The Origins of Mark: The Markan Community in Current Debate

The Origins of Mark: The Markan Community in Current Debate

The Origins of Mark: The Markan Community in Current Debate

The Origins of Mark: The Markan Community in Current Debate


The book observes and calls into question the scholarly practice of constructing a community behind the Gospel of Mark (and by implication, other Gospels as well) and using that community to control appropriate interpretation of Mark. It presents and critiques particular exemplars of this practice, and briefly suggests other ways to ground the interpretation of Mark.After an introduction, chapters are devoted to the work of Werner Kelber, Howard Clark Kee and Ched Myers. Critical conclusions are then drawn, after which the recent work of Joel Marcus is discussed. A final chapter briefly suggests ways forward.Constructing communities behind Gospels and using those communities as interpretive keys in Gospel interpretation is a widespread scholarly practice. To date, no full length critique of the practice has been published. This book fills that lacuna.


Obviously the main interest in the study of Mark
is to discover how he understood the role of Jesus
in relation to the community for which he was
writing his gospel.

Howard Clark Kee

… whatever we may find to say about the com
munity for which [Mark] was originally written
(and the evidence will come largely from the gospel
itself, in defeating circularity) it is far beyond us to
reproduce the tacit understandings that existed
between this dead writer and his dead audience.

Frank Kermode

One of the prime insights of historical criticism is that biblical texts, like other texts, were written by real people who lived real lives in real places in real times in the midst of real events. Those people, places, times and events shaped the texts which emerged from among them. Historical critics have concluded that the more one knows about the people, places, times and events behind biblical texts, the better one will understand them. The achievement of historical critics over the past century and a half has been nothing short of breathtaking, in that the historical contexts of biblical texts have been filled out to an amazing degree. What historical critics have learned about the historical, political, geographical, religious and other landscapes of the Greco-Roman world has had an enormous impact on how we read the New Testament. The New Testament seems in many ways a different book against the backdrop of these landscapes.

In recent decades, scholars of the New Testament have begun to paint quite specific corners of the Greco-Roman landscapes from which the New Testament emerged, in particular, the communities behind particular New Testament texts. Scholars have shown particular

Howard Clark Kee, The Community of the New Age: Studies in Mark’s Gospel (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), 11.

Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 137f.

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