Reasons why the stories in the Gospel of Mark are most likely not Historical

Excerpt from:  “Why I am not a Christian” by Keith M. Parsons

The usual approach to Mark’s so-called passion narrative has been to regard it as a historical account of what really happened, but then to fret about features of it that are difficult to accept. The list of improbable features is quite long and includes such things as:

-the trial by night, which would have been illegal.

-the basis for the charge of blasphemy, which is very unclear if not completely trumped up.

-the failure of the witnesses to agree, which would have called for a mistrial.

-the right of the Sanhedrin to charge with death, a sanction that they probably did not have at the time.

-the insinuation of crucifixion taking place on Passover, which would have been an outrage.

-Jesus’ anticipation of his death as a covenant sacrifice, which might be all right for a bacchic god, but hardly for the historical Jesus.

-the disciples falling asleep in the midst of it all.

-Pilate’s having Jesus executed as the “king of the Jews” without a good reason to consider him so.

-the high priests (in the plural!) joining in the mocking; and so on.

The better approach is to recognize the whole story as Mark’s fiction written forty years after Jesus’ time in the wake of the Roman-Jewish war. If we first read Josephus’ account of the war, we can see that Mark’s retrospective on Jesus in Jerusalem would not have sounded a bit far-fetched (Mack, 1995, p. 158).


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