Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea" - Mark and Literacy of 1st-Century Judaists

The Sea of Japan

Mark and Literacy of 1st-Century Judaists

The Dead Sea Scrolls (found in Qumran caves), the the Nag Hammadi library (found in upper Egypt), and inscriptions on the ossuaries (found around Jerusalem) all suggested that there were a significant number of Judaists who could read or write in the first century.

It means that most probably Christ Jesus could read and write.  However there are some scholars who claim that Christ Jesus must not have been able to read and write.  In such a claim, they injured reputation and holiness of Christ Jesus.  Nonetheless, there must have been much more people who could not read and write in Palestine and the Roman Empire at the time.  Jesus Christ had more concern with those poor people, so that He directly spoke and preached to them.

But it does not mean that no followers of Christ Jesus took a note of His words, although there are no such descriptions in the Gospels.  Nonetheless it was about 30 years after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ Jesus that the Gospels were written.  So, it is one of big mysteries of Christianity why no followers, no Apostles, and no disciples of Christ Jesus would not write a gospel on Christ Jesus till decades had passed since the death of Christ Jesus.

Even the Gospels according to Mark, Luke, Mathew and John were written in Greek but not Aramaic, the prevalent language in Palestine at the time.  It means that these Gospels were not written under authority of the early Christian church in Jerusalem.  For example, although Mark wrote his Gospel in Greek mainly targeting Roman citizens, he might have written an Aramaic version of his Gospel and sent it to  the Christian church in Jerusalem for obtaining authorization or official approval, since it is apparent that at the time the Jewish-Roman War did not break out yet and the Christian church in Jerusalem was functioning as the center of Christians or Christian Judaists.  It also suggests that Christian authority in Jerusalem was against an idea of writing Gospels.

One of the key factors is that Christian Judaists thought that the end of the world was near, since Christ Jesus as a prophet came to them for preaching that the judgment day and the end of the world were close.  So, Christ Jesus said to repent before being judged by God.  If the end of the world was so near, it would not have much meaning to write Gospels about Christ Jesus.  Christian Judaists must have been busy preparing themselves or other Judaists for the end of the world.

But the end of the world had not come for 30 years after the death Christ Jesus.  The focus must have shifted from preparation for the end of the world to understanding what Christ Jesus said and what Christ Jesus was.  Especially gentiles or Roman citizens must have needed to know what Christ Jesus said and what Christ Jesus was before they started to believe in the saint of Judaists. 

So, whatever the direct reason for Mark's writing a Gospel, an idea of writing a Gospel came to be accepted by Christian Judaists living in Rome and other regions in the Empire far from Jerusalem.

But, writing a Gospel about Christ Jesus without consent of the church in Jerusalem means a start of separation from the church in Jerusalem.  Peter and even Paul could not explicitly support such a movement.  Therefore, these Gospels did not mention that they were realized by support from Peter and Paul.  It also means that there was a crucial reason for Mark to write the first Gospel even taking a risk of sparking fury of Christian Judaists in the church of Jerusalem.

Or at least, Mark wrote his Gospel by permission of Peter, the leader among Apostles, since Mark is said to have been an interpreter of Peter.  Then why did Peter give permission to Mark, while he knew that it was against the will of the church of Jerusalem?

The biggest factor to consider is the coming trial of Paul.  To save Paul from persecution by the Roman authority in the trial, Peter allowed Mark to write the Gospel.  Indeed, Paul had been indicted due to opposition to his teaching from non-Christian Judaists, Mark had to clearly explain why Paul had been accused by non-Christian Judaists like Christ Jesus Himself had faced antagonism of some non-Christian Judaists.  And Mark also intended to explain what Christ Jesus had done in Palestine to the Roman authority, proving that Christ Jesus was not a dangerous man to the Roman Empire.

 The Gospel according to Mark was essentially written to save Paul in the trial.  So, the Gospel was intended to be read by Roman elites who had compassion to Paul and other Christians and who might have some influence on Emperor Nero and other Roman authorities.  Therefore, the Gospel did not explain the teaching of Christ Jesus in a detailed manner or the human backgrounds of  Christ Jesus, since Roman authorities were interested only in whether or not Christ Jesus and thus Paul were dangerous in their religious activities to the Empire.    
Another point is that Mark should have relied on a certain source document that reported the activities of Christ Jesus in His mission, not only relying on Peter's memory.  The source document, probably in Aramaic, which was actually translated into Greek by Mark, must have been written by somebody closer to Christ Jesus than Peter.  And the mystery remains about who the author of the source document was, although there must have been not a few Judaists with literacy ability at the time especially around Jerusalem and Qumran.

So, it is no wonder if the author of the source document for Mark was Christ Jesus Himself.

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Joh 3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
Joh 3:23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
Joh 3:24 For John was not yet cast into prison.