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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

D. J. Harrington and Date of Mark's Gospel

In the latest Journal of Religion Daniel J. Harrington reviews the Date of Mark's Gospel. It's a pretty nice review and he takes some of the key points seriously. I'm particularly pleased that there is another scholar open to a more Jewish view of the gospel of Mark and a more Jewish historical Jesus.

But what I found personally interesting were comments such as these: "Crossley's case for an early dating of Mark does not appear to proceed from religious conservatism." I wondered what conclusions on my religious persuasion people might come to and Harrington has of course got it right. But some get it dead wrong. Probably my favourite moment in the weird world of academia was being accused of the very opposite by one NT scholar when I was a PhD student who happened to mention my thesis (so before it was published to be fair). Yes, I was labelled a 'conservative evangelical'. I will treasure that forever and it is interesting the assumption made just because of the conclusions I had reached without me explaining the arguments.

Another interesting comment from Harrington was this: "He is, however, a conservative historian in the sense that he generally trusts what the ancient texts say (and do not say) and shows a high level of skepticism toward modern attempts at explaining them away in favor of literary and/or theological hypotheses." On the basis of the Date of Mark book that is true and I can hardly deny it. It is just strange being reminded about what I wrote a few years ago, esp. after what I've been working on this the past couple of years (although that work still forms an important basis of my next book). Also, I have not been working on those kinds of debates in the past couple of years and looking more at the general results of what we have with C1 Christianity and why we got them. Many of my views about e.g. John and certain parts of Mark are much more sceptical than the book suggests. But he point is that if pushed I think I would have to say I am more conservative in terms of historical accuracy than just about anyone outside conservative evangelical scholarship on most gospel traditions. I'm also very sceptical about denying (or proving) the historicity of this or that passage on the basis of literary structure: it tells us little as narrative is inevitable (etc. etc. etc.).

See, you do have a friend.


Blogger Michael F. Bird said...

James, you "son of an evangelical". You do realize that you are now a marked man and your work will be cited continually by evangelicals (much like J.A.T Robinson's Redating the NT was) as evidence for a conservative position on the historicity of the Gospels. The fact that Harrington is surpised that a person from a non-faith tradition would reach a "conservative" conclusion is illuminating for the state of scholarship. I find a big problem in scholarship is "justification by doubt", i.e. you prove your scholarly acumen by naming ten things in the Gospels that you don't think are historical. More seriously, I think many of us will appreciate your honesty whether it is your analysis of Mark 13 (as fictive) or the temple episode in Mk. 11.15-17 (as authentic). There is a certain quality to calling it how you see it and not letting any perspective (conservative or otherwise) determine your evaluation of the data.

January 03, 2006

Blogger Jim said...

You mean you AREN'T a fundamentalist???? *gasp*.


January 04, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

Thanks for that Mike. It is interesting how such judgements are made and that my supposed evangelical leanings (now that sounds weird) could be an issue. I am just as happy to use evangelical scholarship as much as liberal, non-evangelical or whatever as it turns out. I'll do anything, me!

Jim, I didn't say I wasn't... :-)

January 04, 2006

Anonymous Christopher Shell said...

In fact, kosher scholarship can often be identified by 2 things: (a) the conclusions are a mixture, reflecting no particular ideology; (b) the conclusions are genuine argued-for conclusions as opposed to disguised presuppositions.

January 04, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

I think there is a lot in that Christopher. In fact when some of us speak of a secular approach to biblical studies that is precisely what is hope for.

January 05, 2006


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