Why The First Gospel — Mark — is a Post 70 CE Work

01 Mar

Most NT scholars date the gospel of Mark to c. 70 CE as a response to the fall of the 2nd temple[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]. When a regular person reads something like this, they might conclude that Mark was written in 70. Or maybe 72 or 75. Sometime really close to 70. My view is that Mark was written by someone who was born c. 70 CE. Let me explain.

Let’s say that instead of Jesus predicting the fall of the temple (Mark 13:14 – which is the biggest piece of evidence scholars use for dating Mark as post-70), Jesus predicts the Sept-11th attacks on the World Trade Center while preaching in 1960. And then while reading the rest of the narrative, we have Jesus complaining about having to wait on long lines at the airport, having to take off his sandals at the airport, and griping about Homeland Security.

Would someone who was mature enough (let’s say around 20 years old) to write a narrative about Jesus predicting 9-11 have those sorts of anachronisms if he was writing around 2001 or 2002? Of course not. I was 21 on Sept-11th so I of course know a lot about the pre-Sept 11th world. But, someone who was born around 2001 and wrote about how Jesus predicted Sept-11th would have those kinds of anachronisms because the entire world that they know is a post-Sept 11th world.

So if “Mark” was around 20 years old when he wrote “c. 70 CE” he would not have a bunch of post 2nd Temple Judaic traditions in his narrative: (The following was all presented at the blog Vridar)

Mark 12:1-9. “The Parable of the Vineyard” aka the parable of the wicked husbandmen

The owner [god] of a vineyard [Israel] sends servants [the prophets] to the tenants [Jews] of the vineyard to collect rent. The Jews kill the prophets (cf 1 Thess. 2:14-16) so god sends his son [JC] and the Jews kill him also. God destroys the tenants [Roman Jewish War] and gives the vineyard to others [non Jews and Christians].

This means that this is a post-70 CE parable. And continues the false theme of Jews killing their prophets while also promoting the theme that non-Jews can now inherit god’s kingdom (cf Eph 3:6).

Mark 2:22 The Parable of the Old Wineskins

“And no one pours new wine [the gospel] into old wineskins [the law]. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”

A subtle commentary on strict differentiation and incompatibility between Jews and Christians, which doesn’t happen until the 2nd century.

Other anachronisms:

1. SYNAGOGUE – Greek for “gathering place” (συν::syn – together; αγωγη::agoge – bring/brought).

-“Mark’s presumption that there were synagogues throughout Galilee during Jesus Christ’s time [M 1.21,1.39, 3.1], an assumption that archaeologists and historians have not been able to substantiate” Burton Mack “Who Wrote the NT” p.159

-“Only during and after the first century CE does literary and archaeological appear for Palestine ….Whilst prayer appears to have been an integral part of the religious services in the Diaspora, its presence in Palestinian synagogues before 70CE is unattested….As for the Roman Diaspora references before then are practically nonexistent [and what does exist refers to the Disaspora].” Oxford Companion to the Bible Eds Metzger and Coogan page 721

-There is little archeological evidence for synagogues in 1st century Galilee. The Ancient Synagogue by Lee Levine (2000). Page 8:

Although the pre-70 archeological material is scanty, it is of cardinal importance. Remains of at least four synagogues buildings are attested-three in Judea and one in the Diaspora (Delos)-yet inscriptions provide the bulk of archeological evidence from this period. The Theodotos inscription from Jerusalem, that of Julia Severa from Acmonia in Asia Minor, a number of catacomb inscriptions from Rome, three synagogue inscriptions from Berenice (Cyrene), five from Delos, six from the Bosphorus, and sixteen (or parts thereof) from Egypt

2. “RABBI” – Hebrew/Aramaic for “My master”.

Mark 10.51 [and other]

Α.Jewish Encyclopedia entry “rabbi”

“Sherira’s statement shows clearly that at the time of Jesus there were no titles; and Grätz (“Gesch.” iv. 431), therefore, regards as anachronisms the title “Rabbi” (my master) as given in the gospels to John the Baptist and Jesus, ..”

Β. Geza Vermes p. 26 of “The changing faces of Jesus”

“Nor was he a “rabbi” in the technical sense despite being repeatedly addressed as such… It is even questionable whether the term ‘rabbi’ in the specialized meaning was current in the early decades of the first century AD. The great Jewish masters who lived in the age of Jesus, Hillel, Shammai, Gamaliel, are all called “elders” [Grk. “presbyters”] not ‘rabbis’.”

Γ.Hyam Macoby ‘The Mythmaker’ p 21

“Thus the assembly of sages [as the Pharisee leaders were called before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70; after which they became known as ‘rabbis’ …”

Date suggested:
Post 70, ce stretching to the time when calling Jewish sages “rabbi” became common enough for the author of “Mark” to [incorrectly] and anachronistically place it in the earlier purported era of JC. Ah but when did it become common? Some time after the turn of the century?
Which thus suggests a second century date for the writing of Mark.

3. “ALL the Jews wash their hands…”
Mark 7:3

From Nineham “St.Mark” p.193

“According to the Jewish experts, the evidence of the Talmud is that in the time of Jesus ritual washing of the hands before meals was obligatory only on the priests… but the ordinary layman -including the Pharisee and the scribe- was not concerned about such questions […] It is agreed by everyone that about 100AD, or a little later, ritual washing did begin to become obligatory on all…”

So it seems possible that Mark’s statement that “ALL the Jews wash their hands” is inaccurate for the purported era of JC but possibly accurate for a time several decades later.
Suggested date:
Early 2C

Sanders writes, p. 186 of Jesus and Judaism (1985)

Mark says that ‘the Jews’ washed their hands before eating (7:3), but in Jesus’ day it would have been a small number of them. The Rabbis eventually made handwashing ‘normative’, and it is worth nothing that it is one of the very few practices of ritual purity which have continued. But before 70 the common people did not accept the practice. That is so by definition: had they done so they would have met one of the requirements of the haberim [akin to the notion of Pharisees].


Mark 15:46
“And he bought a linen shroud, and …wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb […] and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Jewish Encyclopedia [see headings]

“Gamaliel insured the perpetuation of his memory by his order to be buried in simple linen garments, for the example which he thus set put an end to the heavy burial expenses which had come to be almost unbearable …(Ket. 8b).”

Β.Mo’ed Katan
“It was not until after Rabban Gamaliel had been buried in simple linen garments that this custom became general.”

“This caused R. Gamaliel, about fifty years after the destruction of the Temple, to inaugurate the custom of using a simple linen shroud for rich and poor alike (M. Ḳ. 27b).”

So, according to the JE, about c120ce the custom was started of burial in a linen shroud thus suggesting this anachronism [JC being buried in a shroud] was written sometime after that date.


From Richard Carrier: “There is another reason to doubt the tomb burial: the tomb blocking stone is treated as round in the Gospels, but that would not have been the case in the time of Jesus, yet it was often the case after 70 C.E., just when the gospels were being written. Amos Kloner, in “Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?” (Biblical Archaeology Review 25:5, Sep/Oct 1999, pp. 23-29, 76), discusses the archaeological evidence of Jewish tomb burial practices in antiquity. He observes that “more than 98 percent of the Jewish tombs from this period, called the Second Temple period (c. first century B.C.E. to 70 C.E.), were closed with square blocking stones” (p. 23), and only four round stones are known prior to the Jewish War, all of them blocking entrances to elaborate tomb complexes of the extremely rich (such as the tomb complex of Herod the Great and his ancestors and descendants). However, “the Second Temple period…ended with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. In later periods the situation changed, and round blocking stones became much more common” (p. 25).

All of these anachronism indicate that the author did not remember or know about life prior to 70 CE. If Mark was written c. 70, then the author would have remembered details about society prior to 70 and these anachronisms wouldn’t be there. Just like if I had written something c. 2001 I would have remembered details about society prior to 2001. However, an author that was born close to 70 CE would include these sort of anachronisms when he matured, closer to the 2nd century.

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Posted by on March 1, 2010 in 2nd temple judaism, early Christianity


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