by claiming that Jesus and others in general are lords over the Sabbath (see Chapter 2.1 of this study for further discussion of the generalising nature of this son of man saying). Compare too the Jewish view of humans being masters over the creation (Gen. 1:26, 28; Ps. 8:6–9; 4 Ezra 6:54–59; 7:11; 2 Bar. 14.18; 15.7; 21.24; As. Mos. 1.12).12 This argument is thus employed to strengthen the authority of Jesus’ halakic decision in Mk 2:28.

The argument developed in this study has shown that Mk 2:23–28 is a coherent whole. Mark 2:23–28 is very Jewish and unlike anything known from the early church. Thus it is possible that this is a passage that accurately reports an event from the ministry of the historical Jesus. The implication of this for the date of Mark is that the earliest possible date based on this passage would be when gospel traditions could have first been translated into Greek, which could be almost any time from the 30s onwards. There have, however, been objections to the historicity of Mk 2:23–28. The form critical approach to the Sabbath disputes, associated with Bultmann, has found a recent champion in Sanders. Sanders argues that issues such as food and Sabbath would be more important for the gentile churches than pre-Christian Judaism. In a Jewish environment ‘Sabbath and the consumption of kosher food are largely matters of routine.’ Thus it is ‘very probable’ that the reason why issues of food and Sabbath are prominent in the gospels is because they are important for the Church. For Sanders, then, the gospel reports do not accurately record Jesus’ Sabbath actions.16 Sanders follows Bultmann and others in suggesting that settings of the Markan Sabbath disputes are ‘imaginary’, and labels them ‘extraordinarily unrealistic’. The Pharisees did not organise themselves into groups to spend their Sabbaths in Galilean cornfields in the hope of someone transgressing (Mk 2:23f.). Sanders accepts that the stories may preserve some conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees but ultimately ‘there was no substantial conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees with regard to Sabbath …’. Even in the stories in the form as we have them there is no transgression of the Torah but it is the disciples (= Church) who are criticised, not Jesus; so ‘the passage represents a Christian response to Jewish criticism’.18 Sanders’ later work is less polemical but he maintains a similar position and adds further suggestions. If Jesus and the disciples had travelled too far, why were they not criticised? Why did the disciples not request food elsewhere? Why did they not return to their previous base? ‘The question is why they were hungry enough to break the Sabbath by plucking grain and why was there nothing else to eat?’

There are benefits of Sanders’ approach towards Mk 2:23–28. For example, he is correct to note that the issue of observing the Sabbath at all was a problem for gentile Christianity and that the historical Jesus would not have challenged Sabbath observance. However, there are also good reasons to believe that a Sabbath dispute between the historical Jesus and his opponents would have been likely. Not only do Sabbath disputes with strict Jewish opponents occur in at least two strands of tradition (Mk and L [Lk. 13:10–17; 14:1–6]; ?Q [Mt. 12:11–12; Lk. 14:5]) but they are also very plausible within Judaism. Sanders’ downplaying of different Torah disputes in Judaism has been heavily criticised. There are numerous pieces of evidence showing Torah disputes in ancient Judaism, from the Dead Sea scrolls (e.g. 4QMMT) and discussions of the Pharisees and other Jews in Josephus (Ant. 13.297–298) and Philo (Spec. Leg. 2.253). In later rabbinic sources there are negative statements concerning ‘the people of the land’ that is Jews not strictly observant of rabbinic laws (e.g. m. Dem. 1–2; m. ‘Abot 5.10ff; m. Sota 9.15) or the laws of the associates (e.g. m. Dem. 2–3) or the laws of the Pharisees (e.g. m. Hag. 2:7). In addition to general disputes over law observance there is also evidence of Sabbath disputes in the ancient sources. Luke 14:5 appears to allude to the strict ruling of CD 11.13–14 concerning the (non-) assisting of a beast on the Sabbath including ones fallen down a pit. Jesus’ argument requires his opponents not accepting this ruling and may be alluding to a parallel found in rabbinical literature of aiding young cattle on a feast day (m. Shabb. 18.3; cf. b. Shabb. 128b). As already noted, the Mishnah indicates that Jews dedicated to Sabbath observance disputed Sabbath details (m. Shabb. 22.1; m. Shebi. 10.7/m. ‘Uq. 3.10; m. Pesah. 4.8).

Other criticisms made by Sanders are likewise problematical. Mark 2:23–28 does not say that Pharisees organised themselves into groups in Galilean grain fields to observe Sabbath behaviour so this is an invalid criticism. The Pharisees could quite plausibly have decided to walk in a field without expecting to engage in a Sabbath dispute, stayed within the Sabbath limit naturally, and then seen Jesus’ disciples plucking grain, or they may have deliberately been investigating Jesus’ Sabbath practices and not simply checking on people generally. That the Pharisees had not strayed beyond the Sabbath limit is an aspect of Jewish practice surely assumed by Mk 2:23–28. The other questions raised by Sanders are also unnecessary. For example, the background of Peah, leaving the edges of the field for the poor and the sojourner (Lev. 19:9–10; cf. 23:23), may suggest a reason why Jesus did not pluck: he was not poor enough. Daube’s argument concerning the master’s responsibility for his disciples is also an important feature in this respect.23 The passage becomes more ‘realistic’ than Sanders believes when further aspects of Jewish practice are discussed.

There are no sound objections to the argument that Mk 2:23–28 reflects an event in the ministry of the historical Jesus. Although it can now be argued that the earliest possible date for Mark based on Mk 2:23–28 is the earliest possible date for traditions being translated into Greek, i.e. anytime from the early 30s onwards, to see if it is possible to find the latest possible dates Mk 2:23–28 must be compared with parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke and see how they deal with the dispute over the plucking of the grain.

It has been argued that the Matthean account of the plucking of the grain (12:1–8) opposes biblical Sabbath commandments. For example, Menninger claims that ‘if David … could “set aside” the Law then so could Jesus, for he is greater than the former King (cf. 21:41ff.). Moreover, if David’s men could eat despite the fact such behavior is unlawful, then for Jesus’ disciples … it should be of no consequence.’ There are problems with this. The disciples are not portrayed as setting aside the biblical commandment because, like Mark, Matthew uses a form of τίλλω to describe their actions which is not outlawed on the Sabbath in the biblical commandments and so if Matthew wanted us to believe otherwise Matthew might have used a different word. It is particularly significant that Matthew adds another argument to Jesus’ defence of the disciples’ actions in Numbers 12:5–6. This is significant because, in addition to Matthew, the priests’ actions in the Temple were regarded as acceptable on the Sabbath in ancient Judaism. Numbers 28:9–10 explicitly commands a burnt offering every Sabbath so even those with strict Sabbath laws were going to follow this ruling: for example, Jubilees 50.10–11 has the offerings in the Temple as the only work that may be done on the Sabbath. Matthew similarly regards such actions as ‘guiltless’ (ἀναίτιοί) and so if the disciples are serving Jesus, the one greater than the Temple (as surely implied by Matthew, cf. Mt. 12:41–42), then it must follow that plucking grain on the Sabbath is definitely acceptable (Mt. 12:6). It must also follow that from the perspective of the Matthean Jesus this is not a defence of an overriding of a biblical law. If Matthew felt this was a deliberate breaking of the biblical Sabbath laws he would no doubt have claimed that life was in danger, just as later rabbis did with David’s actions in 1 Sam. 21 (e.g. Yalqut Shim’oni 2.130; b. Menah. 95b), rather than claiming that the disciples were merely hungry (12:1), which was probably included to heighten the links with David (cf. Mt. 1:1–18, 20; 21:9). The reference to David must therefore function in a similar way to the way it does in Mark and to the reference to the priests in the Temple in Matthew: if it can be accepted that the respective parties are guiltless then surely it must be that Jesus’ disciples are guiltless.

This also suggests that, as in Mark, the question concerns an interpretation of the biblical Sabbath laws, particularly Exod. 34:21, i.e. a clash with the Pharisaic interpretation. It appears to be tacitly assumed that to avoid plucking on the Sabbath is not necessarily a bad thing. Thus, in an almost identical way to Mark, when the Pharisees make the accusation, ‘your disciples are doing what is not lawful/permitted (ἔζεστιν) to do on the Sabbath’ (Mt. 12:2), Jesus responds with reference to David’s action which ‘was not lawful (ἐζὸν) for him or his companions to eat’ (Mt. 12:4) and also says ‘the priests in the Temple break (βεβηλοῦσιν) the Sabbath and yet are guiltless (ἀναίτιοί)’ (Mt. 12:5). The Matthean Jesus and the Pharisees are clearly arguing on common ground, i.e. what is lawful/permitted. Davies and Allison are no doubt correct in arguing that the question is not, ‘Can there be exceptions to sabbath halakah? It was rather, what constitutes a legitimate exception?’ But this, it should be stressed, concerns interpretation of biblical law and not the validity of the biblical commandments themselves. That Jesus could implicitly accept, to an extent, a Pharisaic halakah is found elsewhere in Matthew, most notably Mt. 23:23. Here Jesus accepts the tithing of mint, dill and cumin but does not believe it should be practised at the expense of weightier matters of the law, namely mercy, justice and faith. Tithing mint, dill and cumin is not explicitly commanded in biblical law but doing so is in line with general statements concerning tithing (Deut. 14:23; Lev. 27:30–31; Num. 18:12; cf. m. Ma’as. 1.1). From the perspective of the Matthean Jesus tithing mint, dill and cumin is not necessarily wrong but an over-emphasis can be and presumably people who do tithe but not necessarily mint, dill and cumin are not doing anything wrong from this perspective. So too plucking grain on the Sabbath. From the perspective of the Matthean Jesus, people who avoided plucking grain on the Sabbath were not necessarily doing wrong but an over-emphasis on such behaviour could be problematic. Yet also people who did pluck grain on the Sabbath were not doing anything wrong either. As with Mt. 23:23 it is also argued that an emphasis on Sabbath rules is wrong when done at the expense of mercy, hence the reference to Hos. 6:6, ‘But if you had understood what this means, “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless (τοὺς ἀναιτίους)’ (Mt. 12:7).

It is in this light that Matthew’s additions to Mark must be interpreted, most importantly in this case is that of the disciples plucking grain to eat (ἐσθίειν): leaving an unqualified use of τίλλω means that all sorts of interpretations are possible, such as gathering the grain or carrying it. Compare the Ascension of Isaiah 2:11 (not set on the Sabbath) which shows how τίλλω in a Jewish and Christian context could be potentially misleading if described on the Sabbath. Here Isaiah and a group of prophets settled naked on a mountain and had nothing to eat but wild herbs which they had gathered/plucked (τίλλο[τε]ς) and then cooked. Compare also m. Shabbat 12.2 which shows that in a Jewish context at least the disciples’ actions could easily be interpreted in a different way if it was not made clear:

[He is culpable] that gathers any wood whatsoever if it is to set [the ground] in order; if it is to burn [he is culpable that gathers] enough to cook the smallest egg. [He is culpable] that gathers any herbs whatsoever if it is to set [the field] in order; and if it is for the cattle, [he is culpable that gathers] enough to fill a kid’s mouth.

The Matthean addition of ἐσθίειν was necessary for the very reason that Jesus could not be accused of breaking the Sabbath law because it is not necessarily obvious that people pluck grain to eat it there and then and to make clear the nature of the dispute.

Like Matthew, Luke has an addition which makes it clear Jesus was not condoning what could be perceived as a challenge to Sabbath law by emphasising that the disciples were eating the grain although the addition is significantly different to Matthew: ‘… his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands and ate them (ἔτιλλον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤσθιον τοὺς στάχυας ψώχοντες ταῖς χερσίν)’ (Lk. 6:1). It has been argued that Mt. 12:1–8 and Lk. 6:1–5 have a common source in addition to Mk 2:23–28 or that Luke used Matthew, but, in the case of the significant additions in Lk. 6:1 and Mt. 12:1 at least, this is most unlikely. Casey has made important observations. Luke gives the details that heads of grain were plucked, rubbed, and eaten whereas Matthew only says that they were plucked and eaten. It is also significant that the verb ἐσθίω is used differently in Matthew and Luke: Matthew has the infinitive at the end of the sentence whereas Luke has the aorist at the beginning. Such evidence suggests that independent editors of Mark are attempting to make clear for a gentile audience precisely what the disciples were doing and, more seriously, what they were not doing, i.e. they were not breaking the biblical Sabbath commandment, which is clearly in line with Luke’s portrayal of Jesus and the Sabbath (13:10–17; 14:1–6). However, even if it is assumed that the Matthean and Lukan additions were from an earlier source they still felt it necessary to include the information that the disciples were eating the grain which, most importantly for our study, implies that Mark could assume what Matthew and Luke could not.

It is points such as these that constitute the strongest arguments for Casey’s suggestion that Mark may have been written c. 40 ce. This can be taken one step further and strengthened. It should first be noted that there are two parallels to the Markan account, both of which need to make it clear that Jesus was upholding biblical law. This was assumed in the Markan account and this is the sort of assumption that could only be made in a context where Sabbath observance was taken for granted. To strengthen Casey’s argument a context needs to be found where Mark could assume what Matthew and Luke could not. This means turning to the issue of non-observance of the Sabbath in first-century Christianity and the dates of texts involved. Non-observance of the Sabbath first becomes an issue in Rom. 14:5–6, Gal. 4:10, Col. 2:16 and Jn 5:1–18 (cf. 9:13–17). In Rom. 14:1–6 there is a dispute over the observance and non-observance of days alongside a dispute over food, which can hardly exclude a reference to Sabbath observance, a point further enhanced when it is noted that Romans as a whole deals with the problems surrounding Jew and gentile in the context of the righteousness of God and the role of the Torah. In Gal. 4:10 Paul is critical of certain people over a similar issue: ‘you are observing of special days and months and seasons and years’ (ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ ἐνιαυτούς). Again this undoubtedly includes a reference to Sabbath observance, a point which, like Romans, is strengthened when it is remembered that Paul has problems with the issue of Torah observance in Galatians. In Col. 2:16 no one is to judge another concerning ‘feasts, new moons, or Sabbaths’ (ἑορτῆς ἢ νεομηνίας ἢ σαββάτων) for these are a shadow of what is to come. Like Rom. 14:3–6 it is the wrong intention that is criticised. It is important that problems over Sabbath observance can be found in different texts dealing with different situations in different places because it shows that Sabbath controversies were not limited to a specific time and place in first-century Christianity thus making editing of texts such as Mk 2:23–28 all the more necessary.

John 5:1–18 also indicates problems with Sabbath observance in first-century Christianity but it is a little different because it portrays Jesus advocating an overriding of the Sabbath. Jesus tells the healed man to carry his mat which is contrary to Jeremiah’s prohibition of carrying a burden on the Sabbath (Jer. 17:19–22). Against this, Carson claims that ‘Jesus’ attitude to the Sabbath as recorded in John is similar in many respects to what is recorded in the synoptics …’ Concerning Jn 5:1–18 Carson claims that Jesus’ command to carry the pallet on the Sabbath contradicts nothing in biblical law and even ‘The prohibition against carrying things in Jer. 17:19–22 apparently has commerce in view, not a pallet carried by a miraculously healed man.’ Concerning Johannine and synoptic Christology Carson believes that Jesus’ claim to equality with God (Jn 5:18), ‘is not far removed from Mk 2:28 and parallels; indeed if anything it is weightier’. This does not work. Mark 1:32 implies, in addition to walking beyond the Sabbath limit, that carrying objects, people on sick beds, something which has no direct economic reference, was considered work on the Sabbath: ‘That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons …’ (cf. Mk 2:2–12 for sick people being carried on beds). Furthermore, in Jn 5:10 ‘the Jews’ claim that on the Sabbath ‘it is not lawful for you to carry your mat’. This is hardly a reference to commercial action. If John had wanted to portray Jesus believing that carrying beds on the Sabbath was not contradicting Jewish Sabbath laws he would have to make it quite clear, just as Luke and Matthew make it clear that Jesus did not reject the Sabbath (Lk. 6:1–5; Mt. 12:1–8). John does not do this. Instead, quite the opposite: Jesus replies to the Jews, ‘My father is still working, and I also am working (κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι)’ (Jn 5:17). In direct contrast to this the synoptic accounts clearly uphold the Sabbath and do not regard Jesus as doing or, from their perspective, advocating ‘work’ on the Sabbath.

In addition to this it should be commented that the Johannine claim of Jesus’ being equal with God can hardly be compared with Mk 2:28 and parallels. The son of man saying in Mk 2:28 appears to have retained the generic sense of what is surely the underlying Aramaic phrase בר (א)נש(א). The Matthean and Lukan parallels use it in a titular sense but it hardly qualifies as a divine title; rather, as has been argued, it stresses Jesus’ authority to make the halakic decision to permit plucking grain on the Sabbath. In John the Jews sought to kill Jesus ‘because he not only broke the Sabbath (ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον) but also called God his father, making himself equal with God (ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ)’ (Jn 5:18), whereas in the synoptics it requires a further Sabbath dispute (Mk 3:1–6) for Jesus’ opponents to seek to kill him, echoing teaching concerning the two Sabbath violations in rabbinical literature (m. Sanh. 7.8; cf. y. Sanh. 7.11; cf. Exod. 31:14; 35:2; CD 12.3–6). There is no criticism at all for the use of the term ‘son of man’ or the like as it might be expected if Jesus were claiming equality with God through the use of this term. The conclusion can only be that the Johannine account was written up at a time when Sabbath observance was rejected by Christianity and a ‘high’ Christology had become a distinguishing feature, something clearly rejected by ‘the Jews’. The synoptics do not show this degree of development.

Some of the texts containing these Christian Sabbath disputes can be dated with a reasonable degree of certainty. John’s gospel was almost certainly completed after 70, which consequently does not get us very far in the dating of Mark. It is the Pauline epistles which are most important for our present purposes, particularly Romans and Galatians: Romans was written sometime in the mid to late fifties; and Galatians sometime between the mid-forties and mid-fifties.39 This is one argument which suggests a date for the writing of Mark prior to the mid-fifties.

Although, through a comparison of Mk 2:23–28 and its parallels, a potential date for Mark’s gospel prior to the mid-fifties can now be put forward, it is only one passage and could legitimately be dismissed as a coincidence if not supported by other evidence. Further evidence is required to make this argument more plausible. Fortunately there is another legal tradition, better attested than Mk 2:23–28 and parallels, which shows clear signs of developments, some of which can be dated with a reasonable amount of certainty, namely the divorce and remarriage traditions. Again it will be seen that Mark’s discussion of a legal issue contained assumptions that had to be made explicit or qualified by all the other writers. This is, therefore, another piece of evidence showing that Mark assumes what Matthew and Luke could not. The issue of divorce and remarriage is a little different, however, because there is also good evidence that a strict ruling on divorce was accepted by Mark but qualified by Matthew, Luke and Paul. This is perhaps even stronger than the Sabbath argument because Paul provides another witness to a qualification which was unnecessary in Mark. Also the text in which the Pauline qualification occurs, namely 1 Corinthians, can be dated with reasonable certainty to the mid-fifties implying that Mark was written before this date and thus providing a complementary piece of evidence for the Sabbath argument. This must now be explained in further detail.

2. Divorce and Remarriage: Dating Mark through Mark 10:2–12 and Parallels

The discussion of divorce in Mark is in 10:2–12 and the parallels are found in Mt. 19:3–9 and 5:32, Luke 16:18, and 1 Cor. 7:10–15. The differences to be found in these accounts are highly significant for dating. Therefore some explanation as to why changes were made and under what circumstances they took place is required. We will start with a discussion of Mk 10:2–12 and proceed by comparing this passage with the other discussions of divorce in the New Testament.

Most scholars take Mk 10:2–12 at face value by arguing that it prohibits divorce absolutely. However, a significant minority have suggested the possibility that divorce for sexual immorality and the like was so obvious that it was assumed by Mark or his source and that this was accurately interpreted by Matthew (Mt. 5:32; 19:9). This interpretation carries some weight in the light of certain texts. Note Joseph’s response to Mary’s apparent infidelity in Mt. 1:19, ‘Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss (ἀπολῦσαι) her quietly.’ After the time of Jesus it appears that Jewish men were virtually obliged to divorce unchaste wives and that the adulterous wife is forbidden to her husband (e.g. m. Ned. 11.12; m. Sota 5.1). Bockmuehl’s important argument (concerning Mt. 5:32; 19:9) ought to be mentioned here, namely that there was an established Jewish tradition (based on Deut. 24:4 and Lev. 18:20, Num. 5:13f., 20) where adultery and rape require divorce usually because the wife was made unclean by the third party (with reference to e.g. Prov. 18:22 [lxx]; 1QapGen. 20.15; Philo Abr. 98; Mt. 1:19; Tg. Neof. Deut. 24:4). There are also certain clues in the Markan text. As Instone-Brewer notes, Mk 10:9 and Mt. 10:6 both use the imperative χωριζέτω which carries the implication that it was possible for couples to separate/divorce. If divorce was not possible something like ‘no one can separate’ might be expected. Moreover, Matthew does not qualify this command as he does in 19:3, 9 which further supports this understanding of Mk 10:9. That Mk 10:2–12 assumes the validity of divorce in certain circumstances is strengthened by the significant fact that although Matthew adds exceptions to a supposed prohibition of divorce (Mt. 19:3, 9) he still has to add that such a view of divorce is virtually impossible to observe (‘His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” ‘). The implication of this is that the exceptions were assumed by Mark because the problems Matthew encountered were with his very additions to the Markan text. Furthermore, in Mk 10:5, Jesus explains that the divorce passage in Deut. 24:1ff. was because of hardness of heart (σκληροκαρδίαν) which gives the reason for the biblical ruling and implicitly accepts its validity. Instone-Brewer has made another significant observation, namely that the only place in the Jewish scriptures where hardness of heart (σκληροκαρδίαν [lxx Jer. 4:4]) is discussed in the context of marriage and divorce is Jer. 3–4 where Israel is God’s hard-hearted wife, repeatedly committing adultery with idols and refusing to repent, and that the prophets claimed that God finally had to divorce Israel after attempts to make her repent. This again implies that divorce for (repeated?) adultery, ‘hardness of heart’, is accepted in Mk 10:2–12. All these arguments provide an argument of collective weight for Mk 10:2–12 assuming that divorce was possible in certain circumstances.

It is also important to note that Mk 10:2–12 in no way opposes biblical law, as has been suggested by some scholars. Divorce is still permissible just as it is in Deut. 24:1ff. However, like Jesus, other Jews believed that divorce was a bad thing (e.g. Mal. 2:13–16; m. Git. 9.10; b. Git 90b) so it can hardly be argued that criticising divorce contradicted the Torah. Instead from this perspective divorce is seen to be a ‘necessary evil’. Moreover there is no recorded opposition to Jesus’ teaching as with, say, the Sabbath disputes (Mk 2:23–3:6), which suggests that the teaching on divorce did not arouse strong opposition which might be expected if there was a deliberate opposition to the Torah, particularly as the question was asked by Pharisees, the same people critical of Jesus’ view of the Sabbath. It may also be significant that Mk 10:6–8 actually cites the Torah (Gen. 1:27; 2:24) to emphasise the marital ideal (cf. CD 4.21).

This is not to say that the argument was not controversial, because on one level Mk 10:2–12 would make sense attacking divorce for the sake of remarriage. A divorced woman may well have to remarry, and it appears that in certain cases this was assumed in rabbinical literature, especially in cases concerned with the husband not providing conjugal rights (cf. m. Ketub. 5.6; 7.2). It also looks as if Matthew assumes that a woman will automatically remarry, ‘But I say to you anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of πορνεία, causes her to commit adultery …’ (Mt. 5:32). Men divorcing women simply for the sake of remarriage appears to have been practised by certain Jews. For example, the House of Hillel even said it was possible to divorce if the wife burned the food and R. Aqiba said even if one fairer was found (m. Git. 9.10; cf. Sifre Deut. 269; y. Sota 1.2, 16b). In Sir. 25–26 there is a view of women and divorce that may or may not seem a little strange to some modern readers: it is better to live with a lion and a dragon than an evil woman (25:16); a woman’s wickedness can darken her face like that of a bear (25:17); the evil woman’s husband cannot help but sigh bitterly (25:18); an evil wife makes a man depressed (25:23); a wife jealous of a rival leads to sorrow (26:6); a bad wife is like a chafing yoke and taking hold of her is like grasping a scorpion (26:7); a drunken wife arouses anger (26:8). It comes as no surprise to find that for Ben Sirah, ‘If she does not go as you direct, separate her from yourself (εἰ μὴ πορεύεται κατὰ χεῖράς σου‚ ἀπὸ τῶν σαρκῶν σου ἀπότεμε αὐτήν)’ (25:26). Also worth recalling is the passage particular to Matthew (19:10–11) which seems to imply that it was common for a man to divorce with the intention of remarrying. Here the disciples comment on the divorce and remarriage teaching, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry,’ to which Jesus replies, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.’ This even with the exception for πορνεία! Thus, even though the divorce teaching in Mk 10:2–12 is not as strict as is conventionally thought it would certainly not be taken as being lenient and as such would certainly cause problems if put into practice.

There is nothing stopping this passage in its entirety going back to the historical Jesus which, as with Mk 2:23–28, gives us an earliest possible date, namely when the traditions could first have been translated into Greek, in the early 30s. For example, the strictest teaching on divorce found in Mark was almost bound to cause problems for the early church (cf. Mt. 19:10), which suggests that Mark’s emphasis is early. Moreover, Jesus’ prohibition of divorce was recorded by Paul (1 Cor. 7:10–11) which may be an independent tradition thus adding some weight to the view that Mk 10:2–12 is at least a very early tradition. There have been objections to Mk 10:2–12 as a whole going back to the historical Jesus. It is often believed that a Jew would not have asked a question such as the one found in Mk 10:2 because the Torah said it was possible to divorce (Deut. 24:1ff.). This objection loses credibility once it is realised that a Jewish audience would know that it was possible to divorce in certain circumstances and that Mark too made this assumption.47 This kind of argument gains further weight in the light of research into note-takers and their use of hand-held wax tablets in the ancient world. It is therefore quite reasonable to expect abbreviated records of Jesus’ teaching being transmitted where superfluous information was not included. Also worth comparing is the highly abbreviated nature of much of the rabbinic material collected in, for example, the Mishnah.49 While a suggestion along these lines seems best, particularly as there are numerous assumptions made by Mark according to this study, it has been argued that there is an absolute prohibition of divorce in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which would not only provide an antecedent for Jesus’ teaching but would also account for the question in Mk 10:2. Unfortunately the evidence is (in)famously ambiguous and can be read as an attack on polygamy (CD 4:12–5:14; 11QT 57.17–19). Indeed it looks most likely that polygamy was outlawed in texts such as CD 4:12–5:14 because some evidence suggests that the Dead Sea group assumed that divorce was permissible (cf. 11QT 54.4–5; 66.8–11; CD 13.15–17).

Other aspects of Mk 10:2–12 have also been regarded as secondary. One example is the reference to Jesus’ teaching in the house which has often been regarded as a typical instance of the early church at work. However, this is hardly certain.53 Is it really to be assumed that Jesus did not teach his disciples privately? It is difficult to be certain in this case but even if it is secondary there is nothing stopping it from being very early (or late for that matter). Another widely used argument is that the reference to women divorcing husbands in Mk 10:12 is a later addition because in the Roman world it was possible for a woman to divorce a man whereas in Judaism it was supposedly usually only the man who could divorce a wife. This is generally accurate but there are examples to the contrary. The Jewish colony at Elephantine allowed women to divorce their husbands.55 This could of course be an unusual exception and the documents are too early (fifth century bce) to be entirely useful. There is, however, stronger evidence of women divorcing their husbands closer to the time of Jesus. Jospehus gives the exceptional example of Salome:

Sometime afterwards Salome had occasion to quarrel with Costobarus and soon sent him a document dissolving their marriage (γραμματεῖον‚ ἀπολυομένη τὸν γάμον), which was not in accordance with Jewish law. For it is (only) the man who is permitted by us to do this, and not even a divorced woman may marry again on her own initiative unless her husband consents. Salome, however, did not chose to follow her country’s law but acted on her own authority and repudiated her marriage … (Ant. 15.259–260).

It is not impossible, then, that Jesus could have delivered something like Mk 10:12 alluding to such female behaviour. Some scholars have seen Herodias’ actions being more directly referred to in Mk 10:12. Josephus tells us Herodias separated from Philip and married her brother-in-law Herod Antipas (Ant. 18.109–136; cf. Ant. 20.141–47). However, unlike the case of Salome, Josephus does not say that Herodias sent a bill of divorce to her husband and so the evidence is ambiguous. The recently published Papyrus Se’elim 13 (early second century ce) appears to support the possibility of women divorcing their husbands. The reconstruction and translation of the significant lines 4–7 by Instone-Brewer seems to work the best with least amount of difficulties,58

I, Shelamzion, daughter of Joseph Qebshan, of Ein Gedi, with you, Eleazar son of Hananiah who had been her husband before this time (מן ד[ין] קדמת דנן די הוית בעלה), this is from her to you a bill of divorce and release (גט שבקין ותרכ[ין] הוא לך מנה)

The use of the third person implies a divorce certificate written by a scribe on behalf of the wife. There are also cases in later Jewish law where a woman had the right to petition for a divorce in certain cases, such as when the husband had skin problems, an undesirable profession, and/or issues surrounding the conjugal right (e.g. m. Ned. 11.12; m. Ketub. 5.6; 7.2, 9–10; cf. m. ‘Arak. 5.6). All this evidence raises the possibility that Mk 10:11–12 is a text which originated in the Palestinian ministry of Jesus with the assumption that everyone knew the man generally initiated the divorce but that women could in certain circumstances.

Another possibility is that there is slight interference in the translation of an underlying Aramaic passive participle (e.g. שביקה; cf. active שכקה) with the Greek aorist active participle ἀπολύσασα with a gentile audience in mind. Worth comparing in this respect is the Codex Bezae version of Lk. 16:18c, ἀπολελυμένην γαμῶν μοιχεύει, which may have retained an early, more literal translation of the saying. It is not difficult to see how a ‘mistake’ could be made by Mark because, as is widely noted, women were allowed to divorce in the Roman world. Whether this is a Markan addition or a change made in the translation process in the light of the gentile mission, the earliest possible date for a passage like 10:11–12 is the early 30s. More generally it should be noted that all the arguments given here concerning Mk 10:2–12 as a whole do not mean that the passage necessarily goes back to the historical Jesus but there is no compelling reason to say that it could not. This means that the earliest possible date for Mk 10:2–12 in the form we have it is also the time when the traditions were first translated into Greek. The latest possible date, however, can only be settled after the other New Testament teachings on divorce and remarriage are considered.

1 Corinthians 7:10ff. also contains the apparently absolute prohibition of divorce. There are, however, indications that it had caused some problems and hence the qualification, ‘but if she does separate (χωρισθῇ), let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband’ (1 Cor. 7:11). But does χωρισθῇ indicate separation or divorce here? It can be argued that Paul is reflecting a very early tradition and/or his Jewish upbringing enabled him to distinguish between a Jewish woman normally being unable to initiate divorce compared with the assumption that the Jewish man could initiate divorce hence the use of a different verb when he mentions the man, ‘and that the husband should not divorce (ἀφιέναι) his wife (7:11b)’. The problem with this of course is that Paul is not necessarily dealing with Jewish people and he could hardly have been ignorant of the fact that gentile women could initiate divorce. Indeed χωρίζω can also mean ‘divorce’, as known from Greek literature (e.g. Polybius, Hist. 31.26.6) and Greek marriage contracts.62 In support of this approach Paul in 1 Cor. 7:10–11 implicitly acknowledges the possibility of women remarrying by warning them not to remarry, which suggests that he was dealing with divorce. In the following verses there is another qualification in the divorce ruling in which Paul uses χωρίζω in the sense of divorce, ‘But if the unbelieving partner separates (χωρίζεται), let it be so; in such a case the brother or the sister is not bound’ (7:15). In addition to this it is worth noting that Mark uses χωρίζω and ἀπολύω in the sense of divorce both in the same passage (Mk 10:2, 4, 9, 11–12). This evidence provides an argument of strong collective weight for 1 Cor. 7:10 dealing with a woman divorcing a man in the sense that she would ordinarily be free to remarry. It is difficult to imagine the saying being taken in any different way by Paul’s audience. It should therefore be concluded that Paul has used two different words for divorce, perhaps either for stylistic reasons and/or due to influence of an earlier tradition although still aware of his contemporary audience. Most importantly for our debate is that Paul has two clear qualifications on the divorce ruling: firstly, the woman who divorces should be reconciled or remain unmarried (7:11a, perhaps implied for the man in 7:11b); secondly, divorce in the case of an unbeliever leaving a believer is permitted (7:15).

Importantly, 1 Corinthians can be dated with some certainty to the mid to late fifties, which gives a date for the Pauline qualification of the divorce and remarriage theme and already hints at the possibility of the Markan passage, lacking in the qualifications of 1 Cor. 7, being written prior to 1 Corinthians. It will become clear that dating of 1 Corinthians is also important for dating Matthew’s treatment of the divorce and remarriage theme, which will in turn be of importance for dating the Markan passage and so Matthew must now be discussed.

The Matthean discussions of divorce (Mt. 5:31–32; 19:3–9) contain significant differences. In Mt. 19:3–9 (/Mk 10:2–9) Matthew makes it explicitly clear that Jesus did not challenge biblical Torah in any way and brings it explicitly in line with Deut. 24:1–4, hence the addition in Mt. 19:3 to the question, ‘Is it lawful/permitted (ἔξεστιν) for a man to divorce his wife …?’, of ‘for any reason’ (κατὰ πᾶσαν αἰτίαν) and the explicit permission for divorce in the case of πορνεία (19:9). As argued, Mark assumed that Jesus did not oppose the biblical acceptance of divorce in certain circumstances so these Matthean changes would have to be made in light of the widespread gentile mission. Significant is the fact that Matthew shows distinct problems with Jesus’ ruling on divorce and, as with Paul, a qualification to the attack on divorce. Here it is worth quoting Mt. 19:10–11 once more: ‘His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.” ‘ It is significant that Matthew alone records this tradition, which suggests that it was an addition in the light of the difficult divorce ruling. This really was a genuine problem for the early church, no doubt influenced by the view noted above that a man was almost obliged to divorce his wife if she did not please him (e.g. Sir. 25:26; m. Git. 9.10). It is, however, the addition of the exception πορνεία that is perhaps more fruitful in terms of dating because some πορνεία controversies in early Christianity can be dated with reasonable certainty. The term πορνεία is controversial so some discussion is required.

The unqualified use of πορνεία in Jewish literature in Greek consistently means something like sexual immorality or fornication, summed up conveniently in Tob. 4:12, ‘Beware my son of every kind of πορνεία’. It is thus a general term that can be qualified for use in different and more specific instances. For example, it can be used as a metaphor for Israel’s deviation from God, especially in prophetic literature (e.g. Hos. 4:11–12; Jer. 13:27; and numerous times throughout Ezekiel), which can include idolatry (e.g. Jer. 3:9; Wis. 14:12). It can be used in specific cases of types of sexual immorality, such as the sins of Sodom (e.g. T. Benj. 9.2), lust or sexual desire (e.g. Tob. 8:7), and prostitution (e.g. Gen. 38:24; T. Judah 12.2). It should be emphasised that in all such cases the more precise use of πορνεία is clearly qualified.

The fact that πορνεία required qualification when referring to specific sexual sins or to deviation from God is important for the Matthean exception clauses. They are both unqualified and can only be taken in a general sense, something like ‘sexual immorality’. It is often translated as ‘adultery’. Adultery alone would not be a fully accurate translation because, as is so often noted, the word for adultery is μοιχεία and the verb forms μοιχάω and μοιχεύω are used in a passage which really does discuss adultery, Mt. 5:27–30, a passage which also directly precedes the first Matthean divorce ruling with exception clause (5:31–32). It is also widely noted that μοιχεία and πορνεία are distinguished in lists of sins (e.g. Mk 7:21–22; cf. Gk Bar. 4:17; 8:5; 13:4). This of course does not mean that πορνεία excludes adultery, a point which is particularly clear in light of the above noted semantic area of πορνεία. Another interpretation of πορνεία in the Matthean exception clauses is that it refers to incestuous marriages described in Lev. 18 and implied in Acts 15. This has been rightly criticised for the reason that lxx Leviticus does not use πορνεία to refer to incestuous marriages. However, Fitzmyer has noted that זנות in CD 4:12–5:14 refers to incestuous marriages and that זנות is predominantly translated with πορνεία in lxx which goes some way to countering the criticisms of interpreting πορνεία as incestuous union in Matthew. There is, however, a more decisive criticism, namely that πορνεία is unqualified in the Matthean exception clauses which in the light of the unqualified general meaning of πορνεία could hardly be a reference to incestuous marriages alone. It would have to be qualified, just as, significantly, זנות is in CD 4:12–5:14 where the marrying of aunties and uncles is included in the term.

On the other hand πορνεία does not exclude incestuous marriages. This is supported by evidence from first-century Christianity that clearly opposes incestuous union (1 Cor. 5:1–2). In addition it looks as if Acts 15:19f., with its prohibition of πορνεία for gentile converts, is loosely based on Lev. 18–19 which prohibits, among other things, incestuous marriages for Israel and the resident alien. In this case it does not matter that lxx Lev. 18–19 does not use πορνεία because other sexual sins are covered, such as homosexuality and bestiality (Lev. 18:19–23) and so the unqualified use of πορνεία in Acts 15:19f. is an extremely convenient word to cover a variety of sexual sins. Although it is likely that Acts 15:19f. is loosely based on Lev. 18–19 various acts such as adultery should also be included in the term πορνεία: it would be extremely difficult to argue that James would have excluded such acts. In addition to incestuous marriages and other sexual sins there is further complementary evidence that could have necessitated the Matthean exception clauses, again to be found in 1 Corinthians. People who committed πορνεία in 1 Cor. 5 were not to be present at the meal table and should be excommunicated, something which is particularly strict for Paul (cf. Gal. 2) and thus highlighting the severity of the issue. Here πορνεία includes having relations with a father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1–2) and in 1 Cor. 6:13–18 it includes having relations with a prostitute. It is a logical progression from this to ask what would become of the partners of such sinners and so it is unsurprising that there is the inclusion of the Matthean exception clauses. It is unlikely that Matthew would have disagreed with Paul’s ruling on those who committed πορνεία and so divorce would have to be an option and one that would have to be made explicit. This is not to say that Matthew is directly reacting to the Corinthian issue but something along these lines may well have partially necessitated the Matthean exception clauses.

At this stage it is worth recalling Bockmuehl’s argument, noted above, that adultery and rape would automatically mean that a woman would have to be divorced (e.g. Prov. 18:22 [lxx]; 1QapGen. 20.15; Philo Abr. 98; Mt. 1:19; Tg. Neof. Deut. 24:4). Bockmuehl’s evidence combined with the evidence discussed in the previous paragraph provides a general Sitz im Leben for Matthean exception clauses, namely that Matthew added these exception clauses in the light of Christian πορνεία controversies and the assumption that women must be divorced in certain circumstances. Certain Christian πορνεία controversies can also be dated with a reasonable amount of certainty because, as noted, 1 Corinthians was written around the mid to late fifties. The implication of this is that there is now evidence from both Matthew and Paul which show that the strict ruling on divorce was causing problems by the mid-fifties. This again suggests that, as Mark gives no indication of difficulties with the prohibition, the gospel could have been written before the mid-fifties otherwise Mark might have been expected to have made some comment.

One objection could be placed against this, namely that it is commonly argued that Luke accepts an absolute prohibition of divorce and that this conflicts with biblical law,

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery (καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδπὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει) (Lk. 16:18).

However, Luke too shows signs of editing the divorce and remarriage theme. It is first made explicitly clear that Jesus did not oppose the Torah, ‘But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter of the law to be dropped’ (16:17), which, like Matthew, suggests a date in the light of the disputes over the validity of the biblical Torah for Luke but more significantly raises the possibility that Mark was written before disputes over the validity of the Torah, i.e. sometime before the mid-forties. This may be supported by the omission of Mk 10:2–9 which could have invited the unwanted conclusion that Jesus was critical of biblical law. Secondly, and contrary to many commentators, Luke does not actually stress the apparent prohibition of divorce in Mk 10:2–9. Luke, like Mk 10:11–12 and Mt. 5:32, attacks divorce and remarriage together thereby toning down the Markan emphasis. Moreover, as Nolland correctly stresses, it is remarriage and not divorce that should be regarded as the adulterous action. This coheres well with the thrust of Jesus’ sayings recorded in Mark, Matthew, and Paul. Yet whereas Matthew and Paul deal with the problem of a strict ruling on divorce directly, Luke is more indirect by omitting the saying on divorce alone and only including the saying on divorce and remarriage which does not rule out the possibility of divorce so long as the person does not remarry. While it may seem strange to us that divorce may be permitted but remarrying is not because it is adulterous, it would make some sense in first-century Christianity. After all, Paul wrote that a woman should not divorce/leave her husband but if she did she should not remarry (1 Cor. 7:10) which may suggest that, while Lk. 16:18 reflects an early tradition, in its present context here is a gospel writer with some knowledge of the argument of 1 Cor. 7. However, what should be emphasised is the most significant outcome of this discussion of Lk. 16:18: all the occurrences in the New Testament of the divorce ruling were qualified in some way with the sole exception of Mark, adding some weight to the argument that Mark was written before the mid-fifties.

3. Conclusions

In Mk 2:23–28 there is an assumption that Jesus did not reject the Sabbath because plucking grain does not override any biblical law. It does however contrast with a stricter interpretation of the Sabbath. Matthew 12:1–8 and Lk. 6:1–5 both have this tradition in their gospels and both have significant additions, in particular the emphasis that the disciples ate the grain immediately, which makes it clear, from their perspectives, that Jesus was not engaging in any kind of work, in the biblical sense, on the Sabbath such as carrying grain home to prepare food. Such additions would have to be mentioned in the light of Sabbath controversies in the early church (e.g. Rom. 14:1–6; Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16; Jn 5:1–18) to make it clear that Jesus did not advocate working on the Sabbath. The most secure and important dating is that of Romans (mid to late fifties) and Galatians (mid-forties to mid-fifties). This implies that Mark was written at the latest by the mid fifties, at a time when Mark could assume what Matthew and Luke could not. Alone this evidence is not conclusive and so it is significant that there is another tradition which suggests a similar date, namely that of divorce (Mk 10:2–12/Mt. 19:3–10; Mt. 5:31–33/Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10–16). This is a little different because divorce was not something that explicitly caused problems for entry into Christianity in the same way as say something like Sabbath observance or circumcision. Jesus’ hyperbolic prohibition of divorce did however cause big problems in every case of this well-attested tradition with the notable exception of Mark. Paul’s qualifications in 1 Corinthians imply that Mark was written before the epistle, i.e. before the mid-fifties. This is further enhanced by the problems the early church had with πορνεία (something like ‘sexual immorality’), some of which can be dated during the fifties, with the implication being that the Matthean exception clauses were written in the light of such controversies and that Mark was written before them. The relevance of the divorce argument to the Sabbath argument for dating Mark can now be seen fully: it is complementary and provides an argument of collective weight. Mark’s gospel must surely have been written at a time when certain assumptions concerning Sabbath and divorce laws could be made, namely sometime before the fifties. It is also possible that the qualifications made in Matthew and Luke point to a date for Mark before the mid-forties, i.e. before the first controversies over the validity of the Torah in Christianity. This suggestion would be stronger with further evidence and so it is to Mk 7:1–23 we will now finally turn.

Chapter 7

Dating Mark Legally (II): Mark 7:1–23

An argument of collective weight is of course always helpful. The previous chapter provided two separate arguments for an early date for Mark and this chapter will provide a third and more precise date. This chapter will follow the same procedure, i.e. a given passage on an aspect of the Torah in Mark which assumes what other writers could not, so the Markan passage must have been composed before such disputes arose in early Christianity. In this chapter, however, we turn to a passage which at first sight would appear to contradict the arguments given in this study as the passage is one that is usually viewed as strongly challenging the validity of biblical food laws, namely Mk 7:1–23, especially 7:19, with Mt. 15:1–20 changing this to an attack on handwashing. To anticipate the conclusion, it will be argued that this is wrong and an alternative reading makes much better sense of the passage: Mark, like Matthew, attacks handwashing and accurately portrays Jewish legal practices but Mark was writing when the food laws were largely observed by Christians thereby making certain assumptions which Matthew could not. This can only be shown through detailed discussion of the legal issues in Mk 7:1–23. Only then will it be possible to proceed to more general questions of dating.

1. Handwashing

The first legal issue to be discussed, and one to which we will return, is handwashing before ordinary (i.e. non-priestly, non-Temple) food, mentioned in Mk 7:2–3, 5. Some aspects of the Markan description remain unclear, particularly the mysterious πυγμῇ, ‘with the fist’ (cf. lxx Exod. 21:18; lxx Isa. 58:4). It is still not entirely clear how the Markan πυγμῇ is to be taken (cf. m. Yad. 1.1f; 2.3; b. Hul. 106a–b; b. Sota 4b), although it may simply be that it is intended to distinguish the washing of the hands from immersion in a miqweh (cf. Lev. 12:4; m. Hag. 2:5). Most importantly for our study is, however, the fact that the practice of handwashing before ordinary meals be at least some Jews is discussed in the rabbinical literature (e.g. m. Hag. 2:5; Hul. 2:5; Yad. 3.2; t. Ber. 4.8; 5.6; t. Dem. 2:11–12; b. Ber. 52b; Hul. 105a; 106a; ‘Erub. 21b; Shabb. 62b; Sota 4b; cf. m. Yad. 1–2). While it is disputed whether this practice goes back to the time of Jesus, there is good evidence that it does. Handwashing is attributed to Aqiba around the time of the Bar Kochba revolt where it is mentioned that he had been observing it since his youth (b. ‘Erub. 21b; cf. Num Rab. 20.21) and it is attributed to the first-century Houses (e.g. m. Ber. 8.2; t. Ber. 5.26; b. Ber. 52b; cf. t. Dem. 2.11–12) where details are disputed thus assuming general practice at that time.

The most important evidence for handwashing being practised around the time of Jesus should be that from Mark. Sanders, however, believes Mark was mistaken. He argues that Mk 7:1–5 may be reflecting a practice of handwashing before prayer in the Diaspora. This is unlikely not least because Mark explicitly discusses washing before food, a practice clearly found in later rabbinical literature. The gospel evidence should therefore be regarded as decisive for a first-century date for handwashing before ordinary meals. It would be a remarkable coincidence if Mark had invented or misunderstood a Jewish custom only for it to appear in later Jewish literature. Another strong argument for handwashing before ordinary food in the first century is the existence of the parallel in Matthew 15, which if anything has a greater emphasis on this practice by adding a further attack to his Markan source (Mt. 15:20). It is highly unlikely that Matthew would alter Mk 7:19 to explicitly attack handwashing before eating ordinary food if such a practice did not exist. Matthew has a good knowledge of Jewish law so it is entirely consistent that Matthew would know if certain Jews washed hands before ordinary food. Another New Testament reference to handwashing before ordinary food is Jn 2:6 where the ‘six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification’ were surely used for handwashing. This is now an argument of powerful collective weight for handwashing before ordinary food being an established practice around the time of Jesus.

The polemical nature of some of the rabbinical discussions of handwashing (cf. m. ‘Ed. 5.6–7; b. ‘Erub. 21b; Hul. 106a; Shabb. 62b; Sota 4b) suggests that Mark is exaggerating when he says that ‘all the Jews’ (πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι) handwashed before eating. There is a similar generalisation made in the second-century bce Aristeas 305f., ‘At the first hour of the day they attended the court daily, and after offering salutations to the king, retired to their own quarters. And following the custom of all the Jews (πᾶσι τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις), they washed their hands in the sea in the course of their prayers to God …’ The significance of this exaggeration is that Aristeas emphasises an important practice for certain Jews. Mark likewise generalises but this does not mean that the reports are wholly invented: the exaggerations serve a purpose. In 1:5 πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμῖται πάντες were going out to the River Jordan to see John and be baptised by him. This is obviously an exaggeration but it does emphasise that John was popular, a view confirmed by Josephus (Ant. 18.116–119). In Mk 1:32 all who were sick or possessed were brought to Jesus. Thus in 1:33 ὅλη ἡ πόλις gathered towards the door of Peter’s house. This gives us the information that Jesus had a reputation as a healer, which is highly significant for a traditional healer, as Mark appears to know (Mk 6:5–6), thereby providing necessary background information for Mk 2:1–12 as many gathered when Jesus returned to Capernaum. Moreover the remarkable act of lowering a man through a roof requires a packed house. Mark 1:33 is not, however, to be taken literally. In Mk 11:11 Jesus looked around at everything (πάντα) before retiring. This gives us enough information to know that Jesus thoroughly looked around the Temple yet it can also be assumed that he did not look around, say, the Holy of Holies. In general Mark is a highly abbreviated gospel and the use of exaggeration in Mk 7:3 should be read in this light: Mk 7:3–4 gives an explanation to readers lacking knowledge of Jewish halakah, clearly emphasising the importance of handwashing and related customs. This is an important point to remember in relation to Mk 7:15–21 because Mark must have had good reason to emphasise handwashing. This strongly underlines the halakic debate among certain Jews.

2. Mark 7:4 and Other Traditions

The next mentioned ‘tradition’ is in Mk 7:4, καὶ ἀπʼ ἀγορᾶς ἐὰν μὴ βαπτίσωνται οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν. The meaning of ἀπʼ ἀγορᾶς has caused problems because of an ellipsis. A close reading should eliminate any major difficulties. The common argument for a personal subject (‘When they come from the market they do not eat unless they immerse themselves’) follows the normal use of a plural middle such as βαπτίσωνται. This is a sound grammatical reading because the alternative (‘anything from the market is not eaten unless it has been immersed’) requires transitive use of the middle of βαπτίζω, for which there is no known antecedent. Moreover, there is no known practice of immersing ‘anything’ from the market. In contrast there is evidence suggesting that certain Jews would have immersed themselves on return from the market. There is a perhaps independent synoptic reference to a Pharisee being astonished that Jesus does not immerse himself (ἐβαπτίσθη) before eating in Lk. 11:38. Here Jesus had been talking with the crowds (11:29) and it was while he was speaking that the Pharisee had invited him (11:37). It is entirely possible that members of the crowds could have been impure from, say, sex or could have included a menstruating woman or people who had come into contact with one (cf. m. Hag. 2:7; Zabim 5.1; Tohar. 8:1–2; t. Tohar. 8:13). To become pure again from such impurity bathing is then required (Lev. 15). Bathing due to impurity appears to have been a widespread practice in first-century Judaism, hence the fact that numerous miqwa’oth, or ‘immersion pools’, have been discovered and the very existence of the rabbinical tractate Miqwa’oth, dedicated to this subject. As just noted, already in biblical law bathing is required for certain kinds of impurity (Lev. 15; cf. Lev. 11:36) and it looks very likely that issues surrounding purity and bathing were further developed by the first century. It is significant that immersion laws appear to be applied in contexts suggesting a development of the purity laws of Leviticus and Numbers, hence immersion pools are found, for example, at tombs and synagogues, with similar practices being discussed in Jewish literature (e.g. Spec. Leg. 3.206; Jdt. 12:6–10; Tob. 2:9): such practices are not mentioned in Leviticus and Numbers. Thus there is nothing improbable about certain non-Essene Jews immersing themselves after returning from the market before 70 ce, in fact it seems highly likely. It can also be inferred that Mark assumed his audience would know something about this practice, not only because this is how a Greek-speaking audience would conventionally understand 7:4a but also because of the existence of miqwa’oth and the fact that related practices are suggested, to a certain degree, in the Torah (Lev. 11:36; Lev. 15).

Mark tells us of many other traditions observed in Mk 7:4, ‘the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles [and beds] (βαπτισμοὺς ποτηρίων καὶ ξεστῶν καὶ χαλκίων [καὶ κλινῶν])’. There seems to be a good biblical precedent for such laws in Leviticus 11:32–33. Leviticus 11:32 also states that if a dead swarming thing fell upon ‘any article that is used for any purpose’ except earthenware, it must be ‘dipped into water’ (במים יובא). There are more general statements in rabbinic literature concerning the immersion of vessels, which would no doubt cover those of Mk 7:4,

R. Meir says: Vessels may be immersed in the water but not in the mud. R. Joshua says: Either in the water or in the mud … (m. Miqw. 3.10).

Mark 7:4 mentions a metal vessel (χαλκίον) which is significant given that texts from the Mishnah such as Kelim 11:1 indicate that metal objects are susceptible to impurity: ‘Utensils of metal are susceptible to uncleanness whether they are flat or whether they form a receptacle …’ (see also m. Kelim 5.11; 14.1; Hul. 1.6). The Markan reference to ποτηρίων καὶ ξεστῶν may well have been to wooden utensils, given that earthenware had to be smashed if impure (Lev. 11:33) and stone was not susceptible to impurity (m. Kelim 10.1ff.; cf. m. Para 3.2; Kelim 5.11; 6.2–4; 22.10). The impurity and immersion of wooden utensils is clearly attested. Leviticus 15:12 states that ‘every vessel of wood’ (כל־כלי־עץ) must be ‘rinsed in water’ (ישטף במים) if it has been touched by one with a discharge and Leviticus 11:32 also states that if a dead swarming thing falls on an ‘article of wood’ (כל־כלי־עץ) it must be ‘dipped in water’ (במים יובא). This is expanded more generally in the numerous passages dealing with the uncleanness of wood in the Mishnah (Hul. 1.6; Kelim 2.1; 13.6; 15.1; 16.1ff; 17.1; 20.2; 22.1ff; 27.1). One is particularly relevant: ‘Utensils of wood, leather, bone, or glass that are flat are not susceptible to uncleanness. If they form a receptacle they are susceptible’ (m. Kelim 15.1). There should be no doubt, then, that Mark is conveying accurate information.

Mark’s reference to the immersion of χαλκίον‚ ποτήριον and ξέστης is not just a repetition of the biblical law from his perspective. For Mark this is a development of the Torah because the χαλκίον, ποτήριον and ξέστης are described as some of the many other things that are practised according to the tradition of the elders (7:3–4). The vessels described by Mark have not necessarily been contaminated by a dead swarming thing or a person with a discharge, as described in Leviticus (Lev. 15:12; 11:32). As we will see, laws concerning dead swarming things were extended generally, beyond biblical law. Once more, Mark is reporting customs that are reflected in later rabbinic material, so it would be implausibly coincidental if Mark had invented or misunderstood these customs in 7:4.

The textually problematic καὶ κλινῶν (7:4) is also an accurate reflection of a Jewish halakic practice. As I have argued elsewhere, and will briefly summarise here, this is an interpretation of the purity laws of Leviticus and 11:32 and 15:12. It is not a direct reference back to the ‘beds’ of Leviticus 15. Leviticus 15 uses משכב which is translated by the normal Greek equivalent κοίτη. Mark, on the other hand, uses κλίνη which is the usual Greek equivalent of מטה. Significantly, the Mishnah discusses the immersion of a מטה (m. Miqw. 1.1 and m. Kel. 19.1). Moreover, the Syriac versions of Mk 7:4 which include this reading use ܥܪܣ/ערס which is the usual Syriac equivalent of מטה and κλίνη. It therefore looks as if the inclusion of καὶ κλινῶν in Mk 7:4 is another accurate representation of a Jewish tradition, but is it the original reading? There are clearly problems with understanding Jewish practices at some stage of the textual transmission. Other Jewish practices such as πυγμῇ in 7:3 (variant πυκνα) and βαπτίσωνται in Mk 7:4 (variant ῥαντισωνται) would have been alien to many gentile readers. If a common view that Mark is lacking in any serious knowledge of Jewish practice is followed it may well be the case that the original readings are those which are mistaken. Alternatively, it is argued here that Mark had an intricate knowledge of Jewish legal thought. This would suggest that the original reading is one which provides accurate knowledge of Jewish practices which were to confuse later gentile scribes at a time when issues surrounding the law were no longer relevant. All this implies that καὶ κλινῶν is the original reading (along with πυγμῇ and βαπτίσωνται). It should also not be forgotten that καὶ κλινῶν is supported by some important manuscripts (A, D, W, Θ, Φ etc.). Interestingly καὶ κλινῶν is omitted in important texts that include ῥαντισωνται (א, B) which, it was argued, is culturally dubious. As Marcus notes, we have a choice between the Pharisees immersing themselves (βαπτίσωνται) and their cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches or the Pharisees sprinkling themselves (ῥαντισωνται) and immersing their cups, pitchers, and copper vessels. The inclusion of καὶ κλινῶν, then, fits neatly with the Pharisees immersing themselves, two practices known from ancient times. In contrast it appears that א and B show a lack of understanding of Jewish practice and were copied at a time when the practices of the Torah were no longer in general use for Christians.

Thus the inclusion of καὶ κλινῶν further emphasises that Mk 7:1–23 concerns the washing/immersing laws and ‘the tradition of the elders’. It should be clear by now that Mark distances the Christian movement away from legal developments that go beyond what Scripture commands. As the Markan passage implies, hand-washing and the immersion of vessels for reasons other than those explicitly described in Leviticus are ‘tradition’. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to say because other Jews would no doubt agree (cf. b. Berakot 52b). From a Markan perspective this is also the case, supported by a key theme in Mk 7:1–23, namely the contrast between tradition and the commandments of God. This is particularly clear in Mk 7:6–8. What is found in our passage is a biblical quote (Isa. 29:13) that bears close resemblance to the lxx, rather than a Hebrew or Aramaic version, suggesting some signs of post-Jesus editing and it is clear that the lxx is more easily adapted to a general attack on tradition. Thus there is some evidence of a Christian redactor purposely using a biblical passage to attack tradition, an important point to note because the theme of attacking tradition in general is continued by someone other than Jesus.

3. Qorban

In Mk 7:6ff. we start getting an attack on ‘tradition’ in general in addition to table purity. Mark 7:9–13 gives a specific example of what is called ‘your tradition’ (7:9, 13), namely the qorban tradition. Here we get a claim that the Pharisees and scribes would not go back on a dedicated property which the Markan Jesus believes runs contrary to the commandment to honour parents. It is difficult to know precisely how קרבן would have been understood in first-century Judaism. It could be seen literally as a gift which was dedicated in some way to the Temple. Alternatively it could be dedicated in a less literal sense, as if it were dedicated to God or the Temple, possibly as some form of oath. It is difficult to decide between these options but whichever one is chosen the issue of whether parents could be denied benefit by children by some form of oath or vow still has to be tackled. In this sense Mk 7:9–13, it is often argued, is misleading, mainly because it appears that the rabbis would have agreed with the Markan Jesus,

If a man saw people eating [his] figs and said to them, ‘Let the figs be qorban to you’, and discovered them to be his father or brothers, while others were with them too—Beth Shammai maintain: his father and brothers are permitted, but the rest are forbidden. Beth Hillel rule: all are permitted (m. Ned. 3.2; cf. 9.1).

There is, however, some evidence that oaths and vows could be problematical or strictly binding (e.g. Deut. 23:21–23; Num. 30:2; Jgs. 11:29–40; Mk 6:17–28). It might be added that if Matthew records this tradition (Mt. 15:3–6) then, given his knowledge of Jewish law, it could well be accurate. A significant piece of evidence is found in the Mishnah and is occasionally cited in discussions of Mk 7:9–13:

It once happened that a man at Beth Horon, whose father was forbidden by vow to have any benefit from him, was giving his son in marriage, and he said to his fellow, ‘The courtyard and the banquet are given to you as a gift, but they are yours only that my father may come and eat with us at the banquet.’ His fellow said,’ If they are mine, they are dedicated to Heaven.’ The other answered, ‘I did not give you what is mine that you should dedicate it to Heaven.’ His fellow said, ‘Did you give me what is yours only that you and your father may eat and drink and be reconciled with one another, and that the sin should rest on his head!’ When the case came before the Sages, they said: Any gift which, if a man would dedicate it, is not accounted dedicated, is not a [valid] gift (m. Ned. 5.6).

This passage appears to show that certain Jews were not prepared to overturn a vow even if it involved parents. It could be argued again that if Mark attests a similar tradition to one found in rabbinical literature it would be an unlikely coincidence. However things are not so clear cut. With handwashing there is enough rabbinical material to argue that if Mk 7:1ff. was invented or mistaken it would be an unlikely coincidence. M. Nedarim 5.6, on the other hand, points to an issue possibly similar to Mk 7:9–13 which is not so well attested. Possibly should be stressed because it is not entirely clear that Nedarim 5.6 does specifically state that vows concerning parents, in certain circumstances, could not be released. The saying of the Sages is concerned with the status of a conditional gift, indeed the passage does not discuss the specific issue of being released from the vow concerning his father. That said there is still a case of a man at Beth Horon whose father was forbidden by vow to have any benefit from him and the Sages’ saying in its present context could be seen to cover the possibility of the man not giving benefit to his father. Likewise the father and son were initially involved in a vow whereby the father could not have any benefits from the son. It only requires an isolated example like the sort found in Nedarim 5.6 to be built up into a polemical argument and this is perhaps the best way to assess the Markan passage, particularly in the light of other exaggerated polemic found in the synoptic tradition. For example, the scribes and Pharisees almost certainly tithed mint, dill and cumin but they would almost certainly have not believed they overlooked justice and mercy. In a similar way there can be no doubt that the scribes and Pharisees took the commandment to honour parents very seriously. Jesus accuses the Pharisees of neglecting the commandment to honour parents but the Pharisees of course would argue differently. Yet polemic by its very nature is often exaggerated and so it is perilous to read passages such as Mk 7:9–13 too literally.

Sanders takes a different approach to Mk 7:9–13 through his interpretation of a passage in Philo where if someone made a vow in the name of God, even if it were a ‘chance verbal promise’, it is binding (Hypothetica 7.3) and,

The same holds for any other persons over whom he has authority. If a man has devoted his wife’s sustenance to a sacred purpose he must refrain from giving her that sustenance; so with a father’s gifts to his son or a ruler’s to his subjects (Hyp. 7.5).

The best way of releasing dedicated property is by the priest refusing it, ‘for he is empowered by God to accept it or not’. Another means of release is that given by someone who at the time has higher authority (to whom this refers is not entirely clear). Sanders suggests that Jesus’ criticism in Mk 7:9–13 ‘could be much more specifically applied to Philo’s interpretation of vows and their release than to the Pharisees’. According to Sanders, Mk 7:9–13, the property expected by parent from son, is simply the reverse of Hypothetica 7.3–5 which allows a man to forbid his wife from using property by means of dedication and is extended to include a man’s gift to his son. Sanders appears to suggest that Mk 7:9–13 would have a Diaspora setting and thus he refers to his earlier argument that the handwashing dispute reflects handwashing before prayer in the Diaspora.

Against this approach, it has already been argued that there are problems in Sanders’ argument that Mk 7:1–4 reflects handwashing before prayer so it cannot be used as evidence to back up his claims for Mk 7:9–13, as Sanders appears to do. Moreover if it does reflect a Diaspora setting (that of a Greek-speaking Egyptian Jew!) it is difficult to account for the translation of the Semitic קרבן. It is also worth noting that Sanders does not discuss m. Nedarim 5.6, which raises the possibility of similar issues in Palestine. Hypothetica 7.3–5 itself does not fully back up Sanders’ suggestion. The beginning of Hypothetica 7.5 explicitly tells us that this passage concerns people over whom the man has authority. This is not the same as Mk 7:9–13 because the man does not have authority over his parents. That said it remains a useful passage for our purposes because this type of vow appears to be classed as a tradition, hence the beginning of Hypothetica 7.6, ‘Besides these there is a host of other things which belong to unwritten custom and institutions or are contained in the laws themselves (μυρία δὲ ἄλλα ἐπὶ τούτοις‚ ὅσα καὶ ἐπὶ ἀγράφων ἐθῶν καὶ νομίμων κἀν τοῖς νόμοις αὐτοῖς)’. This suggests that someone approximately contemporary with Jesus may well have referred to vows roughly similar to Mk 7:9–13 as tradition. This alone does not, of course, suggest a date for Mark or Mk 7:1–23 but the fact that Mk 7:9–13 would have been perceived to by a part of ‘tradition’ and was stated as one by Mark further emphasises that Mk 7:1–23 is dealing with tradition and further contrasting this polemically with biblical law.

4. Mark 7:1–23 and ‘Tradition’

The amount of material Mark gives on ‘tradition’ is very important for our understanding of Mk 7:1–23 as a whole. In this light two other key pieces of information given in our passage ought to be read. (1) Mk 7:15 rejects defilement from outside; (2) all foods are declared clean in Mk 7:19. This has led to much confusion among scholars because it is believed that the Markan Jesus contradicts himself: ‘The most flagrant inconsistency in Mk 7:1–23 is that the protagonist, i.e. the Markan Jesus, accuses others of not keeping God’s commandments without himself striving to follow them.’ How can Jesus attack the Pharisees for observing their tradition and allegedly nullify the word of God while Jesus himself attacks biblical food and purity laws! Gundry attempts to deal with this problem by accepting that Jesus’ attacks on the Pharisees nullifying God’s word (7:8) contradicts Jesus’ nullifying the food laws but that ‘it is the prerogative of Jesus as God’s Son to change the Law’, a view which is hardly indicated in the text. There is a better alternative reading that shows the text to be much more consistent than is so often argued. If Mark wanted to reject the biblical food laws, as is generally assumed, he would have to be a lot more explicit than the editorial comment in 7:19 and he would not have given us the detailed and accurate halakic information in 7:1–4. There is no mention of pork, shellfish and the like but in contrast there is plenty of halakic information in Mk 7:1–13 such as handwashing before foods, immersing kettles, pitchers, and dining beds. Likewise the qorban tradition is attacked along with ‘many things like this’ and illustrated by the edited quote from Isa. 29:13. The ‘tradition of the elders’ (τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων) and the ‘human tradition’ (τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων) are referred to six times (tradition of the elders 2 times; tradition 4 times). Mark has thus firmly established the context in which Jesus is debating, yet scholars continue to assert that the editorial comment of Mk 7:19 concerns the biblical food laws at a time when they were rejected by Christianity. If Mark had not included the first fourteen verses of ch. 7, there would be some justification for this view; however, he did, so they cannot be ignored. In addition to this, recall Chapters 4, and 6 of this study where it was argued that Mark always portrays Jesus observing biblical law and so the same can be expected of Mk 7:1–23. This is, therefore, an argument based on the immediate Markan literary context, and the gospel tendency as a whole for Mark’s editorial comment in 7:19 declaring all foods that are permitted to eat in the Torah to be clean thereby denying the role of handwashing.

Other Jews are recorded as making general statements that taken out of context would make little sense. Casey has shown that there are rabbinical passages concerning the Sabbath that would be utterly subversive if they were read out of context (e.g. m. Pesah. 10.1; b. Pesah. 112a; b. Shabb. 118a). He also gives examples that ‘all’ (כל) does not have to be taken quite so literally in certain rabbinical passages (m. Shabb. 6.6; b. Shabb. 147a). This is a common use of כל in Hebrew and Aramaic, and it is similar to the Greek πᾶς, which was discussed above, the word used in Mk 7:19. This is an important point to note in relation to Mk 7:19 which is commonly read as Jesus declaring literally all foods clean. In addition to this there are statements in Jewish literature which if read out of context would be shocking but when Jewish assumptions are made and they are read in their narrative context they are good Jewish beliefs. A parallel occasionally cited in relation to Mk 7:15 is particularly relevant for Mk 7:19: Aristeas 234 is an example where Jews honour God ‘not with gifts or sacrifices, but with purity of heart and of devout disposition’. This is not a rejection of the sacrificial system because Aristeas makes certain assumptions and it is explained elsewhere that sacrifices remain important: ‘… in the case of the victims offered, calves, rams, and goats, he stated that it was our duty to take them from herds or flocks … Thus the man who offers the sacrifice makes an offering of every facet of his being/soul’ (170–171). The next example is particularly apt:

The stomach will take any food, yet one food is better than another (πᾶν βρῶμα φάγεται κοιλία ἔστις δὲ βρῶμα βρώματος κάλλιον).

This is from Sir. 36:20 (18) and it comes after a lengthy passage that expresses a hope for Israel and its institutions and it is immediately followed by a related saying that parallels the palate tasting types of game with an intelligent mind detecting false words. It is impossible to read Sir. 36:20 (18) in the sense of all foods literally including things like pork and so on. Such examples do not of course show conclusively that the Markan καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα must refer to permitted food but it does show that the context in which such statements occur must be investigated. In this light it can be seen why these examples are important because it shows that statements such as Mk 7:15, 19 do not have to be taken literally when read in their correct context. Mark 7:15 does not reject defilement as described in the biblical Torah, but rather external defilement through handwashing. Mark 7:19 does not accept that prohibited foods can now be eaten, but rather those foods eaten with unwashed hands can be eaten. From the above analysis of Mk 7:1–13 it can only be concluded that Mk 7:15, 19 should be read as a further attack on ‘tradition’, in particular the handwashing tradition. On this logic it must be, as Booth recognised, that impurity passes from unwashed hands to the mouth via the food.25 This is a complex issue which involves an understanding of the transmission of impurity in early Judaism, to which we will now turn.

5. The Transmission of Impurity

In rabbinical literature ordinary food is susceptible to second degree impurity, i.e. at a second remove from the scriptural source. For example, in the versions of the ‘eighteen decrees’ recorded in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds it is stated that the eater of food of the first or second degree renders priestly food (terumah) invalid (b. Shabb. 13b, 14b; y. Shabb. 1:4). According to m. Tebul Yom 4.1, 3 ‘third grade uncleanness counts as clean in ordinary food (hullin).’ It appears though that some dissenting voices believed ordinary food was susceptible to a third degree. In m. Sotah 5.2 R. Aqiba, on the basis of Lev. 11:33, claimed that ordinary food could become unclean in the third degree, and it also appears that there is another assumption that ordinary food could be unclean in the third degree:

R. Joshua said: Who will remove the dust from your eyes, R. Johanan be Zakkai, since you say that another generation is destined to pronounce clean a loaf which is unclean in the third degree on the ground that there is no text in the Torah according to which it is unclean!

However, as Booth notes, it does not seem to have been widely accepted that ordinary food could become unclean in the third degree as this is the only piece of evidence we have and it was clearly widely accepted that food was susceptible to second degree impurity. It does warn us though that halakic tradition was not fixed or necessarily ‘normative’ and was always liable to be challenged on certain issues.

However, here there is a problem: if the conventional rabbinical view is taken that food could only by defiled by a father of impurity (a scriptural source of impurity) or something of first degree impurity then hands could not defile ordinary food because they are conventionally defiled in the second degree. Thus the Sages, against R. Joshua,

That which has been rendered unclean by a father of uncleanness conveys uncleanness to the hands, but that which has been rendered unclean by an offspring of uncleanness does not convey uncleanness to the hands (m. Yad. 3.1).

According to this passage the father of impurity renders something impure in the first degree which in turn renders hands impure in the second degree, but that rendered impure by an offspring of impurity is impure in the second degree which in turn cannot render hands impure. By the same reasoning, then, hands assumed second degree unclean cannot render anything else unclean in the second degree and food of course could only be defiled by a father of impurity or something of first degree impurity (cf. m. Sota 5.2; T. Yom 4.1, 3), not by unwashed hands. By this logic, defilement passed from hands to food to eater in Mk 7:1–23 would not make sense. It has therefore been suggested that the rabbinical differentiation of the impurity system relating to hands and food was not developed in Jesus’ time.

But this is not necessarily the case because the role of liquids changes things significantly. Liquid plays an important role in making food impure in Lev. 11:32–34 and in the following verses we learn that seed is only susceptible to dead swarming thing impurity if water is ‘put on’ (יתן־מים על־זרע). The idea of water being ‘put on’ which in turn conveys impurity is very important in rabbinical literature, which devotes a whole tractate to the subject, Makshirin. Sanders notes that the rabbinical literature assumes that because the texts involving liquids clearly refer back to Lev. 11:29–38 so the impurity concerns the ‘dead swarming thing’, This is of course true but it is also clear that the rabbinical literature extended this beyond the biblical law of ‘dead swarming things’ coming into contact with water in a vessel. Thus m. Parah 8.7 (cf. m. Tohar. 2.6):

Whatsoever renders Heave offering invalid conveys uncleanness to liquids so that they suffer first grade uncleanness, whereby they can convey uncleanness at one remove and render [Heave offering] invalid at a second remove (excepting him that has immersed himself the selfsame day [because of uncleanness]). Thus they may say, ‘What renders thee unclean does not render me unclean, but thou hast rendered me unclean.’

M. Zabim 5.12 gives a list of things that renders heave offering invalid and this includes hands, which means that hands in the second degree could defile ordinary food in the second degree via a liquid which gains first degree impurity according to the logic of m. Parah 8.7. This sort of reasoning is behind m. Hullin 2.5,

If a man slaughtered cattle or a wild beast or a bird and no blood came forth, the slaughtering is valid and it may be eaten be him whose hands have not been washed, for it has not been rendered susceptible to uncleanness by blood. R. Simeon says, It has been rendered susceptible to uncleanness by the slaughtering.

As Alon noted, this concerns ordinary food because it involves the slaughtering of a wild animal. This can be eaten because no blood was issued which would render the food unclean because blood is a liquid which can become impure in the first degree and can in turn render the food impure in the second degree according to m. Makshirin 6.4. This is exactly how m. Hullin 2.5 is interpreted in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Hul. 33a). Notably this also extends beyond the laws concerning the dead swarming things in Leviticus 11.

A similar example is found in the context of Passover,

R. Eleazar said in R. Oshaia’s name: Whatever is dipped in a liquid requires the washing of hands. Said R. Papa: Infer from this that the lettuce must be plunged right into the haroseth to counteract the qappa33 For if you think that it need not be sunk into it, why is the washing of the hands required? Surely he does not touch [the haroseth]? Yet perhaps I may maintain that in truth it need not be sunk [into the haroseth], the qappa dying from its smell; yet why is washing of the hands required? In case he plunges it in (b. Pesah. 115a–b).

It is clear that this passage assumes that liquid touching the hands will defile the food. What is particularly interesting is that it is set in a context that cannot have been too dissimilar from that of people eating ordinary food at the time of Jesus in the sense that liquids would always be a threat. This can be seen in a frequently cited passage attributed to the first-century schools of Hillel and Shammai. In m. Berakot 8.2 we are told that the House of Shammai say, ‘They wash the hands then mix the cup’, whereas the House of Hillel say, ‘They mix the cup then wash the hands’. As Sanders and Alon both note, this can only be understood as reference to impurity through liquids as illustrated, for example, by the Tosefta (5.26),

The House of Shammai say, ‘They wash the hands then mix the cup [of wine with water]—lest liquids on the outer surface of the cup become impure through contact with hands and in turn render the cup impure.’ The House of Hillel say, ‘The outer surface of the cup is always deemed impure.’

Thus the Tosefta, along with the Babylonian and Palestinian talmuds all make it clear that the issues concern impurity being passed from hands to the cup via liquid. The relevance of liquids in the transmission of impurity for our study may be summed up in the words of the Babylonian Talmud:

But would not the hands make the cup itself unclean?—Hands receive uncleanness in the second degree, and that which has received uncleanness in the second degree cannot pass on the uncleanness to a third degree in the case of non-sacred things, save through liquids (Ber. 52a).

All this rabbinical material indicates that liquid could come between food and the eater and there is also good evidence that this could be applied to the situation of Jesus and his disciples. Booth notes Mt. 26:23 and the setting at Passover where a communal dipping bowl would contain oil or gravy and Jn 13:26 where bread is dipped into a bowl thus making it difficult to avoid the fingers coming into contact with liquid. Booth also notes the fact that drops from drinks at meal times would also cause problems. This, particularly when combined with the rabbinical evidence, shows that it is highly likely that liquids would always be present at a meal. Note the seven liquids which can cause defilement in m. Makshirin 6.4, some clearly relevant for the meal table: ‘dew, water, wine, oil, blood, milk, and bees’ honey’.

If this is applied to the situation described in Mk 7:1–23 it could be argued by a certain rabbi or Pharisee that unwashed hands, assumed to be impure in the second degree, would defile ordinary food in the second degree, via a liquid which takes on impurity in the first degree. What does this entail? Well, problems for terumah at least. According to an anonymous list in m. Zabim 5.12 and the ‘eighteen decrees’ in b. Shabbat 13b and 14b and y. Shabbat 1.4, the eater of food with first or second degree uncleanness renders terumah invalid (cf. Tohar. 2.2–3). In Hullin 33b there is a discussion over the degree of impurity an eater contracts and how this depends on the degree of impurity contracted by the food. Another interesting perspective has been developed by Poirier. He has argued that Pharisees washed their hands to avoid making their insides impure. Probably the most convincing piece of evidence he gives is b. Berakoth 28a:

A Tanna taught: On that day the doorkeeper was removed and permission was given to enter. For Rabban Gamaliel had issued a proclamation [saying], No disciple whose ‘inside is not as his outside’ (חוכו כברו) may enter the Beth ha-Midrash. On that day many stools were added. R. Johanan said: There is a difference of opinion on this matter between Abba Jospeh b. Dosethai and the Rabbis: one says that four hundred stools were added, and the other says seven hundred. Rabban Gamaliel became alarmed and said: Perhaps, God forbid, I withheld Torah from Israel! He was shown in his dream white casks full of ashes. This, however, really meant nothing; he was only shown it to appease him.

Poirier argues that although the phrase ‘whose inside is not as his outside’ is normally taken as an ethical idiom it is better to read it literally in this case. This would mean that Gamaliel would be pushing for the Academy to be filled with people who accepted the washing of hands before ordinary food (= Pharisees, for Poirier). Gamaliel’s change of mind was due to a dream of a white cask full of ashes, which represented those that washed their exteriors but were not concerned about the purity of their interiors. The decisive argument is that if this passage was read in ethical terms then it would have to be inferred that hundreds of hypocrites were allowed into the Academy on their own terms! It is far better to read this quite literally. Moreover it implies that this view was eclipsed in the post-Yavnean period thereby suggesting that the view of insides being like outsides was more popular in the early to mid first century.

Mark 7:15, 19 can be read as a contrasting viewpoint with those who accepted the role of handwashing before ordinary food in order to keep their insides clean or to avoid rendering terumah invalid or both. From the perspective of the Markan Jesus, eating with unwashed hands cannot render the insides unclean or the like, and this was because he rejected the validity of their tradition. Interestingly there are not too dissimilar debates working on this level in rabbinical literature. On the one hand we have evidence of handwashing being not-so-important. Accordingly we get views recorded in t. Berakoth 5.13 where handwashing before a meal was optional; or again in b. Berakoth 52b ‘the washing of the hands for secular food is not from the Torah’ (cf. t. Ber. 5.27); ‘R. Idi b. Abin said in the name of R. Isaac b. Ashian that handwashing was a meritorious act and was only necessary to acquire the habit for terumah’ (b. Hul. 105a). Others though, as we have seen, were a lot more serious about handwashing before ordinary meals and various nasty things would happen if people did not observe handwashing before ordinary meals (cf. b. ‘Erub. 21b; Hul. 106a; Shabb. 62b; Sota 4b). For some, such as Rab Judah, Solomon instituted handwashing thereby giving the practice some sort of biblical basis (Shabb. 14b; cf. Sifre Lev. 15:11).

However, Booth has noted that if the whole body was impure in the first degree or had corpse impurity then washing hands has no effect. If most Jews had such impurity all the time then a question involving washing hands before ordinary food would have been absurd. This is perhaps not as odd as Booth would have us believe, particularly when we remember that, according to Mark, Jews that observed certain purity laws were asking the question. More generally there were certainly some Jews who wanted to avoid impurity as often as possible,38 even if it was not directly linked to Temple worship. For example, Josephus records that Herod ran into difficulties when attempting to populate Tiberias because it was partly built over a graveyard (Ant. 18.36–38). Moreover, if hands were assumed to be second degree impure in rabbinical literature then it must surely follow that the whole body is not impure in these passages (cf. m. Yad. 3.1; b. B. Qam. 2b; Shabb. 13b, 14b; y. Shabb. 1.4).

6. Tebul Yom

The case of the tebul yom is particularly interesting in this respect. A tebul yom is literally ‘one that has immersed on that day’ based on the biblical laws concerning those required to immerse and wait until sunset to be deemed pure (Lev. 15). According to m. Zabim 5.3 a tebul yom can render terumah invalid which means the tebul yom is second degree impure (cf. m. Para 8.7). We can see this at work in a situation relevant to Mk 7:1–23. Thus in m. Tebul Yom 2.2,

If a pot was full of liquid and a tebul yom touched it, the liquid becomes unfit if it is terumah, but the pot is clean. But if the liquid is common food (hullin) then all remains clean. If his hands were soiled, all becomes unclean. Here greater stringency is applied to soiled hands than to a tebul yom; but greater stringency is applied to a tebul yom than to soiled hands, since any doubt respecting the tebul yom renders terumah unfit. But any doubt concerning hands is deemed clean (cf. m. Yad. 2.4).

It is not difficult to see the assumptions made be the passage. From m. Parah 8.7 we know that unclean hands defile liquids and that when liquids are defiled they have uncleanness in the first degree which in turn renders the vessel unclean in the second degree. Significantly though in m. Tebul Yom 2.2 a tebul yom does not render ordinary liquid unclean whereas unclean hands do, despite both being second degree impure (cf. b. Sota 29a–b). If this logic is applied to our discussion of Mk 7:1–23 then it can be seen just how relevant the situation of a tebul yom is and how deep Jewish assumptions underlie our passage. Booth thinks that the issue of the tebul yom is not so relevant because there is no evidence that the Pharisees believed the disciples had immersed that day. This is the wrong way to approach the issue. It should be remembered both that handwashing and related issues are a Pharisaic practice according to Mark and that the Pharisees merely ask a question. It does not matter if Jesus’ disciples immersed but the possibility that the Pharisees would have should be the focus. From the perspective of the Markan Pharisees at least, Mark gives us a parallel situation in a crucial piece of information in 7:4 when he tells us that Pharisees immerse before eating, after they have come back from the market. Moreover, the Pharisees may have expected Jesus’ disciples to immerse themselves, after all Jesus had a reputation for associating with sinners and people who would have been impure as Mark records (e.g. Mk 2:15–17; 5:24–34). It can now be seen that the issues involving the tebul yom form a coherent link with the idea of handwashing before ordinary food, showing that Mark has given just enough information to make this an important aspect of the interpretation of our passage.

There are also some interesting passages that show how the hands alone are liable to contract impurity at any given time after the body had been immersed. For example:

If there was a defective [earthenware] vessel in the miqweh and utensils were immersed therein, they become clean from their former uncleanness but are again rendered unclean because of the earthenware vessel; but if water flowed above it in any quantity, they will remain clean. If a fountain issued from an oven and a man went down and immersed himself, he is clean but his hands become unclean; but if [the water was as] high above the oven as the height of his hands, his hands are also clean (m. Miqw. 6.6).

The scenario in Miqwa’oth 6.6 may or may not have been common but it does show that the body can become clean in the context of an immersion while at the same time hands are capable of contracting impurity separately. As Booth himself notes, hands can contract impurity apart from the body (cf. m. Yad. 3.1) and they are always liable to do so because they are ‘fidgety’ (עסקניות b. Shabb. 14a). An example of the busyness of hands in a certain scenario can be found in b. Sukkah 26b:

Our rabbis taught: If he forgot and had sexual intercourse in his tefillin he should not seize hold either of a strap [of the tefillin] or of a capsule [of the tefillin] until he wash his hands to take them off, since hands ‘touch things automatically’ [again, עסקניות].

It does not matter that this passage does not concern handwashing before ordinary food because the issue of hands becoming impure is still the issue: the text indicates that hands are always liable to touch something unclean due to the fact that they are ‘busy’ (צסקן).

For our purposes it does not matter if all the Jews were as scrupulous over purity as outlined here because Mark is clearly exaggerating. Nor does it matter whether the Pharisees in question were more likely to have been haberim or a small group of dedicated Jews, although, as noted, the ideal of purity outside the Temple appears to have been quite widespread. What is important for our study is that it is known that at least some Jews were careful about observance over purity and handwashing and that it is important to try and understand the rationale behind this. This may not have been a major life-threatening dispute on its own—remember, the scribes and Pharisees only ask a question—but the Markan passage does help in identifying the earliest Jewish Jesus movement as one that opposed traditions such as handwashing, even if it is in exaggerated terms. Furthermore it is important not to ignore the details of the rabbinical purity system in early Judaism because it is quite probable that it was present at the time of Jesus. This is because plenty of relevant rabbinical material is attributed to the first century, and sometimes even before the time of Jesus.42 Issues concerning the uncleanness of hands are attributed to Hillel and Shammai and therefore prior to Jesus’ ministry (b. Shabb. 14b; y. Shabb. 1.4; y. Ketub. 8.11; y. Pesah. 1.6). The idea that food is susceptible to second degree impurity was discussed at the time of the first-century Houses in the ‘eighteen decrees’ (b. Shabb. 13a; y. Shabb. 1.4; cf. m. Zabim 5.12). The role of liquids conducting impurity is also attributed to first-century Houses where it appears to be an assumption, hence they debate over when to wash hands, not if they should wash hands (m. Ber. 8.2; t. Ber. 5.26); indeed it essentially goes back to Leviticus 11. A proper investigation into the dating of the rabbinical material cannot be discussed in full here but it seems likely that such a consistent attribution of relevant material to our period means that the rabbinical purity system should not be ignored in any discussion of handwashing in Mk 7:1–23. Moreover, even in the unlikely event of the grading of impurity being later than Jesus and the gospels, it was based on something and not plucked out of thin air.

7. Gospel Editing

The background of Mk 7:1–23 can now be appreciated more fully. Although this is a source edited in light of gentile ignorance of Jewish purity laws it can be seen that when this is removed there are assumptions that only make sense in a Jewish context. Editing (e.g. Mk 7:3–4) aside, the source can only realistically go back to an extremely early intra-Jewish source. It would be assumed that the Pharisees would have immersed. Despite immersion it would be assumed that hands were always liable to contract impurity and could be assumed to be second degree impure unless washed. If they remained unwashed impurity would pass from the hands to the food via liquid and finally to the eater. Jesus rejects this (7:15) and it would be assumed from this answer that Jesus was attacking the development of biblical law and that all permitted food was clean to eat: washing hands is irrelevant from Jesus’ perspective.

This is not however the stuff most gentiles would generally be able to assume so Mark has to add enough crucial details for the passage to be understood and it is the Markan editorial additions which help us understand the Markan motives. So Mark adds that a strict Jew would immerse on return from the market and before eating. This strict Jew would then wash his hands, and vessels, to prevent any possibility of defilement. This is precisely the way the expansion of the purity laws worked in relation to keeping the insides pure, as outlined above. Mark has to emphasise that this is all ‘tradition’ to show that Jesus is responsible for its rejection. What is crucial is that the obviously editorial Mk 7:3–4 shows a remarkable understanding of Jewish purity laws and he must have added it because he was interested in the expanded purity laws. Indeed it is quite unlike Mark to make such detailed asides so the reasons given here must be the best explanation for their inclusion. This complements the fact that Mk 7:1–13 is dominated by the issue of tradition and not the observance of biblical laws and that Jesus’ views in 7:15 and 19 are a direct response to this: the attack can only be on the tradition of hand-washing. Mark 7:1–23 is an exceptionally coherent passage when read against the background of Jewish purity laws, as it is from the perspective of the earliest gentile Christians who could assume that Jesus and his followers, like most Jews in the ancient world, upheld biblical food laws.

Matthew has to make these assumptions explicit and so changes Mk 7:19 to, ‘but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile’ (Mt. 15:20), which strongly suggests that Matthew was writing at a time when the food laws were not being observed by certain Christians and that Mark was written before such a time. There have, however, been attempts to show that the Matthean Jesus was not so law observant in Mt. 15:1–20. For example, Menninger argues that, for Matthew, ‘Jesus sets aside the food laws’. He is not convinced that Matthew’s omission of Mk 7:19 was ‘to avoid the radical implications of Jesus’ teaching’ because ‘into the mouth’ (15:11, 17) is ‘sufficient to teach his readers the truth about Jesus dismissing the former restrictions on diet’. Menninger adds that this is possible in light of Mt. 5:21ff. and 12:1ff. because here ‘Jesus is not hesitant to set aside the Law in light of who he is’. He also notes that Matthew often streamlines Mark and so it ‘may be fair to say that although Matthew omits Mark’s interpretation that Jesus declared all foods clean he nevertheless retains that same thought’.

These arguments are hardly persuasive and can be refuted. Matthew’s expression ‘into the mouth’ does not cover the Markan statement ‘all foods clean’ because it is a direct alteration of Mark’s more general ‘nothing outside a person that going in’ which Mark uses as a contrast with the defiling ‘things that come out’ in order to sharpen the issue more on food eaten without washing the hands. That an attack on handwashing is the issue is made absolutely clear by Matthew because this is the precise allegation made by the Pharisees, an act which breaks the ‘tradition of the elders’. Moreover, Matthew retains the Markan emphasis on contrasting what he believes are the Pharisaic non-biblical traditions with biblical laws. There is no mention of prohibited food being the issue and nor would there be: the mission of the Matthean Jesus is largely limited to the house of Israel which is mentioned almost immediately after this passage (15:24; see also 10:5–6) so it is unlikely that anything would be said concerning prohibited food, which was not a contentious issue in early Judaism. It does not matter that Matthew streamlines Mark on occasion because he also adds to Mark as he does here be saying that ‘to eat with unwashed hands does not defile’ (15:20). It is difficult to see how this verse can refer to anything other than the dispute over what denies particularly as he has added this verse and omitted the Markan ‘declaring all foods clean’. There is no compelling reason to believe that Matthew presented Jesus abandoning the food laws, in fact Menninger’s approach contradicts the very argument of Mt. 15:1–20. The omission of ‘all foods clean’ and addition of an explicit rejection of handwashing are not the only significant alterations. Where Mark mentioned whatever goes into a person from the outside does not defile but enters the stomach and ends up in the sewer (Mk 7:18–19), Matthew omits any reference to non-defilement no doubt to counter any possibility that purity laws are being rejected. The omission of all foods clean and non-defilement and the addition of an explicit rejection of hand-washing is surely no coincidence and cannot simply be dismissed as Matthean streamlining. These are significant alterations to Mark which collectively provide what should be unambiguous evidence that Matthew portrayed Jesus as one who did not oppose biblical food and purity laws. Menninger’s additional argument that 5:21ff. and 12:1ff. supposedly set aside the Torah holds little weight because, as was argued earlier, there is no contradiction of any biblical law in these passages.

Mark could therefore assume what Matthew could not. Matthew, as has been argued throughout this study, was clearly written at a time when observing biblical laws had become a controversial issue. Matthew does not have the information that Mark gives us about purity practices other than handwashing because it is possible that an attack on them could easily be perceived to be an attack on the laws of Lev. 15 and it is also possible that Matthew could assume a greater knowledge of Jewish halakah than Mark. More importantly Mt. 15:20 makes it explicitly clear that hand-washing before ordinary food does not defile, something which could be assumed by Mk 7:19. As for Luke it is highly probable that if he knew such a passage he did not include it because it would almost certainly by perceived by many as an attack on the biblical food laws in the context of non-observant gentile Christianity, something Luke clearly did not want to indicate (see Chapter 4 of this study). After all it is not until Acts 10–11:18 that the validity of the food laws are questioned, significantly in the context of the gentile mission. All this implies that on the basis of Mk 7:1–23, Mark’s gospel was written at a time when Christianity observed the food laws and, based on the discussion in Chapter 5, this must have been some time before the mid-forties ce.

Chilton has provided an alternative reading of Mk 7:1–23 which involves issues of chronology and so must be discussed here. He attempts what he calls a ‘generative exegesis’ of Mk 7:1–23, investigating the shaping of traditions as they pass through different communities in early Christianity. Mark 7:14–15 is attributed to ‘the circle of Jesus’ and Chilton produces a possible Aramaic reconstruction. Jesus’ concern was with ‘the extension of purity from the inside outwards, not any denial of the possibility of “external” purity’. For the Jesus circle, purity is identified with Israel. Once identified with Israel ‘it is not that which is without which defiles, but those things that come from oneself. Separation from that which is outside one does not assure purity … Defilement here is a matter of failing to recognize the others of Israel, refusing to produce from within and to contact on that basis the pure Israel which others represent.’50 The next stage is Mk 7:6–13 which is from ‘the circle of James’ (c. 49 ce), although the core (7:11–12) may have come from Jesus himself. Chilton notes that James practised purity in the Temple and came into conflict with Temple authorities. He notes though that the rhetoric of the ‘scriptural syllogism’ suited the Jacobean programme within the Hellenistic setting of early Christianity. ‘The argument insisted upon the integrity of the Temple with its purity, and at the same time showed why James and his circle sustained the Scriptures (in their Septuagintal form) while their principal opponents did not.’ Next (7:17–23) is ‘the circle of Barnabas’ (c. 55 ce) which involves a far greater shift. ‘What goes into someone’ is now identified as food and ‘what proceeds from a person’ is equated with a list of ‘bad thoughts’ which defile a person. Defilement is to be taken seriously, once understood as moral defilement, and reflects Hellenistic Christianity.54 Finally there is the ‘circle of the Markan redaction’ (c. 70 ce in Rome). The ‘Barnaban rhetoric’ has now recast the passage dramatically to show Jesus transcending purity. The Markan reference to Jews washing hands and objects ‘seems nothing if ironic and editorial’. The argument is made that Jesus is going to define a practice unlike the Pharisees and all the Jews. All foods are now clean; Jesus transcends Judaism. As neither remark is echoed in Luke or Matthew, both being distinctive of Markan redaction, those who believe Matthew and Luke copied Mark ‘have no compelling explanation of why such compelling assertions of Christian superiority have been ignored’.56

Before outlining the difficulties with Chilton’s exegesis there are benefits that should be noted. Although his Aramaic reconstruction is not proof that we have Jesus’ words (as Chilton acknowledges) it does show the plausibility of such a saying in first-century Palestine. He is also right to stress that Jesus upheld the purity laws, even if he does over-emphasise Jesus’ concern. However, there are difficulties particularly when Chilton attributes sections of this passage to different groups. Chilton admits that the core of 7:6–13 may come from Jesus but why not other parts of Mk 7:1–23? Elsewhere Jesus came into conflict with the Pharisees and their traditions (e.g. Mk 2:15–17; 2:23–3:6; Mt. 23/Lk. 11:37–54; Lk. 15) and these disputes were far from pleasant so there is no reason why a legal dispute such as Mk 7:6–13 could not originate from Jesus. The fact that the Isaiah quote in Mk 7:6–7 is similar to the Septuagint does not say much and it certainly does not imply that it must come from a circle of James. Why not the earliest Greek-speaking Christians, or later ones for that matter? This passage could have been added by almost anyone in the early church. The next stage, attribution to the circle of Barnabas, is problematic for similar reasons. It is plausible that Mk 7:17–23 is an interpretation of Jesus’ saying in 7:15 and it may well come from Hellenistic Christianity. It does not, however, necessarily mean it can be dated with any certainty. It should also be stressed that such ethical statements could have been made by any Jew so it is not as radical a departure as Chilton argues. One such Jew, Jesus, emphasised the importance of certain commandments in the Torah (Mk 12:29–31; Mt. 22:37–40; Lk. 10:26–28) and the importance of the Decalogue (Mk 10:17–19; Mt. 19:16–20; Lk. 18:18–20), significant because it has been noted that Mk 7:21–23 has close parallels with the Decalogue. Thus, even if Mk 7:17–23 does not come from Jesus the continuity remains and could have been produced by any Christian at any time after his death. There is also no transcendence of biblical purity and, contrary to Chilton, this is actually confirmed by the ‘Markan redaction’. It was argued above that, despite exaggeration, Mark’s description of purity laws is an accurate portrayal of a Jewish practice. It is not ‘ironic’ although Chilton is right to argue that it sets up a contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees over purity. However, a detailed reading shows that these details are all developments of biblical laws and not the actual biblical laws. Mark is a highly abbreviated gospel and he does not spend much time giving intricate details. In this passage he does and they all point to an attack on the ‘traditions’. This passage only ‘transcends’ Judaism in the sense of a certain form of Judaism of which Mark does not approve, i.e. that concerned with the expansion of biblical laws.

It follows that, against Chilton, a complementary explanation for the conventional view of the Synoptic Problem can be provided. According to the reading of Mk 7:1–23 given in this chapter, Mark must have been written first, before the food laws became an issue. Matthew, writing when the food laws had become a problem, had to make it clear that Jesus did not reject the food laws and so emphasised that the dispute concerned handwashing. Luke also inherited a tradition of Jesus observing the Torah and at the same time a tradition of Peter’s vision that not only permitted non-observance of the food laws but also clearly indicates Peter’s prior observance. In the light of the disputes over the food laws in the early church Mk 7:1–23 would obviously have provided difficulties for Luke and his presentation of a law observant Jesus, particularly as he was not as well versed over the intricacies of Jewish law, so it is not difficult to see why Luke omitted Mk 7:1–23 as part of his ‘great omission’. Thus there is nothing stopping Mk 7:1–23 complementing the conventional view of the Synoptic Problem: there is no reason why Matthew and Luke could not have used Mk 7:1–23 in some way, even if it meant omission. As just seen, this approach also provides an answer to the difficulties of the exclusion of Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ superiority over Judaism in Matthew and Luke: it is not present. Not here and not anywhere in Mark’s gospel.

8. Conclusions

To conclude, the presentation of Jesus in Mk 7:1–23 should be read wholly in the context of intra-Jewish halakic disputes and this includes the controversial statement in Mk 7:19 declaring all foods clean. Mark 7:15 and 19 refer back to the hand-washing and other halakic disputes that dominate Mk 7:1–23 arguing that eating with unwashed hands is permitted. The logic behind this is the expansion of Jewish law where it was believed that impurity passed from hands to food to eater via liquid, thereby linking the question of handwashing with Mk 7:15, and the general attack on tradition in Mk 7:1–23. The detailed knowledge of expansion of biblical law is shown in the editorial Mk 7:3–4, which again must be linked with handwashing and Mk 7:15, once more strongly suggesting that the expansion of biblical law (and its rejection) is of concern, not observance of biblical law. This is assumed by Mark but could no longer be assumed by the time Matthew wrote because there were Christians claiming that the biblical food laws did not have to be observed. Matthew therefore made it explicitly clear that Jesus was attacking handwashing and not the biblical food laws. The passage is omitted by Luke, probably because it would cause problems for his view of a law observant Jesus and because he has a tradition of Peter having a vision which not only allows the possibility of non-observance of food laws but also implies a prior observance. The assumptions made by Mark could only have been made at a time before the disputes over food laws which, based on the findings of Chapter 5, would bring us to a time before the mid-forties ce.


In Chapter 1 it was argued that the external evidence for the date of Mark was of little use in accurately dating the gospel due to uncertainties surrounding authorship and a dubious link with Peter. Both the links with Mark and Peter could have been invented to counter certain criticisms of Mark, notably an attack on its ‘order’ and if this is accurate then it is not possible to say with any certainty that Mark was necessarily written either after the deaths of Peter and Paul or early in the reign of Claudius on the basis of this evidence. In Chapter 2 it was argued that the major internal evidence for the date of Mark, i.e. ch. 13, does not necessarily reflect the Jewish war and could have been written in its entirety during the Caligula crisis or earlier still in the light of a perceived threat to the Temple in the mid to late thirties. Given that Jews feared another potential crisis like that of Caligula and that Mark 13 predicts the described events to happen within a generation of Jesus’ death, Mark could be dated at any time between the thirties ce and c. 70 ce, and consequently Mark 13 only has limited use for dating the gospel. In Chapter 3 it was argued that modern scholarship has reinforced the conventional date for Mark’s gospel, particularly source, form, redaction and recent literary criticism. Yet many of these arguments are far too speculative to carry any weight and at times it seems as if there is an underlying assumption that Mark must have been written in the light of the Jewish War or dependent on Pauline theology in some way. This called for a new approach, based on an important result of source criticism, namely that Mark was the first gospel, Allen’s argument that Matthew was written in the light of bitter legal disputes in the fifties and that Mark was written before this, and Casey’s suggestion that Mark’s gospel makes numerous Jewish cultural assumptions in certain passages which would have signs of greater editing if Mark was written much later than the forties. This kind of approach is particularly effective when dealing with the question of Jewish law in Mark and comparing it with parallels in Matthew and Luke, because if Mark does not reflect the disputes of the mid-forties onwards, as Matthew and Luke clearly do, and upholds the biblical laws then it is very probable that this is a gospel written earlier than the forties. In other words Mark could assume what Matthew and Luke could not.

However, the view that the synoptic gospels portray Jesus as one fully upholding biblical law is controversial so in Chapter 4 it was demonstrated in some detail that Jesus is never shown to challenge any biblical law in the synoptic gospels and that the gospel audiences would have understood this, although of course this does not mean that the synoptic audience necessarily observed all the biblical commandments. The conflict is always over observance of expanded law associated in particular with the scribes and the Pharisees. The portrayal of Jesus as one who observed the biblical laws is reflected right across the tradition so it can be argued with some degree of certainty that the historical Jesus did just that. If Jesus did not question the validity of any biblical laws when did this become a major issue for Christians? In Chapter 5 it was argued that the early chapters of Acts are surprisingly silent on the issue of the Torah and it is not until events to be dated to the mid to late forties when there is firm evidence for the allowance of non-observance of some of the biblical laws by both Jews and gentiles, or at the very least this perception was present (Acts 10–11:18; 13:38–39; 15; Gal. 2:11ff.). Collectively it can be argued with some certainty that by the late forties at the very latest certain Christians were not observing certain biblical commandments and it is not impossible that this had been the case for several years.

This is important for the dating of Mark because if it could be demonstrated that Mark was written before such controversies then a date before the late forties would become increasingly likely. In Chapter 6 two examples were given to show how this could be done in detail, namely Mk 2:23–28 and parallels, and Mk 10:1–12 and parallels. On Mk 2:23–28 it was shown that plucking grain on the Sabbath is nowhere prohibited in biblical law and it was more likely to conflict with the expansions of biblical law. This is exactly how it is presented by Mark. Matthew 12:1–8 and Lk. 6:1–5 had to make changes in order to show unambiguously that Jesus was allowing the disciples to eat the grain immediately and not take it away and use it for purposes that would have involved working on the Sabbath. This kind of Markan assumption could not have been made by the fifites onwards (Rom. 14:5–6; Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16; Jn 5:1–18). A second example gave the argument further weight. It was seen that Mk 10:1–12 does not contradict the biblical allowance of divorce but rather assumes it was acceptable in certain cases such as adultery. With the benefit of hindsight it is not difficult to see that such an assumption and such a strict ruling could not last very long. Paul, writing in the fifties in 1 Cor. 7:10–16 qualifies the saying in the light of problems in Corinth. Matthew 5:31–32 and 19:3–12 also has to make it clear that Jesus did not rule out divorce in the case of πορνεία, which it was argued means sexual immorality. Controversies concerning πορνεία were present at Corinth in the fifties so it was conjectured that Matthew’s clause would have to have been added in the light of similar issues. Moreover it is clear from Mt. 19:3–12 that even a ruling allowing divorce in the case of sexual immorality was too difficult. Luke 16:18 avoids such difficulties by omitting the suggestion that divorce is not to be practised and emphasising that divorce and remarriage equals adultery (cf. 1 Cor. 7:11), which again suggests that Luke was written in the light of the problems that a strict divorce ruling caused. This is therefore another reference to Mark making assumptions that could not have been made from the fifties onwards.

Chapter 7 discussed the final example, Mk 7:1–23 and parallels, which not only provided the argument with further collective weight but also suggested a date earlier than the mid to late forties. Here it was shown that the debate makes sense as an intra-Jewish debate over the validity of handwashing. Mark gives an unusually large amount of information to make it clear that Jesus is attacking developments of the biblical law (7:1–13) and not the biblical food laws. Mark 7:15 must be read in this context as should Mk 7:19—all ordinary foods permitted in the Torah are clean whether hands are washed or not. It is not an attack on biblical food laws. Matthew 15:1–20 explicitly makes this an attack on handwashing because he was writing at a time when certain Christians were not observing the food laws and Mark’s attack could be potentially misunderstood, and Luke simply omits it (cf. Acts 10–11:18). Mark then must have been writing at a time when food laws were still being observed and on the basis of the results of Chapter 5 this must have been before the mid to late forties. This now becomes an argument of powerful collective weight for Mark to have been written before the late forties and if this is combined with the analysis of Mark 13 in Chapter 2 it is unlikely that it was written no earlier than the mid to late thirties.

A date for Mark between the mid to late thirties and mid-forties has important ramifications not only for our understanding of Mark’s gospel but for Christianity in general before the Pauline letters. In Chapter 5 it was argued that it is far from certain that Christians in the thirties were willingly and visibly questioning biblical commandments on the basis of the evidence from Acts and the Pauline letters. Yet on my reading of Mark this would not have been the case, not in any significant degree at least. In fact this probably did not become a serious problem until the forties when the gentile converts would have been increasing rapidly. If, as seems to be the case, gentile ‘Godfearers’ were the first gentile converts and if they attended a synagogue they would inevitably observe the Sabbath, keep the food laws and so on. Similarly when gentile and Jewish Christians first started to meet together there would have been no problems observing biblical commandments. If a significant number of people were not observing the commandments openly and deliberately then there would surely be some hint of this in Mark (and Acts) which there is not. It can be inferred, then, that Christians in the thirties and probably the very early forties largely observed the biblical commandments.

There are also important results for the study of the historical Jesus. It was argued that Jesus fully accepted and observed the biblical Torah at least. The Markan passages discussed in detail here also make excellent sense in a Palestinian Jewish context and show few signs of secondary editing and may reflect genuine events in the historic ministry with some accuracy. They also show signs of being transmitted in an abbreviated form. This may be combined with recent research on reading, writing and literacy in Palestine and the ancient world. Millard has shown that there would have been people with the ability to write readily available in ancient Palestine at the time of Jesus, and Jesus’ words may have been written down on wax tablets.2 This would go some way to explaining the abbreviated nature of the passages discussed here. Casey has pointed to additional sources which he has shown are a fairly literal translation from Aramaic and which may well reflect events from the historic ministry. In addition to this it was also argued in Chapter 3 that much of the recent scholarly discussion on Markan redaction and Markan creation is not always fully justified. Although Mark does appear to contain material which accurately reflects the historic ministry this does not mean that every passage should be accepted uncritically. It has been shown here that Mark 13 is largely secondary. The work of Aus has shown that certain passages in Mark do not accurately reflect events of Jesus’ ministry and show close similarities with haggadic traditions. In addition to this the long-held assumption that the gospel traditions were transmitted orally must not be neglected. Oral tradition is not as reliable and unchangeable as some have claimed. Crossan has used cross-cultural material on memory and oral performance which shows that human memory may not be as historically accurate as people often like to think. This now leaves a chaotic view of the transmission of the pre-Markan traditions, a combination of literary and oral traditions, mixed with traditions that underwent very little secondary editing, perhaps recorded in writing by an eyewitness immediately after the event, and traditions of full-blown creative writing.

It should also be clear from this study that Mark’s knowledge of Judaism is exceptionally well informed, contrary to so much of Markan scholarship. This, combined with my argument that the Christians of Mark’s time largely observed the biblical laws, provides a more Jewish view of Mark than is conventionally believed. Telford, commenting on the Markan portrayal of the Jewish leaders, Jesus’ family and the Twelve, suggests, ‘Jesus is shown as rejecting them, so appearing to the Markan reader as one who no longer has Jewish roots, as one no longer to be seen through Jewish eyes, as one no longer to be accorded a Jewish identity.’ My reading would suggest otherwise. Mark always portrays Jesus as a Torah observant Jew and in this way Jesus cannot be seen as one without Jewish roots. First-century Jews could disagree with leadership groups, their followers and even their families without rejecting their Jewish roots. On the contrary, if the view that Mark makes numerous Jewish cultural assumptions is accurate then the first Markan readers would have seen Jesus through Jewish eyes as someone directly involved in the Jewish debates of his day.


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Sokoloff, M., A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 1990).

Stanton, G.N., A Gospel for a New People. Studies in Matthew (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1992).

———’The Fourfold Gospel’, NTS 43 (1997), pp. 317–46.

Streeter, B.H., The Four Gospels. A Study of Origins (London: Macmillan, 1924).

Stoldt, H.-H., History and Criticism of the Markan Hypothesis (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1980).

Stuhlmacher, P., Reconciliation, Law, and Righteousness: Essays in Biblical Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986),

Svartvik, J., Mark and Mission: Mark 7:1–23 in its Narrative and Historical Contexts (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2000).

Sylva, D.D., ‘The Meaning and Function of Acts 7:46–50’, JBL 106 (1987), pp. 261–75.

Synge, F.C., ‘Studies in Texts: Acts 7:46’, Theology 55 (1952), pp. 25–26.

Taylor, J.E., The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1997).

Taylor, N.H., ‘Palestinian Christianity and the Caligula Crisis. Part I. Social and Historical Reconstruction’, JSNT 61 (1996), pp. 101–124.

———’Palestinian Christianity and the Caligula Crisis. Part II. The Markan Eschatological Discourse’, JSNT 62 (1996), pp. 13–41.

Taylor, V., The Gospel According to St. Mark (London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2nd edn, 1966 [1952]).

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Theissen, G., The Gospels in Context: Social and Political History in the Synoptic Tradition (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1992).

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Tomson, P.J., Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakah in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles (Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).

Torrey, C.C., Documents of the Primitive Church (London and New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941).

C.M. Tuckett, The Revival of the Griesbach Hypothesis: An Analysis and Appraisal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

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———’Q (Gospel Source)’, ABD, V, pp. 567–72.

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Witherington III, B., ‘Matthew 5:32 and 19:9—Exception or Exceptional Situation’, NTS 31 (1985), pp. 571–76.

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Index of References


1 Enoch

1.6    39

10    97

13.4    93

90.28    73

98.13    107

2 (Syriac) Baruch

14.18    164

15.7    164

21.24    164

27.6    39

70.8    39

3 Maccabees

2:22    96

2:24    96

4 Ezra

6:54–59    164

7:11    164

8:63–9:3    39

11–12    28

13:31    39

4 Maccabees

17:20–22    49

18:12    131


8.88    99


170–171    192

181    146

234    84, 192

305    184

Ascension of Isaiah

2.11    168

Assumption of Moses

1.12    164

8.1–5    38


2.1    104

Joseph and Aseneth

7.1    27

7.6–7    146

8.5    147, 155

8.7    27


1.24    52

2.17    163

2.23    85

2.29–30    160

2.29    161

4.31    103

10.7–13    97

22.16–17    146

22.16    146

50.6–13    160

50.9    161

50.10–11    167

Martyrdom of Isaiah

5.1–14    76

Psalms of Solomon

1.1    144

2.1–2    144

9.6    67, 93, 135

Sibylline Oracles

3.280–294    73

4.165    93

5.414–433    73

Testament of Abraham

10.1    23

Testament of Benjamin

4.2    112

6.4    110

9    73

9.2    179

Testament of Dan

5.1    84, 110

5.3    84

5.5    27

Testament of Issachar

5.1–2    84

7.6    84

Testament of Job

15.8    27

Testament of Judah

12.2    179

12.8    27

23.2    27

Testament of Levi

6.3    27

15.2    27

Testament of Reuben

3.12    27



19.14    95

20.12–29    97

20.15    173, 180


7    23

8.8–12    64

9.4–5    64

10.1    64

11.2–8    133

11.7–8    133

12.10    64


1.4    104

1.10–11    104

2.8    94

5.8    102

6.27    102

9.21–23    104

9.23    131

9.26–10.8    170

10.17–18    102, 112


3–4    137


4.8–9    133


1–3.4    96


2.14    95


1.11    64

6HevA nab

1.13    95


54.4–5    175

57.17–19    175

64.6–13    137

66.8–11    175


2.14    170

2.15    170

3.18    94

4.12–5.14    175, 179, 180

4.21    174

6.16    64

6.21    64

9.9–12    102

10.11–13    186

10.14–11.18    160

10.22–23    161

11.5    113

11.13–14    104, 113, 166

12    155

12.3–6    171

13.15–17    175

15    102

16    102

16.7–12    102

20.34    94

Mur 19

1.2    95


Targum Neofiti on Deuteronomy

24.4    173, 180

Targum Neofiti on Exodus

21.24    103

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Leviticus

19.18    99



3.2    110

3.6    110

3.14    52

5.10    165

‘Abodah Zarah

2.3    147

2.6    147


5.6    177

Baba Qamma

8.1    103


8.2–3    115

8.2    184, 195, 199


3.4    104, 113


1–2    165

2–3    165


5.6–7    184

8.7    129


2.1–4    113


9.10    101, 174, 179


2.5    183

2.7    165, 186


1.6    186, 187

2.5    183, 194, 195

3.4    161


2.1    187

5.11    186, 187

6.2–4    187

10.1    187

11.1    186

13.6    187

14.1    186

15.1    187

16.1    187

17.1    187

19.1    187

20.2    187

22.1    187

22.10    187

25.5–7    115

27.1    187


1.7    63


5.6    174, 177

7.2    174, 177

7.9–10    177


1.1    104, 168

4.5    104


1.6    103

6.4    147, 195, 196


1.7    90


11.7    163


3.10    186

6.6    198, 199

7.7    187


6.5    106

7.1    118


3.2    189

5.6    189, 190

9.1    189

11.12    173, 177


3.1    88, 90

8.8    90

12.1    90

13.7    90

13.12    90


4.2    119


3.2    187

8.7    194, 197, 198


2.6    129


4.8    162, 166

10.1    192


7.8    58, 85, 171

9.6    131


5.1–4    113

6.6    192

7.2    85, 113, 160, 161

12.2    168

14.3    85

15.1    113

18.3    166

22.1    162, 166


8.10    119

9.1    112

10.7    162, 166


1.4    110


5.1    173

5.2    193, 194

9.15    165


5.7–8    163


4.6    28, 29

Tebul Yom

2.2    197, 198

4.1    193

4.3    193


2.2–3    196

2.6    194

8.1–2    186


3.10    162, 166


1–2    184

1.1    183

2.3    183

2.4    198

3.1    193, 197, 199

3.2    183

4.3    129


8.6    85


5.1    186

5.3    197

5.6    90

5.12    194, 196, 199

7.6    90


b. ‘Abodah Zarah

8a    152

b. Baba Qamma

2b    197

83b–84a    102, 103

b. Berakoth

17b    52

28a    196

52a    195

52b    184, 188, 197

b. ‘Erubin

21b    184, 197

b. Gittin

90b    174

b. Hagigah

15a    68

b. Hullin

33a    195

33b    196

86a    52

105a    184, 197

106a    155, 184, 197

106a–b    183

b. Mo’ed Qatan

26b    67

b. Menahoth

95b    167

b. Nazir

39b    161

47b    106

b. Pesahim

112a    192

115a–b    195

47a    163

b. Qiddushin

75b    119

b. Sanhedrin

47a    89

b. Shabbat

13a    199

13b    193, 196, 197

14a    199

14b    193, 196, 197, 199

31a    99

62b    184, 197

74b    161

103a    161

118a    192

127a    166

128b    166

147a    192

b. Sotah

4b    184, 197

29a–b    198

b. Sukkah

26b    199

b. Taanith

24b    52

28b    29

b. Yoma

4a    23

61b    161

85b    163

y. Ketuboth

8.11    199

y. Pesahim

1.6    199

y. Sanhedrin

7.11    58, 85, 171

y. Shabbat

1.4    193, 196, 197, 199

7.2    161

y. Sotah

1.2    174

1.16b    174

t. ‘Abodah Zarah

4.6    152

t. Berakoth

4.8    183

5.6    183

5.13    197

5.26    115, 184, 199

5.27    197

t. Demai

2.11–12    183, 184

t. Menahoth

13.22    72

t. Shabbat

9.17    161

t. Toharoth

8.13    186

t. Yoma

4.1    194

4.3    194


Abot deRabbi Nathan

a 26 [41b]    152

Genesis Rabbah

13.11    24

Megillat Ta ‘anit

7.3    103

Mekhilta Exodus

19.1    110

21.24    103

31.12–17    163

Numbers Rabbah

20.21    155, 184

Pesiqta deRab Kahana

15    68


9    67

9.6    67

Sifre on Deuteronomy

269    174

Sifre on Leviticus

15.11    197

21.11    106

Sifre on Numbers

6.6    106

Yalqut Shim ‘oni

2.130    163, 167


De Abrahamo

98    173, 180

De congressu eruditionis gratia

117    68

De decalogo

84    102

De fuga et inventione

18.4    27


7.3–5    190

7.3    190

7.5    190

7.6    190

De Josepho

16    161

Legatio ad Gaium

117    30

192    30

200    75

207    32, 37

209    36

220    36

226    30

234    35

246    36

299–305    38

330    36

De migratione Abrahami

64.2    27

De sobrietate

62    110

De specialibus legibus

1.113–115    106, 118

1.250    106, 118

1.261    186

1.299    84

2.145–149    91

2.252–254    133

2.253    131, 133, 165

3.182    103

3.205–206    186

3.206    186, 198

De vita Mosis

2.22    161

2.86    68


Antiquities of the Jews

3.87    86

3.124–129    68

3.183    68

3.255–256    68

3.261–268    163

3.264    90

4.280    102, 103

4.326    23

8.72    68

9.264    95

10.203–210    28, 38

13.109–119    58

13.296    132

13.297–298    132, 165

13.297    133

13.380    137

13.408–411    132

13.408–409    132

14.8    38

14.121    38

14.285    148

14.403    38

15.259–260    176

15.365    32

16.294    33

17.42    102

17.162–163    38, 133

17.295    137

18.18–22    86

18.27    31

18.36–38    31, 197

18.55–59    38

18.60–62    38

18.85    31

18.90    32

18.94    148

18.96–104    32

18.109–136    176

18.109–119    31

18.109    31

18.116–119    185

18.237    31

18.261    30

18.262    32, 37

18.264    30

18.265    30, 36

18.271    30

18.277    30

20.38–48    143

20.138    31

20.141–147    176

20.200    45

Against Apion

1.281    90

2.206    83

2.282    143, 144, 160

The Jewish War

1.123    38

1.181    38

1.648–645    38

1.650    132

1.653    133

1.654–655    133

2.60–62    78

2.94–95    31

2.119–161    86

2.122    86

2.129–133    186

2.135    102

2.139    104

2.150    148

2.168    31

2.169–174    38

2.175    38

2.186    32, 37

2.215    31

2.247    31

2.247    31

2.409    71

2.414    71

2.433–434    76

2.444    76

2.454    141

2.457–461    75

2.462–463    141

2.652    76

4.121–388    41

4.155–156    41

4.317    107

4.331–332    107

4.359–360    107

4.381–382    107

4.452–453    118

4.510    76

4.574–578    77

5.212    68

5.562–564    71

6.390    68

7.29–31    76

7.45    141, 144

7.116–162    41

7.218    109

7.362    75

Classical and Early Christian Literature

Acts of Peter

1    8

2:5    11

6    8

Clement of Alexandria

Adumbrationes ad 1 Peter

5:13    10


6    9


6.5.43    11

Clement of Rome

1 Clement

5.1–6    7

5.6    7, 8



LVIII.26    32


Historia ecclesiastica

2.13–14    31

2.14    11, 34

2.15:1    9

2.22:2    7

2.24    10

2.25    6

2.25:5    10

2.25:8    8

3.1:3    6

3.34–39    13

3.39:15    13

5.18:14    11

6.14:5–7    10

Gospel of Thomas

71    73

79    113



5.39    95


Adversus haereses

1.23:1–4    11, 31

2.22:5    8

2.22:6    8

3    7

3.1:1    6

3.3:2    6


Commentary on Daniel

8:9    28, 29

8:13    28, 29

8:14    28, 29

11:31    28, 29

12:12    28, 29

De viris illustribus

1    11, 34

5    7

8    10



1.26    11, 31

1.56    11

1.63:3    16



14.96–106    143, 144, 160


World Chronicle

243.10    32


Life of Apollonius

5.33    145



26.1    30

31.26:6    178



108.22    143



14    32



6.31–37    32

12.54:1    40


5    145

5.9:2    40


Papyrus Egerton

2 Frag. 1    90

Papyrus Se’elim

13.4–7    176

13.6    176

13.7    176

Index of Authors

Acsádi, Gy. 55

Aland, K. 6, 8–10, 13, 57

Alexander, L.C.A. 92, 175, 208

Allen, W.C. 2, 3, 12, 44, 46, 81, 159, 206

Allison, D.C. 46, 90, 100–102, 104, 106, 109, 110, 168, 169

Alon, G. 184, 195

Aus, R.D. 67, 68, 108, 209

Bacchiocchi, S. 170

Bachmann, M. 123

Back, S.-O. 164

Bacon, B.W. 47–52, 58

Banks, R. 82, 88

Barclay, J.M.G. 170

Barrett, C.K. 49, 71, 125, 178, 180

Barth, G. 100, 102, 105, 167

Barton, S.C. 86, 114

Bauckham, R.J. 8, 26, 63, 65, 109, 118–20, 138, 156

Baumgarten, A.I. 189

Beare, F.W. 165

Beasley-Murray, G.R. 27, 39, 41

Berger, K. 82

Betz, H.D. 100–102, 170

Black, C.C. 13, 14

Blomberg, C.L. 111, 113, 115, 169, 181

Bockmuehl, M. 106, 117, 142, 151, 155, 156, 173, 180

Bonnington, M. 141, 143, 147, 149, 150

Booth, R.P. 91, 185, 186, 189, 193, 194, 196–99

Botha, P.J.J. 2

Brandon, S.G.F. 1, 2, 41, 76, 86

Branscomb, B.H. 49

Broadhead, E.K. 88

Brodie, L.T. 123

Broer, I. 93

Brown. R.E. 73, 122

Bruce, F.F. 1, 127, 170, 172

Buchanan, G.B. 189

Buchanan, G.W. 71

Bultmann, R. 54, 61, 165

Burkitt, F.C. 176

Burridge, R.A. 61

Campbell, K.M. 110

Carson, D.A. 170, 171

Casey, M. 2–4, 15, 17, 24–26, 28, 49, 51, 56, 57, 65, 77, 80, 81, 85, 91, 95, 96, 118, 161–64, 166, 169, 192, 206, 208

Casey, P.M. 23, 133, 134, 143

Cassidy, R.J. 109

Catchpole, D.R. 46

Cave, H.C. 88

Chance, J.B. 123

Chapman, J. 7

Chilton, B. 92, 202–204

Cohn-Sherbock, D. 141, 142

Cowley, A. 176

Cranfield, C.E.B. 1, 57, 186

Crossan, J.D. 72, 209

Crossley, J.G. 187

Daube, D. 109, 110, 166, 178

Davidson, S. 47

Davies, M. 1, 15, 54, 105, 117, 177

Davies, S.L. 185

Davies, W.D. 46, 90, 100–102, 104, 106, 109, 168, 169, 173

Deines, R. 94, 132, 184, 197

Derrett, J.D.M. 189

Dibelius, M. 139

Doble, P. 127, 128

Dodd, C.H. 138

Doering, L. 85

Donahue, J.R. 66

Donaldson, T.L. 110, 127, 131, 133, 137

Downing, J. 49

Dumbrell, W.J. 110

Dunn, J.D.G. 52, 92, 93, 95, 116, 131, 132, 134, 136, 137, 141–45, 148, 153, 162, 172

Edmundson, G. 12

Elliott, J.H. 123

Ellis, E.E. 2, 7, 9, 30, 59

Esler, P.F. 111, 114, 141, 144–46, 148, 149, 153

Evans, C.A. 42, 63, 64, 74

Falk, Z.W. 189

Fee, G.D. 178

Fenton, J.C. 51, 55

Fitzmyer, J.A. 45, 95, 96, 106, 111–13, 118, 126, 127, 166, 169, 172, 177, 179, 188

Fleddermann, H.T. 46, 47

Fletcher-Louis, C.H.T. 94, 106, 107, 110, 114, 123

Ford, D. 27, 39, 41

Fredriksen, P. 135, 137

Frier, B. 55

Funk, R.W. 106

Gaston, L. 37, 156

Ginsberg, L.H. 146

Gnilka, J. 1

Grabbe, L.L. 28, 30

Grant, F.C. 13, 15

Gruenwald, I. 110

Guelich, R.A. 1, 191

Gundry, R.H. 3, 13, 15, 94, 160, 164, 174, 191, 203

Guy, H.A. 58–60

Haenchen, E. 28, 127

Hamel, G. 55

Harnack, A. 2, 3, 7, 44–46

Harrington, D.J. 95, 96, 167

Harrington, H.K. 94, 184, 197

Hatch, E. 179

Helm, R. 11

Hemer, C.J. 45, 154

Hengel, M. 1, 2, 6, 8, 15–17, 34, 40, 41, 47, 50, 51, 53, 54, 57, 59, 105–107, 130, 132, 137, 183

Hofius, O. 93

Holmén, T. 92, 175

Hooker, M.D. 1, 49, 89, 191, 193

Hoover, R.W. 106

Hopkins, K. 55

Horbury, W. 109

Houlden, J.L. 141, 142

Hübner, H. 82, 194

Hultgren, A.J. 129, 138

Hurtado, L.W. 61, 62, 88, 89

Ilan, T. 176

Instone-Brewer, D. 172, 173, 175, 176, 178

Jastrow, M. 68, 95

Jervell, J. 111, 113, 181

Jewett, R.K. 154

Jones, R.N. 87

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Juel, D. 66

Kazmierski, C.R. 88

Kee, W.C. 53

Kelber, W.H. 1, 2, 61

Kertelge, K. 53

Kilgallen, J.J. 126

Kim, S. 134–36

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Koet, B.J. 111

Kümmel, W.G. 1

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Larsson, E. 127

Levine, A.-J. 167

Lindars, B. 25, 164

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Lüdemann, G. 125

Luz, U. 100

Maccoby, H. 91, 119, 194

Mack, B.L. 1, 2, 66, 69, 71

Malina, B.J. 55

Manson, T.W. 2, 8, 9, 114, 177

Marcus, J. 1, 2, 40, 41, 55, 71–73, 75, 77–79, 89, 94, 188, 194

Marshall, I.H. 113

Martin, R.P. 79

Martínez, F.G. 96

Marxsen, W. 53

McHardy, W.D. 183

Meier, J.P. 85, 89, 90, 101, 124, 179

Menninger, R.E. 99, 100, 166, 201

Merz, A. 106, 114

Millard, A. 59, 208

Moffatt, J. 1

Mohrlang, R. 98

Montefiore, C.G. 188, 189, 191

Muraoka, T. 161

Myers, C. 1, 88, 89

Neirynck, F. 47

Nemeskéri, J. 55

Neudorfer, H.-W. 126, 127

Neusner, J. 94, 184

Nineham, D.E. 1, 56, 172, 175

Nolland, J.L. 106, 118, 119, 169, 181

North, J.L. 9

O’Callaghan, J. 3

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Poirier, J.C. 94, 184, 196, 197

Powell, M.A. 143

Radcliffe, T. 1, 2, 61, 62, 79

Räisänen, H. 134, 137

Redpath, H.A. 179

Regev, E. 94, 184, 187, 197

Reike, B. 46

Remus, H. 185

Reynolds, S.M. 183

Riesner, R. 33, 39, 125, 126, 134, 154

Robinson, J.A.T. 2, 12, 18, 45, 46, 56

Rohrbaugh, R.L. 55

Rordorf, W. 84, 113

Rosenblatt, M.-E. 91

Ross, J.M. 183

Saldarini, A.J. 98, 99, 104, 108, 201

Salo, K. 111–14, 116, 119, 122, 128, 169, 181

Salyer, G. 204

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Sariola, H. 73, 77, 82, 85, 89, 98

Schiffman, L.H. 161

Schremer, A. 176

Schwemer, A.M. 130, 137

Seeley, D. 49, 62–71

Segal, A.F. 98, 167

Sellin, G. 119

Selvidge, M.J. 91

Senior, D. 1

Sigal, P. 98

Sim, D.C. 98, 104

Skeat, T.C. 183

Smith, M. 10

Smith, S.H. 84

Snodgrass, K.R. 98–100

Sokoloff, M. 95

Stanton, G.N. 16, 22, 105

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Streeter, B.H. 14, 28

Svartvik, J. 191, 192

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Synge, F.C. 126

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Taylor, N.H. 23, 28, 31, 32, 35–38, 75, 78

Taylor, V. 1, 49, 79

Telford, W.R. 1, 14, 51, 52, 70, 74, 209

The Jesus Seminar 106

Theissen, G. 1, 2, 29–37, 40–42, 71, 72, 75, 76, 106, 114

Thiede, C.P. 2, 3

Thiselton, A.C. 178

Thompson, W.G. 109

Tigchelaar, E.J.C. 96

Tomson, P.J. 141, 151–53, 155, 156

Torrey, C.C. 2, 14, 30, 60

Tuckett, CM. 47, 124

Tyson, J.B. 169

Van Aarde, A.G. 123, 127

Van der Loos, H. 87

Van Iersel, B.M.F. 1, 2, 79

Vermes, G. 23, 54, 89, 96, 97, 101, 102, 106, 189

VonSoden, H. 11

Walker, P.W.L. 121–23, 128

Wegner, R. 1

Weinert, F.D. 123

Wenham, D. 28

Wenham, J.W. 2, 3, 7, 12, 18

Werner, M. 55

Westerholm, S. 90

Wilson, S.G. 111, 113, 169, 181

Witherington, B. III 1, 41, 90, 91, 179

Wong, K.-C. 163, 167

Wright, D.P. 87

Wright, N.T. 19–23, 25–28, 30, 72, 73, 86, 106, 113, 117, 119, 120, 164, 174–76, 191, 203

Yardeni, A. 176

Young, F.M. 126

Zuntz, G. 2, 30, 57

Published: December 20, 2014, 09:01 | Comments Off on The Date of Mark’s Gospel – Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity; James G. Crossley from ArchBischof Uwe AE.Rosenkranz
Category: Law, ROSARY 4 z Bishop

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