Title

The Gospel according to Mark

τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον,

What is a gospel?  Who is Mark?  The musical play “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971, was based on the Old English ‘godspel.’  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, this Germanic based word gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as the written accounts of the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Mark is anonymous since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps by Papias of Hierapolis (60–130 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  Traditionally, this work has been ascribed to John Mark, the companion of the apostle Peter, who may have transcribed the teachings of Simon Peter.  This John Mark was the son of a widow named Mary as indicated in Acts, chapter 12:12.  He also accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys, since he was also the cousin of Barnabas, as indicated in Colossians, chapter 4:10.  However, he  left Paul and Barnabas for some unknown reasons in Acts, chapter 13:13.  Today, most scholars agree that his anonymous Gospel of Mark was the first written gospel, probably written between 66–70 CE, during Emperor Nero’s persecution of the Christians in Rome or the Jewish revolt.  Thus, the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark with a second document called the Q source.  This short Gospel of Mark was written for a gentile audience in a simple Greek style that is often called “street Greek.”  This Greek style is thus vivid and concrete showing a very active Jesus with less teaching or preaching.  Mark explained Jewish traditions and translated Aramaic terms for his Greek-speaking Christian audience who would not have understood them.  Some suggest Rome as the origin of this gospel since there are some Latin terms.  Others have suggested Antioch, the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire.  This author may have been influenced by Greco-Roman writings, but all his references are from the Jewish Greek version of the Septuagint Bible or the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

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Title

“The Gospel according to Mathew”

 

Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον

 

What is a gospel?  Who is Matthew?  The English term gospel comes from the Old English ‘godspel.’  There was a musical play with the name “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971.  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as written accounts of the career and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Matthew is anonymous, since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps with Papias of Hierapolis (100–140 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  The apostle Matthew was among the early followers and apostles of Jesus.  He was a first century Galilean, the son of Alpheus.  As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.  His fellow Jews would have despised him because he was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.  What we do know for certain is that the author of this gospel was probably a traditional male Jew, familiar with the technical and legal aspects of Hebrew Scripture.  He wrote in a polished Semitic synagogue Greek style.  Most scholars hold that the Gospel of Matthew was a product of the last quarter of the 1st century, a work of the second generation of Christians, probably sometime between 70-110 CE, or more precisely between 80-90 CE.  The defining event for this community was the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, during the Jewish–Roman War of 66–73 CE.  The author of this Gospel of Matthew wrote for a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians probably located in Syria, just north of Galilee.  Antioch was the largest city in Roman Syria and the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria.  This is where the term “Christian” was first used.  Thus, it would seem like an appropriate place for Jewish Christians in the second half of the first century.   For practical traditional purposes, I will use the name Matthew as the author of this gospel.

Alcimus claims that Nicanor is disloyal (2 Macc 14:26-14:27)

“When Alcimus noticed their good will for one another, he took the covenant that had been made and went to King Demetrius. He told him that Nicanor was disloyal to the government. He had appointed that conspirator against the kingdom, Judas Maccabeus, to be his successor. The king became excited. Provoked by the false accusations of that depraved man, he wrote to Nicanor. He stated that he was displeased with the covenant. He commanded him to send Judas Maccabeus to Antioch as a prisoner without delay.”

Alcimus, the high priest in Jerusalem, was not pleased at the turn of events. He took the treaty that Nicanor and Judas Maccabeus had agreed on to King Demetrius I. He pointed out that Nicanor had been disloyal to king since his instructions were to kill Judas Maccabeus. Instead, Judas Maccabeus was to become the new high priest as the successor to Alcimus. King Demetrius I was very upset by these accusations. He wrote to Nicanor that he did not like the treaty. He commanded him to send Judas Maccabeus in chains as a prisoner to Antioch without any delay. None of this was in 1 Maccabees.

Lysias defends the peace treaty in Ptolemais (2 Macc 13:24-13:26)

“The king received Judas Maccabeus. He left Hegemonides as the governor from Ptolemais to Gerar. Then the king went to Ptolemais. The people of Ptolemais were indignant over the treaty. In fact, they were so angry that they wanted to annul its terms. Lysias took the public platform, made the best possible defense. He convinced them, appeased them, gained their good will, and then set out for Antioch. This is how the king’s attack and withdrawal turned out.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. There Lysias convinced the king and the commanders that the peace treaty with the Jews was a good idea. Here he must convince the people of Ptolemais, who did not like the Jews. The Syrian Hegemonides remained the governor of the seacoast area. However, the people of Ptolemais were upset about the treaty with the Jews. Only the eloquent speaking of Lysias convinced and appeased them. Thus with good will, they set out for Antioch. This then is the peace treaty that took place when King Antiochus V and Lysias attacked and then withdrew.

The strange peace treaty (2 Macc 13:20-13:23)

“Judas Maccabeus sent in to the garrison whatever was necessary. However, Rhodocus, a man from the ranks of the Jews, gave secret information to the enemy. He was sought for, caught, and put in prison. The king negotiated a second time with the people in Beth-zur. He gave pledges and received theirs. Then he withdrew. He then attacked Judas Maccabeus and his men. However, he was defeated. He got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch. He was dismayed. Thus he called in the Jews. He yielded. He swore to observe all their rights as he settled with them. He offered a sacrifice, honored the sanctuary, and showed generosity to the holy place.”

This is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. Here, however, there is a Jewish traitor named Rhodocus who was imprisoned for revealing secrets to the army of Lysias and King Antiochus V. Meanwhile the king was defeated at Beth-zur. Nevertheless, the real turning point was the news that Philip in Antioch was revolting against his rule and that of Lysias. Thus he and Lysias decided to set up a peace treaty with the Jews. He let them observe all their rights, with their sanctuary and Temple.

The letter of the Romans to the Jews (2 Macc 11:34-11:38)

“The Romans also sent them a letter, which read thus.

‘Quintus Memmius and Titus Manius,

Envoys of the Romans,

To the people of the Jews,

Greetings!

With regard to what Lysias the kinsman of the king has granted you,

We also give consent.

But as to the matters which he decided

Those are to be referred to the king,

As soon as you have considered them,

Send someone promptly,

So that we may make proposals appropriate for you.

For we are on our way to Antioch.

Therefore make haste and send some men,

So that we may have your judgment.

Farewell.

The one hundred and forty-eighth year,

Xanthicus fifteenth.’”

All these letters are in the same time frame in 164 BCE after King Antiochus V has taken over as the king. This letter is 2 days after the previous letter. Little is known about these 2 Roman envoys. They were on their way to Antioch. The Romans had some kind of relationship with the Jews as later indicated in 1 Maccabees, chapter 12-15. However, this is the time of Judas and not Jonathan or Simon. These envoys seem concerned about the status of the Jews in the Seleucid Empire. They wanted more information about what was happening.

The flight of Nicanor (2 Macc 8:34-8:36)

“The thrice-accursed Nicanor had brought one thousand merchants to buy the Jews. He was now humbled with the help of the Lord by opponents whom he regarded as of the least account. He took off his splendid uniform. He made his way alone like a runaway slave across the country until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded chiefly in the destruction of his own army! Thus he who had undertaken to secure tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender. Therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by him.”

Nicanor comes in for a heavy dismissal since he was cursed 3 times. He was the one who brought 1,000 merchants to buy the Jews for slavery. He was humbled by his opponents with the help of the Lord. However, he took off his wonderful uniform, and fled across the countryside like a runaway slave until he reached Antioch. His only success was that he had destroyed his own army. He now claimed that the Jews were invulnerable as long as they followed the laws of their almighty defender. Nicanor will appear again later in this book.