Jesus’ Defeat Of Death And Mark’s Early Readers1 -- By: Peter Geoffrey Bolt

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 049:1 (NA 1998)
Article: Jesus’ Defeat Of Death And Mark’s Early Readers1
Author: Peter Geoffrey Bolt


Jesus’ Defeat Of Death
And Mark’s Early Readers1

Peter Geoffrey Bolt

This thesis is an inquiry into the potential impact of Mark’s Gospel upon its early Greco-Roman readers. The Gospel of Mark’s powerful drama and impact is often acknowledged, but not enough has yet been done concerning the nature of this impact and the means by which it is achieved.

In order to examine Mark’s ‘narrative impact’, this thesis is an exercise in literary reception. The last decades have seen a spate of studies which seek to apply literary tools to the understanding of Mark’s narrative. Many such studies stop short of the problematic interface between ‘text’ and ‘world’ and are often sceptical about whether this divide can or should be crossed. If questions of textual impact on real readers are broached, it is usually modern rather than ancient readers who are in view. This thesis seeks to move beyond the literary study of Mark to its reception in the real world of first-century Greco-Roman society.

It focuses upon the role of the thirteen healing/exorcism accounts in this communicative process, arguing that these scenes forge a link between Mark and the flesh-and-blood readers. The examination of this ancient reading experience is approached from two directions: firstly, ‘outwards’ from the text towards the textual construct known as ‘the implied reader’, and, secondly, ‘inwards’ from the real ‘flesh-and-blood’ readers (broadly conceived) towards the text.

Many literary studies of the characters in Mark have underestimated the importance of the characters within these scenes, known as the ‘suppliants’ (i.e., those in need who come to Jesus for help). This is,

to a large degree, because they have operated with a ‘weak’ notion of ‘identification’ in which the reader somehow adopts a character as a role model. Consequently, the main focus has been upon the role of the disciples viz a viz the reader, and even the few studies dealing with the ‘minor characters’ have underestimated the importance of the thirteen suppliants. However, if the manner in which readers become aligned with characters is more carefully analysed, a ‘strong’ notion of identification is required in which any identification is produced by the text manipulating the readers to adopt a positive stance towards various characters. In terms of the ‘text-to-implied reader’ axis, it is suggested that there are various devices in the text which work towards strongly aligning the implied readers with the suppliants in these scenes. The suppliants therefore emerge with a very significant rol...

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