Monday, September 23, 2013

Lucan (The Roman Poet) And Mark

Joel L Watts writes,

"Is it unusual to have Mark associated with bad geography, leaving skeptics fodder and archaeologists searching? Hardly. I maintain Mark is not simply wrong or misinformed, but follows stylistic writing patterns developed shortly before the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt but [sic!] Lucan, a Latin poet. If we understand this, we will have no need to search for non-existent towns or wonder how Jesus may have crossed the Sea of Galilee so often and in so short of time."

I assume that Watts means "patterns developed BY Lucan." I was unimpressed by Watts' assertion of Lucan's influence on Mark, but I went searching for similar assertions by others, assuming I would find many. To my surprise, so far I haven't found a single one. However, that certainly doesn't mean that many others don't share Watts' opinion. There is a very unfortunate coincidence at work here: "Lucan" is both a proper noun, the name by which the poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus is best known in English, and an adjective meaning "pertaining to the Gospel of Luke." Naturally, when you go searching for references to the influence of the poet on the Gospel of Mark, any mentions of the poet are going to be needles in the haystack of references to Luke.

So I don't know yet whether Watts is out on his own here, claiming Lucan influenced Mark, or in the middle of the mainstream, or somewhere in between. I also don't know what sort of influence Watts has in mind here: does he think that the author of Mark read Lucan in Latin? or a Greek translation of Lucan? or some other Greek work which was influenced stylistically by Lucan? In any of those cases, it seems to me, the influence of Lucan (AD 29-65) would have to have traveled very quickly from the city of Rome to the remote provinces of Judea and Galilee in time to have influenced the Gospel of Mark, written ca AD 70.

Or does Watts have in mind an influence by Lucan on one or more of the revisers of the Gospel of Mark some time before the text was fixed in the 3rd century?

I think Watts means that the author of Mark was influenced, ca AD 70, either directly by Lucan or by an intermediary or intermediaries who were influenced by Lucan. And that sounds a little bit cuckoo to me, but what do I know about it? The answer is: squat, so far. Perhaps there's a mention of Lucan in Dennis R MacDonald's book The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. [PS, 25. November 2016: There is not.]

The whole topic of the imitation of other authors by the authors of the New Testament is brand-new to me. No reason for Watts to be ruffled because I can't quite follow his proposed connection between Lucan and Mark. I'll bone up on the subject and get back to y'all.

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