Sunday, September 25, 2011

John's Connection to Mark and the PA

Mark as a Base Outline for John

Mark and John are also similar in size and in the arrangement of their contents. And there seems to be a much stronger correspondence than would be indicated by the strictly 'parallel' material between the Synoptics and John.
At the same time, we can expect any Gospel to have a significant body of common material, with a (practically forced) standard arrangement /order (e.g. triumphal entry, passion, resurrection). And certain major events will act as a backbone against which the rest of the material is chronologically arranged.
We can see this basic structural outline in the position of several key events and sequences:

Shared Backbone

Its from this shared backbone that all the other elements find their relative chronological placement and correspondence between the two Gospels, Mark and John.
Although a few items are clearly displaced (e.g. the Temple Cleansing, the Annointing etc.), most other items have a surprising correspondence and connection between the Gospels. Some sections, although displaced, are only slightly and locally rearranged. One may discover that most of these minor oddities seem to have an additional structural purpose of their own.
Before assuming that diverse material is completely unrelated, we are obligated to examine the possibility that various segments which are chronologically parallel (relative to the Gospel frameworks) are related in other more subtle ways. Three obvious relations are:

(1) that parallel but divergent material is supplementary, and expands upon the (previous) narrative/discourse with which it has been paired off.
(2) that the alternate material is complimentary in some sense or function, such as for didactic purpose or ritual use.
(3) that this material is meant to create a larger wholistic 'meta-picture' which is only partially seen in individual Gospel accounts, or is even non-existant in fragments themselves.
It is only when avenues like these are exhausted, that we should probably abandon the idea that there may be a deliberate relation between the opposing passages in each Gospel. Opening up these lines of investigation allows us to consider many ways in which the Gospels may have been composed, and designed to work together.

Mark / John
Interconnections: Part I

Having accepted the possibility that John for instance has used Mark as a blueprint or structural basis for his own outline, the investigation is straightforward. Let us take the first third of the Gospel(s) and see what can be plausibly connected.

Stunning Parallels
Relaxing the requirement for strict literal parallelism gives a dramatic result: It is clear that a large portion of John interconnects with Mark. But most importantly, John is clearly meant to act as a kind of commentary or 'midrash' on Mark.
Many of the once puzzling Johannine Discourses, thought by some to have been virtually made up by John, are seen to be direct verbal interpretations of physical acts in the public ministry of Jesus. Its as though while Jesus is traveling through Galilee and Samaria, he is simultaneously debating with the Judaean authorities in Jerusalem.
We can see for instance how the Third Discourse (the Son of God Discourse, Jn 5:19-47) follows closely the narrative events in Mark 5:21-6:29. Both the chronological order of events is matched by the Discourses and the thematic content also is strongly connected, emphasized, and expanded.
Perhaps some of this exchange was historically carried out in a kind of long distance 'correspondence' between representatives from Jerusalem and Jesus/John during their public activity among the Lost Tribes of the North.
John has been written not only to function as a complete Gospel in itself, but also as a detailed commentary on Mark. This is now so evident that trying to write a commentary on Mark without consulting John appears foolish.

A Door Closes
The first Third of Mark's Gospel fittingly begins and ends with John the Baptist's ministry and testimony. What is left ringing in our ears, because of details only provided by Mark is that the Herodians (Mark 3:6) were actively behind the plot to kill Jesus. We recall that Herod had appointed and controlled the 'puppet priests', and his will was behind their organized activity, supported by the powerful Pharisees.
The Herodian party had already murdered John the Baptist, and John the Baptist's indictment against them was headed by the blatant "Accusation of Moses"(Jn 5:45) against their 'king': ADULTERY (Exod. 20:14) -

"It is not lawful for you to have her." (John Baptist, in Mark 6:18). And so this large section of the Gospel closes.

Mark / John
Interconnections: Part II

Now examining the next section, we are able to see again the same remarkable connections across both Gospels:

While some material undergoes a significant rearrangement locally, the main backbone remains full and solid, and the ADULTERY connection is glaring.
It seems quite plain that the confrontation between the Herodian religious authorities and Jesus in John's account (Jn 8:1-11) is meant to illustrate and resonate loudly with Jesus' teaching in Mark on ADULTERY and DIVORCE.
But the most powerful and remarkable feature of the whole correspondence, is that the two very difficult, almost impenetrable mysteries in John taken alone, the seemingly random "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives",(Jn 8:1) and the equally weak, almost disconnected Jn 8:12, "I am the Light of the World", suddenly jumps out at us and hits us over the head with a hammer:
John is calling to rememberance the Transfiguration on the Mount, but does not speak of it openly (he was under oath not to discuss it - Mk 9:9, but this no longer holds: yet there may be danger to parties still living in Jerusalem). Mark, writing in Rome from Peter's intimate testimony, is not under any such restriction, and happily reports the amazing event that transpired on the Mountain, including the discussion with Moses and Elijah.


Of course all study of Holy Scripture is a rewarding endeavour in itself.
We are content at the moment however, with revealing to the reader the remarkable evidence from the Gospel of Mark itself, as to the Authenticity of the Pericope de Adultera .
Even though we happily concede that Mark was probably written before John wrote his own Gospel, the fact that John used Mark as a base for his own supplementary historical and teaching material exposes for us the remarkable feature that John intended his story of the Woman Taken in Adultery to resonate with Mark's report.
Jesus' teaching regarding the Accusation of Moses exposed by John the Baptist against the Herodians, His teaching regarding Divorce and Adultery, is aptly contrasted with His tender mercy toward a woman caught in the middle of this epic battle between the corrupt Religious authorities of Jerusalem and the King of Kings.
Mark has become the earliest textual witness for the authenticity of John 8:1-11, being acknowledged to be the first gospel written, and penned some 150 years before the oldest known copy of any gospel.
Some may think it must end here. For how could there be an even earlier witness to the existance and authenticity of John 8:1-11?
We can only remind our brothers and sisters in Christ, that with the Lord, anything is possible. And more evidence will surely follow, since it is a task of the Holy Spirit to bring the truth of the Gospel to the light of day.

No comments: