Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Probably I should have stuck to automobiles instead of branching out into life and theology and Bible stuff. It's the Bible stuff that catches me up short, surprised, puzzled and ignorant. Linda says people get tired of my reminding them I'm no scholar, but I'm so conscious of it and selfconscious about it that it keeps popping out of my mouth anyway. It pops up again as I read the gospel for the upcoming Sunday –

46 They (i.e., Jesus and his disciples) came to Jericho. --- As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher,[g] let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52, NRSV)

Maybe I shouldn't be, needn't be, but along with many real scholars over the years, I've flinched at the apparent short shrift that Mark gives to the visit to Jericho. He says “they came to Jericho,” and in the next verse says, “as he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho.” Why, unless he is simply marking Jesus' route from Galilee down to Jerusalem, does Mark even mention Jericho at all if nothing happened there other than Jesus attracting a large crowd? Well, in my Bible explorations I found an answer that appeals to me and satisfies me. It's called the Secret Gospel of Mark, or Secret Mark, or SGM. My Bible Seminar companions are probably sick and tired of hearing about it.

In 1958, at a monastery near Jerusalem, a scholar named Morton Smith happened to come across a copy of part of a letter from Clement of Alexandria to someone named Theodore. The letter, background and translations available online, alludes to and quotes two parts of the Gospel according to Mark that are not included in canonical Mark. Some scholars say the excluded verses were in Mark's original gospel and were edited out. I'm not developing the pros and cons of that argument here. Clement describes exactly where the two omitted sections go, both in Mark chapter ten as we have it – which makes it easy for me to look at. Jesus is on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, teaching his disciples as they go. SGM adds two things. Between Mark 10:34 and 10:35 –

"And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth (νεανίσκος) was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan."

So, there's an extra pericope, tradition, story. And then at Mark 10:46 after “And they came to Jericho -- And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them.-- As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho ...”

Okay, this latter part of SGM accomplishes at least two practical things. It answers the question of why Mark mentions Jericho. And it introduces Salome, who otherwise appears, oddly and only in Mark, as some otherwise unknown woman at Jesus' tomb (Mark 16:1).

Objections to “restoring” SGM are obvious. It seems erotic, which we don't like, but that's not a valid objection. It seems gnostic, later declared unorthodox and heresy, which may be a valid objection and reason for its being excluded from the canon, except that keeping secrets is part of Mark's gospel anyway.

The connection to Lazarus in John's gospel is obvious, as is a similarity to the beloved disciple in John. I like the idea of including SGM in Mark. Though looking at a map of the Holy Land in the time of Jesus, I see a geographical issue.

Jesus meets νεανίσκος, the unnamed young man, in Bethany. Then they go to Jericho. That makes no travel sense. So the meeting with νεανίσκος has to be in Bethany beyond Jordan, doesn't it, which is different from Bethany-at-Jerusalem in John's gospel where Jesus has supper with Lazarus. But I don't think the geographical issue bothers Mark, which he solves anyway, by saying that Jesus crosses over the Jordan and later crosses back, and also by having Jesus sup in Bethany-at-Jerusalem at the home of Simon the Leper instead of, as John's gospel, at the home of the beloved friend whom he raised from the dead.

See, this is the sort of rubbish that clutters my mind these days instead of the differences between 1946 and 1947 Fords (location of the front parking lights, and chrome strips on the trunk).

To any extent the tradition on which it's based is as historical as it is kerygmatic, I think John's Lazarus, and Mark's νεανίσκος, and the beloved disciple in John's gospel are the same rich young man.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.