On Genre – Part 2

Going a step deeper into the genre of Mark’s gospel with H. C. Kee’s work Community of the New Age: Studies In Mark’s Gospel, I found it interesting that he promotes Mark’s structure as being based on “an apocalyptic community.”

Indeed, there are apocalyptic themes and language in Mark, as is clearly attested in many introductory works (cf. Bailey and Vander Broek’s Literary Forms in the New Testament pgs 122-129), but what caught my eye was Kee’s implication that the gospel of Mark came out of, was developed, or was formed in an apocalyptic community.  In my mind, that takes the whole discussion of genre/structure to another level.

Kee cites the Old Testament book of Daniel as “the classic document produced in the apocalyptic category.” (65)  Next, he goes on to cite thematic and structural similarities between Daniel and Mark.  Finally, he reveals the aims of apocalyptic texts as follows:

  1. The rule of God and its triumph
  2. The defeat of the hostile powers
  3. The redefinition of the community
  4. The certainty of the outcome
  5. Stand firm!

Now, while I certainly see these elements in the gospel of Mark, I think that the attempt to link the literary structure to Daniel and further to ascertain the writer and readers of Mark to be “an apocalyptic community” stretches the plausibility of the case beyond what seems reasonable.  It is at this point that it seems more confidence is put in the recipients than the text itself; that the story cryptically speaks more about the hearers and readers than about Jesus himself.

I think that in light of more recent scholarship (cf. Bauckham’s, The Gospels For All Christians) the genre of Mark’s gospel should simply focus on the text as a preservation of the purpose and mission of Jesus Christ.  Some may classify this as  Greco-Roman biography, others, seemingly the church itself classified it simply as gospel.  In doing so, we diminish neither the content of the gospel nor the richness of the text as written, most likely in this case, by Mark.  This frees us to see, hear, and feel the story of Jesus and draw the impact of the story into our hearts and minds. 

It is in this way that the stories about Jesus were preserved among the community for future generations.  In short, the focus was intended to remain on the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

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