The Embarrassing Gospel of Mark | James D. Tabor PhD
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Dr. Tabor’s Blog: https://jamestabor.com/
Gospel of Mark is the most influential piece of literature from the ancient world. Even though Paul’s letters are written earlier, they offer us no “Jesus Story.” Mark is our earliest narrative presentation of the figure of Jesus. However, it is purposely constructed as a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” And even though it is now embedded in the New Testament, it is essentially lost and forgotten.
Matthew and Luke are essentially “rewritten Mark.” These writers use Mark as their main source, but utterly deconstruct and, as a result, essentially “destroy” it. Even though they incorporate up to 80% of Mark as their core story—once edited and embedded in their narrative, Mark as Mark basically ceases to exist. In that sense it has remained “unread” for the past two millennia.
Mark is in fact a kind of anti-gospel or counter-gospel. It could even be seen as “anti-Christian.” It stands in opposition to the master narrative of the Jesus Story that becomes the heart and core of the Christian Gospel—cobbled together from Matthew, Luke, and John—and the early Christian Creeds, all of whom completely lose—and even reject—Mark’s presentation.
In this course Dr. Tabor pulls Mark out of the New Testament, strips it from later forms of orthodox and dogmatic Christianity, and places it in its original historical context—as a post-War apocalyptic treatise following the destruction of Jerusalem. Its view of God, of Israel, and of the Messiah, is utterly opposite to and opposed to what emerged as early Christianity.
The focus of the course is a detailed exposition of the Mark as Mark. Mark is a skillfully constructed as a three-part drama, with clear literary motifs that move the story along in very carefully worked out directions, ending with a dead messiah, forsaken by God, his contemporary Jewish culture, and even his closest followers and disciples. The reader is left alone at the end, to try and sort out what it all means, with no direction home. And yet, embedded in the narrative, is a certain “understanding” of the message, but only for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Dr. Tabor did his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago with three towering figures in the field of the academic study of early Christianity:
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