My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 8:
Obviously, if a document wasn’t written for the purpose of reporting history, we’d be misguided in expecting it to do so. Did the authors of the Gospels intend their works to be read as, among other things, reliable accounts of the life of Jesus? …Some of those who argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is substantially legendary believe that the authors of the Gospel intentionally fabricated much (if not all) of their historical narrative about Jesus.
One version of the Gospel-as-fiction thesis…comes from Jesus Seminar member Dennis McDonald. McDonald argues that the Gospel of Mark, upon which he believes Matthew and Luke are based, was intended to be an inspiring myth intentionally modeled after Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The main reason McDonald comes to this conclusion is that he claims to find significant parallels between Mark and Homer.
…How could “Mark” have imagined that his largely Jewish Christian audience would have found anything attractive, let alone compelling, with a Jesus modeled after a pagan character, let alone one as flawed as Odysseus? If this work was meant to be an inspiring myth, one can imagine much more inspiring characters Mark could have latched onto—for example, characters found in the Jewish Scriptures that both Mark and his audience were steeped in.
Gary: But what if “Mark” was not writing for a Jewish audience, but for a Gentile audience? And what if “Mark’s” purpose in writing his gospel was not as a history text or as a complete myth, but as a work of evangelization?
So if “Mark’s” goal was some version of “so that you might believe”, why couldn’t he add some fictional material in his book? And if he was writing for a Gentile audience, why couldn’t he make some of those fictional details parallel the deeds of characters with whom these Gentiles were familiar?
Which is it? Are these conservative evangelical/Protestant authors correct that the author of Mark was writing to Jewish Christians, or was “Mark” writing to a Gentile audience? Let’s see what Roman Catholics (not known for a liberal, anti-supernaturalist agenda) have to say.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Traditionally, the gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution and when destruction loomed over Jerusalem. Its audience seems to have been Gentile, unfamiliar with Jewish customs (hence Mk 7:3–4, 11). The book aimed to equip such Christians to stand faithful in the face of persecution (Mk 13:9–13), while going on with the proclamation of the gospel begun in Galilee (Mk 13:10; 14:9).
End of post.