Bauckham-Peter in Mark

In the next chapter that I read in Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitness, Bauckham uses internal features of Mark’s gospel to show that Peter may be the eyewitness behind that gospel.  In other words, he makes the argument without using the connection Papias made between Peter and Mark.

I am a sucker for old, forgotten theories that seem to have been too quickly dismissed. Bauckham give me one.  In 1925 Cuthbert Turner published an article claiming that Mark tells the story of Jesus from the point of view of a member of the twelve and that this must be because he relies on the story telling of Peter himself.

The striking thing about this is that Turner used evidence from the gospel that is new to me.  He found 21 instances of Mark using a plural-to-singular form.  The only way to understand this is to see some examples:

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat. .  . Mark 5:1-2

Then they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man. . . Mark 8:22

They came to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples. . .Mark 14:32

Each of these has to do with movement of Jesus and the disciples.  In each case the “they” could have been “we” in the mouth of the original story teller.  These passages remind me of the “we passages in Acts where some scholars presume the narrator to be quoting from a travel diary.

This would make a great deal of sense in the case Mark 1:29.

As soon as they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

If the original story teller had said, “We left the synagogue and went to our house with our fellow disciples, James and John”  the awkwardness of sentence goes away.

The literary/critical analysis of today did not exist in 1925.  So today scholars might say that the singular-to-plural construction is a narrative device by which the author draws us into the point of view of the twelve.  Of course, it is a literary device, but that does not mean that it is not also evidence for an eyewitness storyteller.  The material came from somewhere.

Bauckham also stresses the individuality of Peter in Mark’s gospel.  Commentators often say that Peter in Mark is a representative figure, that Peter stands for all the disciples and that he is the typical disciple.  Bauckham does not deny this, but says that in Mark Peter’s role goes beyond that.

In the story of Peter denying Jesus, it is not the case that Peter only stands for all the disciples. True, they all ran away.  But Peter’s denial seems more individual.  It seems to speak to his character as someone who is impetuous and blurts things out for good or ill.  And, in light of that, one can look at all the incidents that involve Peter taking the lead for the others and see his individuality in that he speaks out and initiates when others do not.

Bauckham points out that Matthew and Luke emphasize Peter as being given a special leadership role by Jesus.  Mark does not.  When the issue of who is preeminent comes up in Mark, the disciples mentioned are James and John (Mark 10:35-45).  

Yet Peter is important in Mark.  Why?  The role he fills in Mark is not ongoing leader, but eyewitness storyteller behind the narrative.

That is Bauckham’s position.  I would judge that the case here is stronger than many scholars admit.  I would perhaps couple the idea that Peter’s storytelling lies behind the gospel with the idea that the Mark who passed on Peter’s story was not John Mark of Acts, but someone who had never lived in Palestine and had an inaccurate notion of its geography.  

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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