Jews and Judaism in Mark's gospel: an examination of Mark 4:11-12 in its literary context

Dawe, Ronald Herbert (1993) Jews and Judaism in Mark's gospel: an examination of Mark 4:11-12 in its literary context. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Since the Holocaust there has been renewed interest in the question of Christianity's contribution to modern anti- Semitism. For many, the root of modern anti-semitism is found in the New Testament itself. Advocates of this position argue that the New Testament contains anti-Judaic sentiments and attitudes that are to be linked inextricably to the development of later Christian anti-semitism. Mark 4:11-12 is sometimes cited as an example of a New Testament text which is anti-Judaic. The present thesis seeks to examine this particular claim by a thorough examination of the meaning and context of Mark 4:11-12. -- Traditionally, scholars have interpreted Mark 4:11-12 either in the immediate context of the parable chapter or have treated it as an isolated pericope. The literary connections between Mark 4:11-12 and the whole of Mark’s Gospel, however, indicate that both these approaches are too narrow. Methodologically, this thesis demonstrates that Mark 4:11-12 is an integral part of the Marcan composition and should, therefore, be interpreted as part of a much larger whole. In addition, the literary connections between Mark's Gospel and the Old Testament are also deemed significant in assessing Mark's attitude toward the Jews and their religion. The use of Isaiah in Mark is especially important since the source of Mark 4:11-12 is Isaiah 6:9-10. This thesis concludes that Mark 4:11-12 cannot be taken to reflect a polemic against the Jews. In the first place, there is no indication that Mark's use of Isaiah (or any other Old Testament text) reflects an aversion toward the Jews or Judaism. An analysis of Mark's use of Isaiah 6:9-10 and his appropriation of other Old Testament themes and motifs indicates that his attitude toward his literary heritage is, in fact, quite constructive and positive. -- Secondly, the seemingly negative portrayal of the Jews throughout the Marcan narrative, and especially in 4:11-12, must be seen as part of Mark's total theological agenda. In attempting to account for the failed mission to the Jews, Mark utilizes Isaiah 6:9-10 to argue that Jesus' identity was intentionally hidden from the Jews because this is part of God's sovereign plan. On the one hand, the blindness of the Jews allows for the preservation of the intended destiny of Jesus. On the other hand, the obduracy of the Jews serves a pedagogical purpose to bring about not only their own salvation, but also the salvation of the Gentiles. The function of characters within the Marcan composition as well as Mark's answer to the question of mission attests to these conclusions. -- Finally, anti-Judaic statements in Mark must be viewed from the perspective that the teachings of Jesus represent one form of a multiform Judaism operative during the first century. Consequently, Marcan statements that appear to be against "Judaism" are in fact representative of a debate which took place within a diverse and pluralistic Jewish faith.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5920
Item ID: 5920
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [264]-287.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Religious Studies
Date: 1993
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Bible--N.T.--Mark IV, 11-12--Criticism, interpretation, etc.; Jews in the New Testament

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