Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NT Pod 28: The Disciples in Mark

NT Pod 28 discusses the disciples in Mark. It is the second of three back-to-back episodes on Mark's Gospel.

It is twelve and a half minutes long. Feel free to leave your comments below.

NT Pod 28: The Disciples in Mark (mp3)

NT Pod 28: The Disciples in Mark (mp3) (Alternative location)

Key texts: Mark 1.16-20, 8.17-18, 8.21, 8.31-8, 14.3-9, 14.10-11, 14.26-31, 14.32-42, 14.47-50, 14.66-72, 15.40-41, 15.47, 16.1-8.

Related podcasts: NT Pod 27: Messianic Secret, NT Pod 5: Simon Peter in Mark.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Great stuff. It helps me focus on things easily forgotten. Thank you!

  2. But at the end even the women are portrayed as failing in Mark's Gospel as the story concludes with the women being told to tell by the young man but not telling anyone because they were afraid.

    Francis Moloney points out the contrast between the fidelity of Jesus and the exponentially increasing failure of his disciples, tentatively positing a community under pressure and facing failure.

  3. Agree, Matt. That is the problem with the women-disciples-coming-good perspective, though 15.40-41 is very interesting in terms of faithfulness / service.

  4. I'm quite certain that Mk 15.40-41 can also be interpreted in the context of authority and succession, and I believe it's stronger than faithfulness and service. From Jn 19:25-27 (which is of course a different tradition) we see the mother of Jesus at the Cross, clearly fleshed out against the other named women—in John's case they are the three (or two?) Marys, who might be corresponding to the women in Mark, if Salome was also a "Mary" in John's tradition. In any case, Jesus on the Cross clearly *adopts* his beloved disciple John to be his successor, makes him part of his mother's family, her new son, i.e. Christ's successor. It almost has a legal force. So it's possible that those women, whose names are given in the gospels, came to the crucifixion not out of faithfulness and service, but as the mothers with the hope that it would be their son who is adopted and will succeed Christ and continue his teaching. (And naturally, some of them would fail.)

    It would even be feasible to theorize that the named women in Mark are a later redactional layer, derived from the same tradition that was the basis for John's Gospel. In Lk 23:49 we only have the women watching from a distance, and if we remove the named women from Mark, we read: "Some women were watching from a distance. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there." (For the latter cp. also "daughters of Jerusalem" in Luke.) This now corresponds to Mt 27:55-56 who first mentions the unnamed mass of women and explains their role ("Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.") and only then adds the named women: "Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's sons."

    In any case we can say that there were a lot of women present, and that many of them had followed him on his mission. The three women (in Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome) might have accompanied Christ on his mission and "cared for him", but we really don't know, and especially with Salome this is rather unlikely.

  5. Thanks for the interesting comments.

  6. It seems undeniable that the women in Mark's Gospel receive a more favorable treatment, but I am just not sure they avoid the "failure tag" in the end.

    Furthermore, I believe a literary reading of Mark elucidates both the failure theme and the Messianic secret theme. All throughout the Gospel, people experience the kingdom and then are told to not tell. Much to the surprise of the reader (not only that Jesus told them not to tell) they tell people anyway.

    In a literary reading, the reader is left feeling a bit flustered about all this. Then when we get to the final scene with the women at the tomb and they are told to tell, the reader might think, "well, since they have been telling all along — even though they weren't supposed to — surely they will tell everyone now!"

    Much to the surprise of the reader, they tell no one because they were paralyzed by fear. This leaves the reader experiencing cognitive dissonance — wanting the failing disciples to be redeemed by telling about the risen Messiah. And this is exactly the place Mark wants his readers to be.

  7. Concerning the Goulder hypothesis, see my blog post of today here.

    Also, I can't help but mention Richard Bauckham's Reconstructing the Pooh Community.

  8. Many thanks, Richard. Brief comment over there.

  9. Another problem with the feminist Mark perspective: Mark seems to scapegoat Herodias and her daughter for John's death while saying that Herod never wanted to kill him to begin with. This is in contrast to Matthew, who says that Herod always wanted to dispose of John, and Luke, who avoids this story and puts all the blame on Herod himself.

  10. In response to Arigiery, Herodias and her Daughter whilst you may believe they are scapegoated, they are not disciples of Jesus therefore the female disciples of Jesus are still in a positive light. Women as a whole gender may be in a slightly more precarious position but only as in so much as the men.

  11. OK so I'm late to the party but it's a compelling topic that's not generally explored enough!

    Firstly Mark - thanks so much for the NT Pod, it's a great summary of the ongoing NT historical debate and also raises some interesting challenges to the mainstream.

    Your oft repeated view that Mark is working overtime to explain the crucifixion to an audience struggling with the concept has been helpful to my own study on this topic.

    The great tragedy of this gospel is that Peter, despite all his bravado, fails to perceive Jesus Messiahship in the moment that he finally claims the title of Christ and unleashes the suffering of the cross. Mark uses Peter's heartbreak to drive home the point that believers must put aside their preconceptions and see Jesus in light of his suffering.

    I think that on the other side of the cross Mark uses Joseph of Aramathea to contrast Peter's denial as he stands before the authority of Rome to claim the broken messiah. The women juxtapose the faithless disciples as they continue to minister to their Lord in his suffering and death.

    However, I don't agree with Weedon's view that Mark is looking to discredit the disciples. Rather, he does not spell out the reconciling of "the apostles and Peter" and ends his Gospel with a cliffhanger so that his audience is compelled to share in their promised redemption.

    The devastation of the passion concludes with a ray of hope in the midst of despair. Jesus, the divine son and God's suffering servant waits to restore all who, like the disciples, failed to understand.