Sandra Huebenthal: “Mark’s Gospel is Neither a Novel nor a Work of History”

Sandra Huebenthal, “Suspended Christology,” in Christology in Mark’s Gospel: 4 Views, edited by Anthony Le Donne (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2021), 5-6. (See my review of this volume here.)

There is a growing consensus among Markan scholars that we are dealing with a narrative text that is much more than just the sum of its parts. It is clear that the text has a narrative character, and it is equally obvious that it is not just any narrative. Mark’s Gospel is neither a novel nor a work of history. Its truth lies neither in a spotless preservation of the past nor a pious imagination of what Jesus might have been like. Regardless of whether we term it an ancient biography (a bios), it is a text that treasures experiences people have had with Jesus and his message. These experiences have been verbalized in the form of episodes and integrated into an overall story about Jesus and his proclamation. While historical-critical research for a long time was predominately interested in how the particular episodes and units came about – and what they might have to say about the historical Jesus and the passing on of Jesus traditions – Markan scholarship of the past few decades has shifted attention to the entire text as a holistic composition. Even though the approaches might differ, Mark’s Gospel is now commonly read and interpreted as a story.

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