Week 2: Modern Bible Scholarship: The New Testament
1. The Gospel of Mark (New Revised Standard Version). (link)
As the first gospel, Mark determined the shape of this new genre (which has been called “religious advertisement”; it is certainly not biography. The four gospels have also been called “tellings of the passion story with long introductions.” We’ll look at some of the things that distinguish Mark from the other synoptics, especially the mystery of the “messianic secret.” Mark’s Greek is by far the least sophisticated in the NT.
If you can, read the gospel twice. Your first reading should be straight through regarding it as you would any other story. What does the author emphasize about his protagonist? What are the subplots? On your second reading, begin to think about some of the puzzling aspects, but don’t get bogged down!
2. The Chronology of the New Testament.
We’ll review in class the chronology of the books of the NT. If so inclined, prepare a hand-drawn timeline showing the relative dates of the NT canon. Google is your friend!
3. The Synoptic Problem. (link)
It’s very instructive to see the synoptics arranged in three columns according to their similarities. I will bring to class a typical printed version; it’s a little trickier online but here’s a good table and a good sample using the parable of the sower; note the color key at the bottom of the page.
If you have the requisite interest, read this long Atlantic article which provides good background on the “Q” sayings source and the scholarly disputes about it as of 1996. A useful sample: “About 90 percent of Mark’s subject matter is also in Matthew, and more than 50 percent of Mark’s subject matter is in Luke. Matthew and Luke are both a good deal longer than Mark, however: they each contain around 1,100 verses, whereas Mark contains 661. Furthermore, both Matthew and Luke frequently follow Mark’s order when presenting Mark’s material, though they seldom put the other material they have in common [that is to say, “Q”] into the same place in Mark’s framework. That material appears in scattered chunks in Luke, whereas in Matthew it is organized rhetorically around a theme, such as the Sermon on the Mount.”
4. The Ideas Timelines, Basic and Advanced. (link)
The basic ideas timeline is an early version of the narrative of the course so we’ll spend a while reviewing that narrative. In class, I’ll try to suggest the significance of the additional bars in the advanced timeline.
5. (optional) Short Essays on NT Subjects. (link)
There are eleven short essays which can be accessed from the pink box at the top of the page. All of them present useful information relevant to the course. Read what’s of interest to you!
6. (optional) Synoptic Parallels for the Eschatological Discourse. (link)
We’ll pay a lot of attention to Mark 13 and parallels later, which makes it an excellent example of the use of Mark by Matthew and Luke. The table near the top of the page is a very useful comparison.