Reviews of

Mark, A Pauline Theologian

In Biblical Criticism, Gospel of Mark, Gregg S. Morrison, Historical Criticism, Mar Pérez i Díaz, Mohr Siebeck, Paul on December 19, 2022 at 3:00 pm

2022.12.12 | Mar Pérez i Díaz, Mark, a Pauline Theologian: A Re-reading of the Traditions of Jesus in the Light of Paul’s Theology. WUNT II 521. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020.

Review by Gregg S. Morrison, Birmingham, Alabama.

Petrine influence on the Gospel of Mark has been a well-attested assertion in Gospel studies for centuries, based primarily on the affirmation attributed to Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, in Eusebius of Caesarea’s Historia ecclesiastica (Hist. Eccl.3.39.15). There it is said that Mark served as Peter’s interpreter (ἑρμηνευτής). This perspective went unchallenged until the early 1900s when scholars began to argue that the evangelist was influenced by the Apostle Paul and his teachings/theology. Some scholars considered the matter resolved with Martin Werner’s 1923 publication, Der Einfluss paulinischer Theologie im Markusevangelium, which held that perceived Pauline elements in the Second Gospel reflected primitive Christianity in general and not a conscious effort on the behalf of the evangelist to put Paul’s imprint on the Gospel. But not all scholars accepted the findings of Werner and the debate over Pauline influence on the Gospel of Mark continued and has picked up steam in the last 30–40 years—especially with the two-volume collection of essays published in 2014 for the Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft (BZNW) series, entitled Paul and Mark and Mark and Paul, respectively. Enter Mar Pérez i Díaz and her fine work, Mark, a Pauline Theologian

Díaz of the Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià of Barcelona tackles Pauline influence on the Gospel of Mark by offering one of the first monograph-length treatments on the topic since Werner. Her work, published by Mohr Siebeck in the WUNT II series, affirms that the Gospel of Mark is a “rereading of the traditions of Jesus inspired by Pauline theology as we know it from Paul’s [undisputed] letters” (p. 245). A helpful introduction situates her work by setting forth the scope, rationale, and methodology. Then, the book is divided into five chapters, the last of which summarizes her conclusions derived from the study. Afterwards, there is an extensive bibliography and three indices (Biblical References; Authors; and Subjects). 

The introductory chapter provides the objective of her work and the methodologies employed to achieve that objective. Díaz’s goal in this study is to “search for and analyse passages in Mark’s Gospel that are distinctly Pauline in theology, or are in harmony with Paul’s thought or those in which the evangelist has independently echoed Pauline ideas” (p. 2). Sources for determining those elements of theology that are recognizably Pauline are the so-called seven undisputed letters of Paul. The methodology she employs when examining both the Gospel of Mark and the Pauline Epistles, which she understands are two very different types of literature, is a blend of redaction criticism (Redaktionsgeschichte) and narrative criticism. The rationale for employing both is her belief that “Mark’s genius lies in how he arranges and modifies the data and sources he received, thus generating a progressive dynamism within the structure of a well thought out and mediated work” (p. 7). 

Chapter 1 surveys the history of research on the topic of Pauline influence on the Second Gospel. It is divided into four helpful categories: (1) authors who deny any Paulinisms in the Gospel of Mark; (2) authors who advocate for Paulinisms in the Gospel of Mark; (3) authors in favour of Marcan Paulinisms, but with some reluctance; and (4) authors who defend Petrine and Pauline influence on Mark’s Gospel. 

In Chapter 2, Díaz moves to the Gospel of Mark itself by addressing matters of genre, dependence, and hermeneutical key(s) to the narrative before producing her own outline or structure of the Gospel. Regarding genre, Mark’s Gospel is sui generis; in terms of dependence, its author sticks with tradition mostly, but when moving in a different direction he “presents the facts under the perspective of the apostle Paul” (p. 29). The cross is the “guiding thread” throughout the whole narrative (p. 29) whose “structural reading key” is the question “who is Jesus?” (p. 32). 

Chapter 3, “Pauline theological elements within the Gospel of Mark,” is the most substantive chapter of the book (146 pages). Here, Díaz identifies nine elements in the Gospel that have Pauline roots or are in harmony with Paul’s letters. In each case, the element is discussed within its Markan context followed by an examination of the Pauline corpus for similarities and agreements. The nine Pauline elements are: (1) the use of the word εὐαγγέλιον; (2) the misunderstanding of those around Jesus; (3) the question of the law; (4) the enigma of the two multiplications of the loaves; (5) the mission to the pagans; (6) the end of the Temple; (7) the relationship of Jesus with Roman power; (8) passion, death, and resurrection; and (9) the women in the Gospel of Mark. Readers are reminded of Díaz’s working hypothesis that was set forth in the introduction: Mark’s Gospel is a Gospel under Pauline influence and that conclusion “can be corroborated through the weight of cumulative evidence provided” (p. 6).

The fourth chapter considers whether Mark’s presentation of Jesus is a Pauline Christology. After rejecting Mark’s corrective to θεῖος ἀνήρ Christology, she proposes Son of God as “the most significant and important Christological title in the Gospel of Mark and the one most in tune with Paul’s theology of the cross” (p. 200). For Díaz, “[t]he cross in Paul and Mark is like the sap that runs through the tree, without which the tree would die, because without it Jesus would have lost the essence that makes him the Son of God crucified” (pp. 191–92). 

Chapter 5 contains concise summaries of  the nine elements of Pauline influence over the Gospel of Mark (Chapter 3) and Mark’s understanding of Jesus with its focus on the cross (Chapter 4) before presenting what she labels the “over-arching conclusions.” In short, the evangelist’s “Paulinism is retained in the dominant ideas and spirit of the work,” and the cumulative weight of the evidence “cannot be the result of chance,” but rather the “will of the evangelist Mark to harmonise his work with the thought of the apostle Paul” (pp. 251–52). 

As with any work, one finds strengths and weaknesses when reading. Díaz’s work has several demonstrable strengths. First, her project is ambitious in the best sense of the word. She attempts to search for and identify passages in Mark’s Gospel that are distinctly Pauline in nature. She identifies nine key elements that collectively work to support her thesis. This reviewer also wonders if the themes and/or echoes of baptism and the Holy Spirit, both key components of Paul’s undisputed letters (especially Romans), should not have been considered in her examination. That withstanding, I concur with Díaz that the weight of the cumulative evidence does seem to favor Pauline influence over Mark’s Gospel. A second strength of Díaz’s work is her methodology, specifically her attention to the narrative flow of Mark’s Gospel (Chapter 2). Her focus on the way Mark tells his story of Jesus allows the key Pauline ideas to emerge from the text of the Gospel. The order is important—the crucial themes or elements that emerge from Markan narrative are examined against Paul’s letters in order find similarities in Paul’s expressed thoughts and theology. She is careful not to overlay common features of Pauline theology onto the text of the Gospel. Finally, Díaz’s attention to and grasp of the secondary literature is impressive. Her bibliography consists of some 450 works, including works in English, German, French, and (especially) Spanish, and she exhibits ease (and mastery) in both Gospel scholarship and Pauline scholarship. 

Other than a few nagging and recurring copy-editing matters, I found no substantive weakness in Díaz’s work. Not all New Testament specialists will agree with her conclusions or with her interpretation of the nine elements of Pauline influence or her take on Markan Christology. Nonetheless, her arguments are clear, well-reasoned, and logical. Scholars of Mark’s Gospel will want to read this book as will anyone interested in the development of early Christian literature. 

Gregg S. Morrison
gsm [at] wwminvest.com

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