A Review of Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”; discussion with Historian Adam Francisco, Part 8

I continue my review of Bauckham’s book, looking now at chapter 8.

Bauckham begins this chapter with this statement:  “Many scholars have postulated that Mark’s passion narrative is based on an earlier pre-Markan source that already told a connected story of events leading up to and following Jesus’ death. …On the scope and origin of such a pre-Markan passion narrative scholars differ widely.  It would be plausible to think it began with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11), though some scholars propose that it began even earlier…

…Here we shall be content with the plausibility of the view that chs. 11 and 14-16 of Mark are to some degree dependent on a pre-Markan passion narrative, without attempting to be precise about the scope and content of such a sources.

…Gerd Theissen argues that various features of Mark’s passion narrative reflect the situation of the Jerusalem church in or around the decade 40-50 C.E.

…Up to this point in this book I have argued the presence of anonymous characters is quite normal in the Gospels and that what needs explanation is not why some characters are unnamed by why some others are named.  I have also pointed out that named characters other than Jesus and the Twelve are rare in Mark’s Gospel prior to the passion narrative, whereas they occur much more frequently in chs. 15 and 16, where their significance is probably that they function as the eyewitness sources of this part of the narrative, from which Peter and the Twelve are absent.”  pp. 183-184  (bolding, Gary’s)

Gary:  Note the speculation, conjecture, and imprecision in these statements.  Bauckham presents a speculative theory and then proceeds with it as if it is probable history, all to build a case that confirms his belief that Papias was correct:  John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, really did have access to eyewitness testimony.  

In a previous chapter, Bauckham states his belief that the mention of named characters in Mark’s Gospel is evidence that they are the eyewitness source of the particular story in the Gospel in which they are mentioned (without any clear evidence to support this theory).  In this chapter, Bauckham argues that the persons who are unnamed in the Gospel were unnamed to protect their identity (without any clear evidence to support this theory)!  To Bauckham, if Gerd Theissen’s theory is correct that a pre-Markan passion narrative existed in the 40’s or 50’s C.E., the characters involved in the passion narrative would be at risk of persecution from the Jewish chief priest, therefore their identity had to be masked.  Bauckham believes, for instance, that the anonymity of two of the characters mentioned in the Arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the man who cuts off the ear of the high priest and the young man who runs away naked, are characters still living in the 40’s and 50’s and therefore Mark conceals their identities to protect them.  (Bauckham suggests that the “naked young man” was possibly Lazarus!  Bauckham doubts he was John Mark, as Papias is quoted by Eusebius as saying that John Mark never saw or heard Jesus.)

Why would Lazarus not be named in this situation?  And even more, why is Lazarus never mentioned at all in the Gospel of Mark?

Bauckham:  “John’s Gospel explicitly reports that “the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well” as Jesus (12:10).  Lazarus could not have been protected in the early period of the Jerusalem church’s life by telling his story but not naming him.  His story was too well known locally not to be easily identifiable as his however it was told.  For Lazarus “protective anonymity” had to take the form of his total absence from the story as it was publicly told.

…The strongest objection to the historicity of  John’s story of Lazarus—or even to a historical basis of some kind for it—has always been that it does not appear in the Synoptics.”  p. 196

“…In John’s Gospel it is because of the raising of Lazarus and its effect on the people that the Jewish authorities decide that Jesus must die (11:45-53).  It is for this reason, according to John, that Jesus is already in mortal danger when he arrives in Bethany a week before his death.”  p. 196

“…the difficulty [the absence of any mention of Lazarus in Mark’s Gospel or presumably in the pre-Markan passion narrative] is removed when we recognize that the need for “protective anonymity” in Lazarus’s case would require his complete absence from any public telling of the passion narrative in the early Jerusalem church.”  p. 196

Gary:  Conjecture and wild speculation!  My goodness.


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