Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective

Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective

Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective

Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective

Synopsis

Mark, says Tolbert, intends to sow abroad the good news of God's imminent coup d'etat over the murderous authorities of his generation, thus disclosing the good earth of God's kingdom before the final devastation of the cosmos and the coming of the Son of Man. Mark's purpose, she says, is not to provide data about Jesus or to debate ecclesiastical controversies but rather to persuade its hearers to have faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to follow the way he forged into inevitable persecutions, and to become themselves sowers of the good news of God's kingdom.

Excerpt

This book intends to be a work of literary history; that is, it attempts to situate the Gospel of Mark within the literary currents of its own historical milieu. the special combination of a literary and a historical approach to the Gospel is needed, I wish to argue, in order to answer the two most persistent complaints about Mark in modern scholarship: (1) that no consistent interpretation of the Gospel in all its parts has yet been elicited from studies of it and (2) that the narrative as it now stands appears obscure or muddled. Literary perspectives are especially appropriate for exploring the overall design of a narrative and/or its effect on its audience. Hence the first complaint seems to call clearly for literary studies of the Gospel, and much recent scholarship on Mark has moved in that direction with excellent results.

Interestingly, some of these literary analyses have served to underscore the second complaint, for read as narrative the Gospel often sounds enigmatic, more of a secretive riddle than a story. If interpreting Mark as story tends to dramatize its narrative obscurity, how is the second complaint to be addressed? It is certainly possible simply to grant that the Gospel is and was intended to be an esoteric, hidden text. Yet contemporary literary theory also emphasizes the vital roles of both the reader and the conventions of reading used by the reader in the construction of the meaning of any text. Such theories made me begin to wonder whether or not current critical readers of Mark trained mainly on the narrative subtleties of the modern novel and molded by the fashions of post-Enlightenment biblical criticism might be reading the text in conventional ways very foreign to the narrative patterns of its ancient author and original audiences. Might it not then be equally possible that some of the muddle seen in Mark is actually the result of this mismatch in reading conventions? Such speculations generated this study.

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