Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Greg Albrecht and the Imaginary Mark

Greg Albrecht has set out to educate us all about Mark's gospel.
This Gospel was written by John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. He is probably the young man who fled from the soldiers in Gethsemane (Mk 14:51-52)
Greg Albrecht, CWR Bible Survey, Mark, Week 1.
Well, that's fairly straight-forward. Greg, no mean wordsmith, paints a colorful portrait of the first evangelist.
Think about Mark as a boy. He grew up in Jerusalem, the city of the holy Temple, central to Jewish history and religious practice. He probably followed Jesus, Peter and the other disciples through the streets of Jerusalem during the week of the events leading to the crucifixion. He may well have been the young man who escaped the Temple soldiers that fateful day (Mk 14:51-52). 
Youthful experiences of Mark would have included knowledge of the early growth of the church, the gift of land by his cousin Barnabas to the church, the sermon and martyrdom of Stephen, and the conversion of the adversary Paul. He traveled with Paul and Barnabas to Cyprus and Asia Minor, but left to go home to Jerusalem, greatly upsetting Paul (Acts 13:13; 15:37-38). 
Why did he leave? The Bible doesn't say. Perhaps he had family responsibilities, or a fiancee waiting for him. Perhaps he was homesick, traveling through unfamiliar lands far from home. 
Whatever the case, Mark eventually decided to record the most important story ever written.
The problem is that most of this is pure invention. Greg is clearly a talented story-teller, but fiction rather than fact is his forte. We know very little about Mark. We can't be at all sure that he was the 'John Mark' written about elsewhere in the New Testament, and in fact it's fairly certain he wasn't! Here are some quotes from a few of the standard reference works that are readily available.
Like the other Gospels, the text does not identify its author, but early church tradition... attributed it to "Mark," a companion of Peter in Rome (1 Peter 5:13), who is then identified with the "John Mark" of Acts... This attribution is called into question by the apologetic desire to associate a nonapostolic Gospel with the apostle Peter, by the frequency of "Mark" as a name in the Roman Empire, and by the ancient tendency to attribute works to important figures from the past.
John R. Donahue, Mark, HarperCollins Bible Commentary.
About the author of the gospel we probably know very little. Ancient tradition calls him Mark, almost certainly intending to identify him with the John Mark mentioned elsewhere in the NT... None of this, however, is certain. It seems very unlikely, for example, that the author of the gospel was a Palestinian Jew. He appears to be rather ignorant about local geography (see Mk 5:1; 7:31), as well as about Jewish customs or laws (see Mk 7:3-4; 10:11-12). He may well have been called Mark, but the name was a very common one in the Roman empire and we cannot simply equate all the Marks we know!
C. M. Tuckett, Mark, Oxford Bible Commentary
Although the Gospel is anonymous, an ancient tradition ascribes it to John Mark (mentioned in Acts 12:12; 15:37), who is supposed to have composed it at Rome as his summary of Peter's preaching (see 1 Pet. 5:13). Modern scholars find little first-century evidence to support this tradition.
Richard Horsley, Introduction to Mark, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV, 4th edition
It seems those in-the-know know a good deal less about Mark than Greg does. A number of commentators (for example Paul Achtemeier in the Proclamation commentary series) largely ignore the issue of attribution given the dearth of real knowledge on the subject. Obviously Greg is unencumbered by any such reservations, which is okay as long as you bear in mind that he is primarily a spinner of yarns, an apologist more interested in flair than scholarship.

Not even informed by scholarship actually. Maybe he should take some classes...


  1. Gary's anti-scholarly remarks exhibit one of two rhetorical strategies available to the inerrantist.

    1. The Bible is inerrant because the author was divinely inspired by or channeling the spirit of God as he wrote. (Thus details like authorial identity and social context are irrelevant.)

    2. The Bible is inerrant because the author was an eyewitness who saw everything he recorded, including the parts that happened when nobody was around. (This gets you off the hook for minor continuity errors, spelling mistakes, etc.)

    Gary has chosen door number two. Let's see what your prize is, Gary!

    1. For some reason I wrote "Gary" when I meant "Greg". Sorry for the confusion.

    2. Just don't misspell Mormon or there'll be hell to pay... if hell exists.


  2. It's hard to believe this man lives in a modern megacity with instant information access.
    He sounds like a pre-war preacher from Choctaw Ridge(a mile from the Tallahatchie Bridge)

  3. This man might be a mystery until you realize that he was a member of a pernicious cult for decades and was thoroughly indoctrinated in weird fundamentalist doctrines which absolutely assumed the Bible was totally inerrant, while, at the same time, believing fabulous ideas from a kook.

    He tried to make the transition from cult to mainstream Christianity without examining the relevant facts, particularly about the validity of the sources of his belief system. He is now left with half-baked ideas in a rich venue of incompetence.

    Furthermore, he continues the tradition of, if you don't know the answer, just make things up.

    It isn't clear whether he has retained the cult ethic of the end justifies the means or not.