Friday, April 08, 2005

Random Thoughts on Mark's Sitz im Leben

I went over to Garrett and perused the New Testament Abstracts for some time. I found some information on various articles that I will relate shortly. To the topic I had searched out came an article by Joel Marcus called, “The Jewish War and the Sitz Im Leben of Mark” from the Journal of Biblical Literature. I went and looked that up and Marcus argues that Mark's audience was not Rome but was Palestine or Syria (441).

If one were to follow this logic, then the Perkins commentary would seem to be valid, as people from Palestine would understand the nuance of comparing the Jesus Temptation and the early Judaic stories of Adam and the 40 years in the wilderness. One of the major weaknesses of Marcus seems to be evident, to me at least, that from the first page of his article he admits that traditionally Mark's audience has been understood as Rome. He gives a literal half-page of footnote sources (all the way back to Clement of Rome) to support this odd opening anti-thesis. His proper thesis in similar fashion footnotes sources, but only four, of which three are obscure German references and the fourth seems to be an article which he admits in the footnote he disagrees with on several points. This struck me from the start as a fairly weak openly paragraph.
To his credit, the commentary on why Mark's audience has to be Palestinian is an admirable attempt to counter several traditional points such as the Latinisms in Mark, which might be logically plausible (443-444).

However, Marcus' only definitive argument, other than being simply contrary to other arguments, is his discussion of the term Mark uses in 7:26 of “Syrophoenician” woman. This argument, though not illogical, is set against his previous backdrop of minimizing any single word more traditional interpretations latch onto to “prove” Mark was targeting Romans. Marcus seemed to me to be logically trying to have his cake and eat it to, so to speak. That is to say, it is alright if I use a word in the text to prove Mark's audience is Palestine, but not alright if you use a word to prove Rome is the audience.

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