Guest lecture with John VanMaaren: The Gentile Mission in Mark’s Gospel and the Boundaries of Jewishness among Early Jesus Followers
About the lecture
Mark’s Gospel is universally assumed to have a special interest in mission to the Gentiles (e.g., Iverson, 2007; Wefald, 1995; Malbon, 1986). Evidence for this Markan theme is assembled from (1) Jesus’s movement from Jewish to Gentile territory (e.g., Tyre, the Decapolis, “the other side” [7x]), (2) explanations of Jewish customs for a seemingly Gentile audience (esp. 7:2–4), and (3) an expectation that the good news will be proclaimed “to all the nations” (13:10; cf. 14:9).
In light of the prominence that is accorded to this Markan theme, the lack of explicit focus on a Gentile mission is surprising and warrants a re-examination.
This talk makes a two-tiered argument. At a first level, it argues that Mark can coherently be read to show no awareness of a Gentile mission, either during the life of Jesus or among his earliest followers. If this is correct, Mark can be classified with those Jewish texts which categorically exclude gentiles (esp. Ezra-Nehemiah, Jubilees).
At a second level, it argues that a gentile mission is most plausibly assumed in the Markan narrative but remains a peripheral interest. The Israel-centered perspective of the Markan narrative classifies Mark with the majority of Second-Temple texts that assume Gentile participation in the eschaton (Donaldson, 2007) and not as a “Christian” or “Gentile” gospel insofar as these designations imply a social situation outside the boundaries of Jewishness.
About the lecturer
John VanMaaren is a PhD Candidate in Early Christianity at McMaster University, Canada, and a Doctoral Fellow at Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies in Jerusalem. His research focuses on changing conceptions of Jewishness in Eretz Israel during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods (200 BCE–135 CE) and the gradual emergence of a distinct, non-Jewish, Christian identity. His dissertation, Mark within the Boundaries of Jewishness: Repositioning the Second Gospel, is the first monograph-length study that reads Mark as a Jewish text.