donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: W R. Telford, The Theology of the Gospel of Mark (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 1999; in: Theology Today

W R. Telford, The Theology of the Gospel of Mark (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Review in: Theology Today 2000 57: 280
Review door: Brian K. Blount
Gevonden op:

The Theology of the Gospel of Mark
By W R. Telford
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
275 pp. $59.95.
According to W. R. Telford, the Gospel of Mark represents a transitional phase in early Christian literature. The evangelist’s effort foreshadows the triumph of Pauline gentile Christianity over the Jesus movement’s earlier Jewish manifestations. Operating according to the tenets of a research methodology that he calls “form and redaction criticism, tempered by the insights of literary criticism,” he attempts to separate Mark’s theological agenda from the traditional Jewish material about Jesus that came to him. The Jewish Christian traditions were driven by an apocalyptic eschatology that saw Jesus as a Son of David kind of Messiah who would, also as Son of Man, appear at the end time and establish God’s kingdom. In fact, in the traditions, Jesus was primarily identified as the proclaimer of that future kingdom. In Mark, however, Jesus becomes the “Proclaimed One” in whose person and ministry that once future oriented kingdom is already present. The secret of the kingdom about which Mark is so concerned, then, is this: Jesus is the Son of God in a Hellenistic rather than a Jewish sense. His person, his ministry, his miracles are the epiphany of God’s kingdom power in the present. And he represents that power with the express purpose of saving humankind. Mark has qualified the presentation of Jesus as an eschatological figure by overlaying the Son of Man’s triumphant messianism with the divine necessity of his redemptive suffering and death. In other words, Mark has so thoroughly edited the traditions that he has shifted the emphasis from a Jewish apocalyptic eschatology to an epiphany christology and a cross soteriology. Just how Hellenistic is Mark’s Son of God Jesus? Jesus appears “to the Markan reader as one who no longer has Jewish roots, as one no longer to be seen through Jewish eyes, as one no longer to be accorded a Jewish identity.”

No wonder, then, that Telford sees Mark’s reformulation as anti-Semitic. Mark’s negative presentation of the Jewish leaders no longer represents an intra-Jewish clash of key Jewish players. It becomes instead an apology for a Hellenized Jesus whose christological identity and purpose operates against the Jewish leaders and people who refused to acknowledge it. It is also not surprising that Mark now looks like the precursor to Paul that Telford believes him to be. Agreeing with Martin Kiihler’s view of the Gospel as a passion narrative with an extended introduction, he sees the only real payoff of Jesus’ life coming at the end of it. His ministry hides the secret of his sonship until that crucial moment on the cross when the purpose of that sonship is revealed as the expiation of human sin. “It is this soteriological emphasis, then, this theology of the cross, the salviJc death of Jesus (Mk 10.45 and Rom. 3.23-5; 5.8-9, 18-19) and the universality of salvation engendered by it (Mk 13.10; 14:9 and Rom. 15.14-21), which bring Mark and Paul into the same theological orbit.”

Telford’s book, on the whole, is a very useful discussion tool for both the lay person and the academic. It is well-written and presents a great deal of helpful information about Markan theology and the history of its theological interpretation. One of the book’s greatest assets is that Telford conscientiously presents views that differ from his own. While I disagree with many of the conclusions he reached, I find it helpful that he did provide the key alternative arguments. In that regard, it is a rich and very readable source of information for anyone wanting to learn more about the key issues in Markan theology and the scholars who have stood on either side of them.

A major problem with the book is one that shadows every redactioncritical examination of Mark’s Gospel. Since there is no extant manuscript against which to gauge the alleged “edits” that Mark has made, researchers such as Telford must hypothesize from the language in Mark’s text, as well as from other hypothetical sources such as Q, to “determine” how Mark’s redaction actually works. It is, of course, this redactional “evidence” that allows Telford to build the somewhat dubious conclusion that Mark’s transformations of the Jesus traditions present us with a realized eschatology whose christology is singularly Hellenistic and whose soteriology is inescapably, one might even say, inevitably, Pauline.

Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, NJ
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